REPORT: U.S. customs agents seize a very familiar gray-market Cizeta V16t

1994 Cizeta V16t

Whenever we've mentioned the Cizeta V16t supercar here on the pages of Autoblog in the past, we have always received mixed reactions. With its love-it-or-hate-it, Diablo-prototype looks and its unique transverse V16 engine, the car was a stunning achievement by former Lamborghini engineer, Claudio Zampoli. It was his vision, his engineering and his design work that made this project come to fruition. It was also his initials, C.Z., or "Ci Zeta" in Italian, that led to the vehicle's name. While only ten of the cars were ever built, they have attained a certain cult-like following among some enthusiasts.

Although often misidentified as a Cizeta Moroder, the correct name does not include the name of music composer Giorgio Moroder, who was an early investor that dropped out in the planning stages. The 560-horsepower, V16 beast was said to be good for well over 200 MPH in its day, and for anyone who has seen or heard it in person, it's not hard to believe. We consider ourselves very lucky indeed to have spent some time in one of these Veyron-preceding 16-cylinder marvels. The red one you see above is so familiar to all of us in the SoCal car community that we sometimes forget just how exotic it really is. We've seen it at numerous events around Southern California and have gotten to know Mr. Zampoli as well.

Imagine our shock, then, to hear that the very Cizeta we know best has been seized by Federal authorities. According to news reports, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has seized the car, alleging that Zampoli violated U.S. customs and environmental laws when he brought the car into the country in 2001. One issue was the price claimed for the vehicle when it was brought over, which at $125,000 was approximately one fourth of its price when new.

The other issue is the fact that the car was never certified by U.S. agencies for emissions and safety regulations. It is not uncommon for such small manufacturers to skip U.S. importation because of the cost involved in crash testing these expensive autos. Some are granted exemptions using the government's Show or Display rules, and others are sometimes imported as museum pieces that are never registered for road use.

We know that there will be a lot more to this story as it unfolds. For one thing, we know that Mr. Zampoli moved his operations to the U.S. several years ago. We also believe that this particular vehicle never belonged to him. It was allegedly shipped over for updates and repairs by its Austrian owner in 2001 and was supposed to be shipped back by 2004 after receiving an extension on its stay. For one reason or another, the owner never had it shipped back. It has always worn European tags and a manufacturer plate when out and about.

While the official ICE statement that alludes to these cars being "a real threat to public health and safety" is laughable in many ways, the fact remains that the Cizeta was never certified for sale in the States and due to its extremely limited production, it probably never received an exemption for Show or Display. For now, the authorities are trying to have the car forfeited to the federal government, with the intent to have it auctioned to an overseas buyer eventually. We'll be sure to keep you posted. Thanks for the tips, everyone.

[Source: The Orange County Register]

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