Iso (automobile)

Iso was an automobile and motorcycle maker, the product of Iso Autoveicoli S.p.A of Italy. The company was predominantly active from the late 1940s through the early 1970s. Iso are known for the iconic Isetta bubble car of the 1950s, and for a number of powerful performance cars in the 1960s and early 1970s.

Iso Autoveicoli S.p.A.
HeadquartersBresso, Italy
Key people
Renzo Rivolta, founder
ProductsAutomobiles, Motorbikes


Iso was initially named 'Isothermos' and manufactured refrigeration units before World War II. The company was 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.[1] 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:[2] 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

Isomoto 125 B (GT)
ISO 125

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), ' Isosport (1953) and ' Iso Diva. The last Iso motorcycle was presented as the Iso 500 in 1961. Isomotos were known as expensive, but durable and well-built. In the late 1960s Iso Rivolta also built a motorized sled ("ski-doo") called ' Iso Neve.

1950s: Isetta bubble car

Iso Isetta Turismo

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. About 20,000 of the bubble cars were built at the Iso 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[1] Isetta built by BMW. The BMW-Isetta went on to dwarf the production volumes of Iso and become one of the best-selling German microcars in the 1950s and 1960s. 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.

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. This concept was maintained for almost all production cars of Iso. Starting in 1971, Ford 351 Cleveland engines replaced the GM small block.

Iso'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. The Grifo was powered by Chevrolet´s 327 cubic inch (5.4 litre) small-block V-8 producing either 300 or 350 hp. 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.

After the sudden death at Milan on 20 August 1966[3] of Renzo Rivolta, his son Piero became the director of Iso, aged only 25 then. Under Piero's leadership, Iso built the limousine 'S 4 (for "four seats", later to be called '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. The Iso Rivolta plant moved from Bresso to Varedo in 1972. Apart from the models Grifo Series II, Fidia and Lele, the mid-engined Iso Varedo was developed there, the chassis concept came from Giotto Bizzarrini and the design was from Ercole Spada , but only one car was ever built. Iso went bankrupt in 1974, only 1700 Iso Gran Turismos had been built in those ten years.

Production range

Data from[4]

Years Model Power Top speed Notes Image
1953–55 Isetta 10 PS (7 kW) 85 km/h (53 mph) Iso Isetta
1963–70 Rivolta IR 300/340/350 300 PS (221 kW); 340 PS (250 kW); 350 PS (257 kW) 205–258 km/h (127–160 mph) Chevrolet engine Iso Rivolta 1969
1964 Grifo A3 L 365 PS (268 kW) 275 km/h (171 mph) Chevrolet engine Iso Grifo A3 L 1
1966–72 Grifo Lusso GL 300/340/350 300 PS (221 kW); 340 PS (250 kW); 350 PS (257 kW) 210–260 km/h (130–162 mph) Chevrolet engine  
1972–1974 Grifo IR8 325 PS (239 kW); 330 PS (243 kW) 255 km/h (158 mph) Ford engine  
1968–70 Grifo 7 Litri 400 PS (294 kW) 300 km/h (186 mph) Chevrolet engine (427) Iso Grifo a FrankfurtM
1970–72 Grifo Can Am 400 PS (294 kW) 300 km/h (186 mph) Chevrolet Engine (427 & 454) Iso grifo can am
1968–72 Fidia S4 300/350 300 PS (221 kW); 350 PS (257 kW) 220–240 km/h (136–150 mph) Chevrolet engine Isofidiafront
1972–74 Fidia IR10 325 PS (239 kW); 330 PS (243 kW) 240 km/h (149 mph) Ford engine  
1969–72 Lele 300/350 300 PS (221 kW); 350 PS (257 kW) 220–250 km/h (136–155 mph) Chevrolet engine Iso Lele in profile in London
1972–74 Lele IR6 325 PS (239 kW); 330 PS (243 kW) 245 km/h (152 mph) Ford engine Iso Lele in profile in London
2017 Rivolta Zagato Vision Gran Turismo 552 PS (406 kW) 365 km/h (227 mph) Chevrolet engine
Iso Grifo 90 2010
Iso Grifo 90


  • 1972 prototype Iso Varedo
  • 1993 prototype Iso Grifo 90
  • 1996 prototype Iso Grifo 96


  1. ^ a b "Marbles and Motors: Trying a new luxury Iso". Motor: 30–32. 1 March 1969.
  2. ^ "Road Test: Iso Lele automatic". Motor: 2–7. 27 April 1974.
  3. ^ "News and views: Renzo Rivolta". Autocar. 125 nbr 3680: 454. 26 August 1966.
  4. ^ "Iso Rivolta specifications and performance data". Automobile Catalog.

External links


Bizzarrini S.p.A. was an Italian automotive manufacturer in the 1960s founded by former Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and Iso engineer Giotto Bizzarrini. The company built a small number of highly developed and advanced sport and racing automobiles before failing in 1969. Notable models include the 5300 GT Strada and the P538S.

Originally Prototipi Bizzarrini s.r.l., the name was changed to Bizzarrini S.p.A. in 1966. The Bizzarrini marque has been revived with a number of concept cars in the 2000s.

Iso Grifo

The Iso Grifo is a limited production grand tourer automobile manufactured by Italian Iso Autoveicoli S.p.A. between 1965 and 1974. Intended to compete with Ferrari and Maserati GTs, it utilized a series of American power trains and components supplied by Chevrolet and Ford to ensure performance and maximize reliability. Styling was done by Giorgetto Giugiaro at Bertone, while the mechanicals were the work of Giotto Bizzarrini.The first production GL models appeared in 1965 and were powered by American Chevrolet Corvette small-block 327 (5.4-litre) V8s fitted to American supplied Borg-Warner 4-speed manual transmissions.

In 1970, the Grifo Series II appeared, with sleeker styling and hide-away headlights and powered by big-block Chevrolet 454 V8 (7.5-litre) engines. It was replaced in 1972 with the Grifo IR-8, which utilized a small-block Ford Boss 351 engine (5.8-litre) as its power train. This was the last new Iso of any type, as the manufacturer went bankrupt and eventually shut down and ceased all operations permanently in 1974. The bankruptcy had a number of causes, perhaps the largest being the 1973 oil crisis which significantly reduced demand for cars with large V8 engines.

Iso Varedo

The Iso Varedo was a concept car produced by Italian car manufacturer Iso Autoveicoli S.p.A. in 1972 styled by Ercole Spada. It was unveiled at the 1972 Turin Motor Show. Only one Varedo was ever built. It currently resides at the Sarasota Classic Car Museum in Florida.

List of Italian brands

This is a list of Italian brands, which encompasses brand-name products and services produced by companies in Italy.

Renzo Rivolta

Renzo Rivolta (5 September 1908 – 20 August 1966) was an Italian Engineer.

Rivolta is the founder of the car manufacturer Iso Autoveicoli S.p.A.. In the 1950s he developed the Isetta microcar and sold the car in Italy. The car became famous through the licensed production at BMW. Rivolta produced home appliances, and Iso scooters, before moving to car production with the Iso Rivolta sports touring car, using Chevrolet 327ci engines and gearboxes. Iso entered racing, and won its class at Le Mans. In the 1960s Rivolta's company produced the Iso Grifo, Bizzarinni, and other sportscars, all using the GM drivetrain. The Bizzarinni is now a much sought after model, having been developed by Giotto Bizzarrini, an ex-Ferrari engineer who designed their GTO models.

Active manufacturers
Defunct manufacturers
Design, engineering,
and coachbuilding
Related topics
Major and notable Italian motorcycle marques


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