Isothermos was an Italian heating and air conditioning company, but after WWII, owner Renzo Rivolta turned his attentions on manufacturing scooters, motorcycles and small trucks — but it was his Isetta that had the biggest impact. The bubble car of 1955 was licensed to BMW and the capital that Rivolta generated from sales allowed him to assemble a dream team and ultimately create one of the most beautiful sportscars of all time.
He hired the best in the business including designers Nuccio Bertone and Giorgetto Giugiaro along with former Ferrari engineer Giotto Bizzarrini and the trio began to work on a new line of Iso GT cars. The first of those was the Rivolta of ‘62, a two-door, four-seater, and what really made it spectacular and unique from anything else at the time which was in the market was that it had the sophistication of a Giugiaro design as well as a Bizzarrini chassis and to top it all off it had a Chevrolet Corvette V8. It was a fine GT — but their next effort really caught the imagination. It was the Grifo.
Named after the half lion, half eagle Greek mythological creature, this was Iso’s halo model. Bizzarrini considered it as the next logical step in the evolution of the 250 GTO, one of the most famous sportscars ever and his last project for Ferrari before he walked out in 1961.
Introduced at the ‘63 Turin Auto Show (alongside a racing version called the A3/C which would take first in class at Le Mens for two consecutive years) the handmade Grifo went on sale in ‘65; it was built using a shortened Rivolta platform and had a beautiful, voluptuous body. On the Series I cars, power came from a 400bhp 5.4-litre V8 mated to a Borg Warner four-speed manual (or optional three-speed automatic) and it could pull up to 100kph in first gear. No other Italian car on the road at the time could match that.
Along with the high performance it had power windows, a full leather interior and air conditioning (of course!). It was the height of elegance, comfort and design.
In ‘68 a more powerful 7.0-litre was introduced and it necessitated a uniquely designed bonnet scoop to accommodate the massive V8 which was conservatively rated at 435bhp — but the reality was closer to 500...
The later Series II cars from ‘70 featured refined styling including hideaway headlights, while the motor was switched from Chevy to Ford with an improved five-speed ZF gearbox.
Due to the international oil crisis and slow sales, production of the Grifo ended in ‘74 and Iso S.P.A. closed its doors for good. In total, just 413 were built (90 were the 7.0-litre) making it an extremely rare and desirable collectible with prices typically fetching over Dh1million today.