The advent of lightweight, powerful, reliable V-8 engines in America in the early 60's created an attractive option for European builders of high performance Grand Touring cars. It was no longer necessary for an inspired constructor to design, develop and tool up to build a high-revving inline six or V-12 to compete with Ferrari, Maserati, Jaguar or Mercedes-Benz when a Chevrolet or Ford V-8, built in vast numbers with advanced foundry techniques that made cast iron engines competitive in weight with lightweight alloy counterparts, served the same purpose at modest cost.
Facel-Vega, Jensen, AC Cars, Peerless and others seized the opportunity, building some of the best, fastest and most comfortable GT cars of the era. No one, however, did it better than Renzo Rivolta's ISO, combining the best Italian design, sophisticated chassis and an American V-8 to create automobiles that still excite the imagination and deliver driving satisfaction that parallels the best from Ferrari.
Rivolta's progress from a manufacturer of small domestic appliances for the postwar rebuilding of Italy (the name is a contraction of the trade name Isothermos used for the company's heaters and refrigerators) through motor scooters and small motorcycles to the famed Isetta bubblecars was rapid. Postwar Italy expanded rapidly with a burgeoning class of entrepreneurs and professionals who kept Ferrari and Maserati busy enhancing their glamorous lifestyle with fast, beautiful, luxurious GTs. By now Rivolta had assembled a squad of talented engineers and designers who thought differently from their more traditional counterparts in Italy and in 1961 added the final element, former Alfa Romeo and Ferrari engineer Giotto Bizzarrini.
The GT envisioned by Renzo Rivolta was excitingly different, with a stamped, welded platform frame, independent front suspension and deDion rear suspension with inboard disc brakes. Power came from a lightweight Chevrolet 327 cubic inch V-8, available off the shelf in the US in a variety of configurations up to 360 horsepower and backed up by nearly bulletproof Borg Warner 4-speed or Powerglide automatic transmissions. Rivolta turned to Bertone for the sleek, distinctive 2+2 coachwork designed by young Giorgio Giugiaro. The steel Bertone body panels were welded to ISO's platform chassis, reinforcing each other and creating a unit of unusual strength and rigidity that ideally complemented the power and torque of the Chevrolet V-8.
Only some 799 Iso Rivolta GTs were built in seven years' production ending in 1970 but they remain highly sought examples of the very best in Italian Grand Touring chassis, braking, roadholding and classic Sixties' Italian coachwork. Luxurious appointments, comfortable driving position and ample interior room complement their driving qualities and powerful, reliable Corvette engines.
This, chassis IR420639, is a remarkably well preserved example that was owned and preserved by a single family from 1984 to 2003. It is powered by one of the best GT car engine and transmission combinations ever built, the 300 horsepower, 360 lb-ft torque single 4-barrel carburetor Chevrolet Corvette V-8 with 4-speed Borg Warner T-10 gearbox. Nicely finished in silver with butterscotch upholstery, recent mechanical work includes rebuilt cylinder heads, new water pump, starter, fuel pump, clutch, Edelbrock high performance intake manifold and 4-barrel carburetor and exhaust system. A US-delivery Rivolta GT, it has factory alloy wheels and provision for installing the air conditioning system that comes with it but is not presently fitted.
ISO spent heavily on production facilities, fixtures and tooling for volume production that never materialized, then introduced the seductive front mid-engined Grifo 2-seat coupe and 4-door Fidia before eventually succumbing to the overhead of massive investment without corresponding sales volume. Lack of sales success, however, should not diminish the quality, performance, luxury, design and roadholding of the Iso-Rivolta GT, a car that expresses, perhaps better than any other, the successful integration of high performance American V-8 engines with road-worthy European chassis design and beautiful, cutting-edge, Italian coachwork. With its top speed of nearly 140 mph few high performance sports cars, let alone GT cars, of its era come close to the same experience.
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