Going back through the history of the Automobile, we quite often find manufacturers that get into the car business either by accident or thanks to the passionate efforts of a singular individual. Companies like Pierce-Arrow (bicycles and bird cages), Lamborghini (farm tractors) and Studebaker (wagons and carriages) had successfully made the transition to automobiles while Pegaso (heavy trucks) and Vespa (motor scooters) were mere blips on the radar screen. Somewhere in the middle of success and obscurity lies Iso, a firm that 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 1948. His motorcycles were expensive, but very desirable thanks to robust engineering and superior build quality. Immediately after World War II, Italy struggled to recover from the massive devastation it suffered. Motorcycles proved popular but they were not for everyone and people needed more practical transportation. In 1953, Renzo Revolta unveiled the Iso Isetta bubble car; a three (later four) -wheeled car powered by a motorbike engine 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, BMW. Selling the rights afforded Rivolta a fair bit of cash to take a significant leap into the luxury and performance car market he dreamed of.
Flush with cash, he developed the Rivolta GT car, various versions of the Grifo sports car. After Renzo’s untimely death, his son Piero took over the helm and oversaw development of the four-seat Lele and a luxurious, high performance sedan called the Fidia. The Fidia was launched in 1968 to be sold alongside the Grifo and Lele. It featured a traditional tubular chassis with deDion rear suspension and disc brakes. Power was courtesy of a Chevrolet Small Block V8, though contract disputes later led Iso to switch to Ford power later on. The body was penned by Giugiaro and built by Ghia, and it featured an aggressive nose not unlike the DeTomaso Mangusta, and a distinct sloping tail. The large four-seat super sedan was dubbed “The Fastest Four Seats in the World”. The luxurious Fidia cost more than a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow and went head-to-head with Maserati’s Quattroporte, competing for a share of an admittedly tiny market. The Fidia outsold the Quattroporte on occasion, in spite of the fact that just 192 were built between 1968 and 1974, with the likes of John Lennon, Sonny Bono and Pete Townshend all having a Fidia in their stable at one time.
Our featured Iso Fidia sedan is surely one of the finest examples we have ever seen. It presents beautifully in rich black paint with a gorgeous, freshly restored tan leather cabin. A tremendous amount of money spent on a high quality restoration to make this a stunning and thoroughly usable machine. The comprehensive restoration work, carried out by the experts at Autosport Designs of Huntington, New York, has been executed to a very high standard and includes a freshened drivetrain, excellent brightwork and all new rubber weatherstripping. The paint and panel fit is exquisite and the big Bertone body is arrow straight. This being a classic 1960’s luxury express, the cabin is a of course the center piece and this example has been restored to a fabulous standard. Beautiful tan leather is highlighted by show quality woodwork and detailing. A high end audio system has been installed and artfully integrated into the cabin, with speakers hidden behind leather kick panels. Of course, niceties such as power windows and air conditioning are standard fare.
The long, low Fidia rides on a set of fantastic original Campagnolo alloy wheels on proper blackwall radials. It puts its thumping American horsepower to the ground through an automatic transmission, which only serves to make this an outstanding continental cruiser. It has been wisely upgraded with an aluminium radiator to ensure trouble-free running on hot days. The sale includes restoration records and an original owner’s manual. Restored to show standards but built to be driven and enjoyed, this rare, magnificent and imposing Fidia is an exquisite example of the other great Italian super-sedan.