Looking back through history, we quite often see manufacturers that get into the car business either by accident or thanks to the efforts of one passionate person in charge. Some of the all-time great car makers started out building things other than cars – Pierce-Arrow (bicycles and bird cages), Lamborghini (farm tractors) and Studebaker (wagons and carriages). Some were mere blips on the radar screen such as Pegaso (heavy trucks) or Vespa (motor scooters), while others hung on long enough to gain an enthusiastic following. The Iso Company actually started life as “Isothermos”, a refrigerator manufacturer in Genoa, Italy. In 1942, a motor-mad industrialist and engineer named Renzo Rivolta took over the business, renamed it Iso Autoveicoli and moved it to Bresso, just outside of Milan. Rivolta moved away from refrigeration and started building motorcycles in about 1948. His motorcycles were expensive, but very desirable thanks to robust engineering and superior build quality. In the early years after World War II, Italy was struggling to recover and rebuild from the war time devastation. Motorcycles were popular, cheap transportation but people also needed something more practical to get around in. Iso unveiled the Isetta bubble car in 1953 – a three (later four) wheeled car powered by a motorbike engine and with room for two adults and a bag or two of groceries. The cheeky little Isetta proved popular enough to inspire Renzo Rivolta to sell the rights to produce his car to other manufacturers. Most notably, it is the car that helped BMW survive the post war years and put Germany back on wheels. Selling the rights afforded Rivolta a fair bit of cash to develop a somewhat more luxurious car than the tiny Isetta.
In the early 1960’s Renzo Rivolta teamed up with Giotto Bizzarrini and Giorgetto Giugiaro on a car that was quite a step above the Isetta. The new car, named Rivolta one of the first examples of the “hybrid” sports cars to come out of Europe in the 1960’s. Italian designed and built, the new car was built with a pressed sheet steel frame and fitted with a proven, reliable and affordable Chevrolet 327 V8 lifted from the Corvette. The chassis was by wishbones up front and a proven DeDion rear axle with limited slip Salisbury diff – a tough and reliable unit proven by Jaguar for years. Also courtesy of the Brits were the Dunlop four-wheel disc brakes. The Iso Rivolta was rounded out with luxurious and comfortable four-seat cabin, wonderfully described in period literature as having “Efficient functioning united to sober elegance”. Performance was strong thanks to a minimum of 300hp from the Corvette engine. The literature also proclaimed the Iso Rivolta was “Silent from 40-240 (kph) in top gear!” That was enough to convince 799 lucky buyers over a 7 year span to shell out their hard earned Lire for a chance to own one.
This attractive Iso Rivolta comes to us in very tidy and correct condition, an excellent choice for regular road use. It has been treated to some sympathetic restoration work, evident in the good quality paint and the exterior bright work. The metallic maroon paint is well suited to the handsome Bertone lines, and is complemented by a svelte black leather interior with gray wool carpeting. It was clearly a car that was already in excellent order so it retains a pleasingly original feel. The originality is perhaps best experienced inside, where the black leather on the rear seats and door cards is original, only the front seats having been recently reupholstered to lift them up to quality of the rest of the cabin. The dash, instruments and switchgear are all fully functional and correct.
Under the hood rests the original, numbers-matching 327 Chevrolet engine topped with a single four-barrel carburetor. Numbers matching Iso Rivoltas are very rare indeed, as the Chevrolet drivetrain lent itself to easy engine swaps. It is tidy, well maintained and presentable. The engine is backed with a four-speed manual gearbox, as it left the factory, confirmed by the original Iso build sheet which is included in the sale.
The Iso Rivolta is a great driving, relaxed GT car with the benefit of reliable, affordable underpinnings. They encourage regular exercise and this example would be a fine candidate for touring events and weekend getaways. It is attractive and well presented, but not over-restored or fussy. The correct, original drivetrain means that, in all likelihood this has been a cherished piece since new. Honest and elegant, this Rivolta would be a welcome addition to any stable and is ready for regular use.
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