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.
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.