Iso Rivolta was an automobile and motorbike manufacturer in Italy, predominantly active from the late 1940s through the early 1970s. They are known for the iconic Isetta bubble car of the 1950s, and for a number of powerful performance cars in the ’60s and early ’70s.
Iso Rivolta was initially named ‘Isothermos and manufactured refrigeration units before World War II. The company was originally founded in Genoa in 1939, but was transferred to Bresso in 1942 by Renzo Rivolta, an engineer and the heir of industrialists. The business was refounded as Iso Autoveicoli S.p.A. in 1953 to reflect the production of motorized transport. Renzo Rivolta died in 1966, and his son, Piero, took over as managing director. At the start of 1973 the Rivolta family ceded the business to an Italian American financier named Ivo Pera who promised to bring American management know-how to the firm: the business was again renamed to Iso Motors, just before fading rapidly into obscurity.
Two prototypes were shown in the 1990s, however, neither reached production.
Early years: motorcycles
After the Second World War, the company reopened its doors, completely changing its activity. In 1948 it began to build motorcycles, scooters and motocarries (three-wheeled transport scooters/motorcycles). Among the most famous are the Furetto (1948), ‘Isoscooter (1950),’ Isocarro (1951), ‘Isomoto (1954) and’ Isosport (1953). The last Iso motorcycle was presented as the Iso 500 in 1961. Isomotos were known as expensive, but durable and well-built.
1950s: Isetta bubble car
In the mid-1950s, he started to develop a miniature car for two persons and front entrance, initially with only three wheels, later, for reasons of stability, with four wheels (the two on the rear very close together): the Isetta Bubble Car.
Iso Isetta Turismo
About 20,000 of the bubble cars were built at the Rivolta works near Milan. Starting in 1954, Isetta was licensed to automobile manufacturers in several countries: France (by VELAM), Spain, Great Britain and Brazil (by Romi).
The most successful, however, was the German Isetta built by BMW. The BMW-Isetta went on to dwarf the production volumes of Rivolta and fulfilled the dream of mobility in post-war Germany.
About 130,000 had been sold by 1962.
1960s: performance cars
Together with engineer Giotto Bizzarrini, designer Giorgetto Giugiaro and chassis builder Bertone, Renzo Rivolta began developing the Iso Rivolta IR 300, which was first presented at the Torino Show of 1962.
It was an elegant 2 + 2 Coupé with well-balanced technical components and outstanding driving performance.
1964 Grifo A3 L
The 5.4 L V8 Chevrolet Small-Block engine and the transmission came from General Motors in Detroit, and the de Dion suspension and four-wheel disc braking system came from the large Jaguars of the time.
1969–72 Lele 350.
This concept was maintained for almost all production cars of Iso. Starting in 1971, Ford 351 Cleveland engines replaced the GM small block.
Grifo Lusso GL.
Iso Rivolta’s most well-known Gran Turismo automobile was the Iso Grifo which featured a low-slung, sporty berlinetta body by Bertone.
After Bizzarrini left the project, this prototype formed the basis for his own Bizzarini 5300 GT. The Grifo Prototype was further refined by Iso, receiving a reworked, less aggressive and more luxurious body in the process, and went into production in 1965.
Iso Grifo 1974
The Grifo was powered by Chevrolet´s 327 cubic inch (5.4 litre) V-8 producing either 300 or 350 hp.
1968– 70Grifo 7 Litri
In 1966 a convertible version of the Grifo was shown, but never reached production. Starting in 1968 the Grifo was also available with Chevrolet’s 427 cubic inch big-block V-8; this version was known as the Grifo 7 litri and was easily recognized by the broad air inlet on the hood. Later-day Grifos, the Series II, featured concealed headlights and a slightly modified front area.
1972–1974 Grifo IR8.
After the sudden death at Milan on 20 August 1966 of Renzo Rivolta, his son Piero became the director of Iso Rivolta, aged only 25 then.
Under Piero’s leadership, Iso built the limousine Fidia, “the fastest four seats on wheels” (Advertisement, 1967) with body by Ghia, the Grifo 7 litri (with the GM V8 7 L marine engine) and the 2 + 2 fastback Coupé Lele (1969) with body designed by Bertone, intended as the successor to the IR 300. Iso Rivolta went bankrupt in 1974, only 1700 Iso Gran Turismos had been built in those ten years.
• 1972 prototype Iso Varedo
In 1990, Renzo Rivolta’s son, Piero, asked Callaway to be the engine supplier to his new Iso Rivolta Grifo 90, a revival of the Iso Rivoltas from the 60’s and 70’s. The Iso Rivolta cars had DNA that included Italian coachwork and V8 engines from Corvette – an inspiring formula for many. Now the challenge was to create a powerful, modern, 1990’s design and restart the car company.
Iso Grifo 90
Three elements were brought together: Marcello Gandini (designer of the Lamborgini Miura, among others), Gian-Paolo Dallara (Dallara formula cars) and Callaway to be the contributors to the Grifo 90 Project. The design was penned, the full-size clay commissioned, and the car was presented to the Press in Italy in the Spring of 1990. The economics of the time prevailed and the promises of government financing never materialized, and the project halted. Too bad. The one thing you cannot create when launching a new automobile is a history.
Rivolta already had a great one.
• 1993 prototype Iso Grifo 90 Introduced in 1993 and 2010 never went to production
• 1996 prototype Iso Grifo 96
1974 ISO Grifo Sold for $440,000 at 2014 RM Auctions.Share