1971 Iso GrifoSeries II
Year of manufacture1971
- Rare Iso Grifo Series II with recent restoration to exceptional standards
- One of just 83 Iso Grifo Series IIs produced
- A well-known car in the Iso community and in current ownership since 2010
- Desirable lighter weight small block example with superior handling
- The ultimate combination of elegant Italian styling and American power
Fresh off his success in working with BMW on designing and licensing the Isetta microcar, Renzo Rivolta enlisted friends and fellow Italian designers for help building his dream Italian grand tourer. The result, the Iso Grifo, wore a wonderfully silky body penned by Giorgetto Giugiaro of Carrozzeria Bertone which, in turn, cloaked mechanicals engineered by Giotto Bizzarrini, designer of the hallowed Ferrari 250 GTO.
A trained engineer and former Alfa Romeo test driver, Bizzarrini was personally hired by Ferrari in 1957 and quickly established himself in Maranello, rising to chief of experimental, sports, and GT car development within his first few years. During his time at Ferrari, his resume grew to include such automotive icons as the 250 Testa Rossa, 250 GT SWB, and, of course, the 250 GTO. Personally fired by Enzo Ferrari in the “Great Walkout” of 1961, he went on to form his own namesake company consulting for Italian automakers and was reportedly thrilled when approached by Rivolta to design a car capable of beating Ferrari.
Widely loved for its combination of elegant Italian styling and reliable American performance, the Iso Grifo was produced from 1965 through 1974. In 1970, the Bertone design was updated with hide-away headlights for an even sleeker appearance. These Series II examples were mostly equipped with a monstrous 427-cubic-inch Chevrolet V-8 engine. While the big block produced more straight-line speed, many enthusiasts preferred the available small-block 350-cubic-inch Chevy V-8 for its lighter weight, resulting in superior handling. With the small block weighing approximately 200 pounds less, yet still producing around 350 horsepower, the difference in handling and performance was noticeable. Iso historians suggest that only 17 Grifo Series IIs were built in small-block coupe configuration.
This wonderfully restored Iso Grifo Series II is one such example. Built in May 1971, it was ordered with a 350-cubic-inch small-block uniquely mated to a three-speed automatic transmission, believed to be one of only two so equipped and ranking this car among the rarest Grifos ever built. After its original delivery to Germany, the car made its way to the United States before being acquired by its current caretaker in 2010 from an Iso Grifo enthusiast in Southern California.
After acquiring it, the current owner exhibited the car extensively throughout California, including at the Concorso Italiano in Monterey and the Palos Verdes, Dana Point, and Greystone Mansion Concours d’Elegances. It was finished in red over tan at this time and had clearly lived a charmed life, having avoided succumbing to rust and corrosion, unlike so many Iso Grifos. Despite being in very presentable condition and a star at concours events throughout California, the owner decided to embark on a full restoration after careful consideration.
Over the course of the next three years, the car was treated to a bare-metal restoration by Cambra Motorsports of Orange, California, with oversight from several Iso Grifo marque experts. Hundreds of invoices detail the work, including over 300 hours block-sanding the body to ensure a perfect finish, a full rebuild of the engine, and significant sums spent on new chrome. Cambra Motorsports consulted with an Iso Grifo specialist regarding the bodywork, while enthusiast and fellow Iso Grifo owner Ron Ciardella helped advise with further details throughout the restoration. A file containing volumes of restoration photos detailing the vast scope of the project accompanies the sale.
Cambra Motorsports installed a five-speed manual transmission and electric adjustable power steering for improved drivability. Importantly, the original automatic transmission is included with the car and can be reinstalled, should the next owner prefer it. A new windshield and side glass were installed, and the air conditioning is said to blow cold. The car rides on refinished 15-inch Series II Campagnolo wheels wrapped in period-correct Michelin XWX performance tires.
Stunningly finished in metallic dark blue with a silver accent-bar over all-new cognac leather upholstery, this example is certainly among the finest Iso Grifos in existence, having been finished to an exceptional standard with great attention paid to the bodywork and shut lines. Completed in November 2022, the car has been test-driven and further sorted mechanically to ensure it is ready for its next owner.
With total production of just over 400 units, any Iso Grifo is a rare beast. This freshly restored Series II with the desirable 350-cubic-inch V-8 and included factory automatic transmission surely ranks among the most significant examples of any Iso Grifo ever produced.
The engine number for this Iso Grifo is matching numbers according to the stamp on the block and the records of Federico Negri.
To view this car and others currently consigned to this auction, please visit the RM website at rmsothebys.com/en/auctions/az23.