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Monday, May 4, 2015

Iso Grifo: Italy’s Corvette is a 7.0-liter Icon

BOLD RIDE

 
iso grifo 7-liter 1968 photo

There are those who are stalwart fans of nothing but American muscle. Others choose to ally themselves with hallowed Italian exotics. On the whole, both are vastly different scenes, but a few cars successfully bridge the gap.
 
The legendary Iso Grifo is one of them. Designed in Turin, powered by Detroit, and built in Milan, the Grifo is truly a world car… that just so happened to have out-of-this-world performance. This rarified 7.0-liter version, one of only 90 built, will exchange hands on June 6 at the Historics at Brooklands auction, and it’s expected to fetch as much as £280,000 ($525,000).



iso grifo 7-liter 1968 auction photo

Following the Second World War, Iso – originally a refrigeration company – began to dabble in two-and four-wheeled business. Its Isetta bubble car became a popular motor with licensing from BMW, though to performance fans the Grifo is the one to remember. The Grifo made its first appearance in prototype form at the Turin auto show in 1963 – styled by Bertone’s Giorgetto Giugiaro, engineered by ex-Ferrari chief Giotto Bizzarrini, and powered by the heart of a Chevrolet Corvette.

Unsurprisingly, it was a hit. Production began and the cars employed powerful yet reliable 5.4-liter Corvette engines, though in 1968 an even more powerful version made its stand, featuring Chevrolet’s big 7.0-liter mill. Press down the gas pedal liberally and the 390 horsepower Grifo could soar all the way past 170 mph, making it both a match in price and performance to its iconic rivals from Lamborghini and Ferrari – the Miura and Daytona.



iso grifo 7-liter 1968 engine photo

In total, 400 Iso Grifos were built across Series I and II production runs, of which only 90 were equipped with the big 7.0-liter ‘Vette V8. This is one of them, though now it features a later 454-cubic-inch V8 – in the ’80s the engine and chassis were separated and a correct 454 replacement was sourced. Rarer still, it was the show car for the 1968 Earls Court motor show and is one of only four right-hand-drive UK versions in that configuration.
The Iso marque never achieved the success of its contemporaries, Lamborghini and Ferrari, and shut its doors for good in 1974. The Grifo’s legacy and its Corvette ties are legendary nonetheless, and make for quite a compelling package.


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