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Great Grifo

Powered by a Corvette engine, the 1967 Iso Grifo coupe had a top speed of 165 mph, same as its Ferrari competition

Renzo Rivolta started building Isothermos refrigerators before World War II. Following the war, Rivolta recognized another Italian need, transportation, and named his new car company Iso Rivolta. Starting with scooters, he expanded to Isetta bubble cars, later licensed to BMW. With the proceeds of the BMW deal and continuing refrigerator sales, Rivolta, like many Italian industrialists, resolved to build a GT car. The Iso Rivolta, a Bertone-styled four-seat coupe, appeared in 1962 at the Turin motor show, and was built at a new plant near Milan. A sportier two-seat Grifo was sold from 1965 to 1974.

Rivolta relied upon American engines to give his cars exceptional performance and great reliability. The Grifo had the Corvette small-block V8 engine and gearbox and a competent chassis designed by one of Italy's greatest automotive engineers, Ferrari GTO designer Bizzarrini. It was all packaged under a svelte Bertone body by Giorgio Giugiaro. According to Motor Trend, Bertone referred to the Iso Grifo coupe as his masterpiece. With a height of less than 48 inches, an aggressive design, alloy wheels, and details such as engine cooling grids on the fenders, the Grifo's design was impressive.

Although it was twice the price of a Corvette, it was lighter and more sophisticated. The lightweight pressed steel unitary body and chassis had four-wheel disc brakes, a deDion rear axle with inboard-mounted brakes, and coil spring suspension. The 327-ci V8 with high compression heads produced 350 hp by 1967. With a top speed of over 165 mph, the Iso Grifo was capable of the same tremendous performance as its Ferrari competition.

This Grifo has the 350 hp Corvette Turbofire V8. Sig. Prevosti, who bought the car around 1988, had it restored to concours standards during the late '90s by Salvatore Diomante, who was heavily involved in building the A3/C and Bizzarrini competition cars at the factory. The body is straight, and the paint looks fresh and is free of imperfections, as is the chrome. The tan leather interior was fully restored and still shows no signs of wear. Every component is as-new and period-correct, from the instrumentation to the radio. The engine bay is detailed and indicates that this car has covered very few miles since restoration. During a recent test drive, the car started readily and idled smoothly.

For many enthusiasts, the Iso Grifo represents the best of both worlds--Italian styling combined with the performance and low maintenance costs of an American V8.

(Introductory description courtesy of RM.)

The SCM Analysis

On October 31, 2007, RM sold this well-restored Grifo for $255,172 at its London auction. This is a substantial price and well over market. It was 41% over RM's high estimate of $150,000, and of four price guides consulted, none estimates an excellent value over $130,000, with two indicating that that level has been attained only in the last year after solid increases in value. (SCM's 2008 Price Guide has been updated to reflect the shift.)

There were several versions of the Grifo over almost ten years. The most important variation was the A3/C, where C stood for Corsa or competition. The Bizzarrini race version had a dramatic, modified alloy body mounted on a tube-frame chassis, and the engine was moved back about 16 inches, making it one of the first front-mid-engined cars. Bizzarrini dubbed the A3/C as his "Improved GTO." Twenty-two A3/Cs were built as Grifos before Bizzarrini and Rivolta parted ways in 1965 and the car became the Bizzarrini 5300 GT and American GT.

The street A3/L (for Lusso) had the same pressed-steel unitary body and chassis of the earlier four-passenger Iso Rivolta. The street Grifo was quite a success, but in 1970, Piero Rivolta, now running the company after the death of his father, upgraded the body with an elongated nose and hidden headlights, which turned an already outstanding design into one of the most elegant-looking GTs ever produced. These are referred to as the Series II cars and were in production from 1970 to 1974. They bring a good premium over the earlier cars.

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