Iso Autoveicoli was founded in 1953, as successor to a company that made refrigerators before switching to scooters, motorcycles and three wheelers after World War II. The founder was engineer Renzo Rivolta, whose new venture took off when he developed the successful Isetta Bubble Car, which was produced in many countries.
Thus fortified, Renzo produced the modestly named Iso Rivolta IR 300, an elegant 2+2 coupe presented at the Turin Motor Show in 1962. Modest or not, it was an excellent vehicle that was well engineered and drove well. Sales were low but provided a stepping-stone to the next development — a stunning Grifo A3L prototype coupe styled by Bertone that appeared at Turin in 1963.
By the time the Grifo went into production two years later, it had been refined from the low-slung speedster shown at Turin. With a steel body and rigid chassis this large, shapely fastback had a long bonnet, air intakes on the front wings and a double grille sporting four headlights. The Grifo shared Corvette running gear and suspension with its predecessor but the Chevrolet engine was more highly tuned. Over time, engine size progressively increased to 7.4 litres, delivering frightening performance. This solidly built GT handled well, accelerated fast, had a stratospheric top speed and stopped quickly.
But sadly, despite its undoubted class, the Grifo failed to attract enough wealthy buyers, who preferred to be seduced by the prestigious badge appeal of Ferraris and Maseratis (and were perhaps a little sniffy about American mechanicals). Around 400 Grifos were made and their sound build quality means most have survived. They are eminently collectable, but rare enough to ensure that it’s hard to even see one, let along enjoy the privilege of a high-speed drive in one of the most elegant GT cars ever made.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1965 (until 1974)
5.4 I (327 cid), 5.7 I (351 cid), 7.0 I (427 cid) or 7.4 I (454 cid) V8
7.0 I engine – top speed of 171 mph (275 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 6.1 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The Iso Rivolta’s chassis (also used for the Grifo) was designed by freelance consultant engineer Giotto Bizzarrini, who developed the celebrated 250 GTO at Ferrari – after parting company with Iso he went on to develop his own version of the original A3 prototype, which became the Bizzarrini 5300 GT.