Off radar

The Original. 1963-1970 Iso Rivolta GT IR 300

By Massimo Delbò

Photo credit: Bonhams

In this particular case “off radar” really ought to be dedicated to an entire brand, considering the extent to which, even today with very few exceptions, the cars produced by ISO Rivolta are often overlooked. This is a serious shortcoming, considering how the manufacturer from Bresso (just north of Milan, Italy) was able to produce extremely luxurious, comfortable, fast, beautiful and reliable cars, at a moment in history when, more often than not, many of the features listed above were wanting from the majority of more famous manufacturers.

The elegant 1963 GT IR 300, the very first car to leave the Iso Rivolta factory, the work of the young Giorgetto Giugiaro

For his first Gran Turismo, the industrialist Renzo Rivolta took the best from two worlds: engines and gearboxes from America, with the splendid V8 5.3-litre unit made by Chevrolet and mounted on the Corvette, accompanied by 4-speed Borg Warner gearbox (5-speeds upon on request), recruiting for the creation of the chassis and suspension, this latter equipped with a refined De Dion rear axle, that Italian genius of Giotto Bizzarrini. And he kept the standards equally high for the bodywork: Carrozzeria Bertone, still captained by Giorgetto Giugiaro, and exquisite materials for the interior to express the very finest Italian style. The first car presented was the Coupé Rivolta GT IR 300, available with either 300 hp and 340 hp engines and, later, with 350 hp and 365 hp outputs. It was a very popular GT, in a comfortable 2+2 configuration, a large trunk and luxurious finishes, capable of travelling, even for extended periods of time, at 220 km/h.

Italian aggression for the powerful Chevrolet engine, used in America for the Corvette and modified by Renzo Rivolta for his Gran Turismo

Presented in 1963, it remained in production until the end of 1970, with a production run that totalled 797 units. “ISO Rivoltas were mass-produced, but custom modifications were always possible,” says Federico Negri, of The Bottegone di Clusone (BG), considered by many as the greatest expert in the history and restoration of ISO cars, “that’s why it’s so important to start with the history of each car, to check for any discrepancies over the standard specification and whether they were carried out at the factory or at a later time”. A good IR 300 today, with values growing in recent years, is worth anywhere from €120,000 to €130,000 and can reach as much as €180,000 to €200,000 for an absolutely perfect (and therefore very rare) specimen. “What has changed considerably is the value of total restoration cars,” adds Negri, “from a few thousand euros they now reach €20,000 – €25,000, when they are complete and accompanied by original documents and engine.”

Comfortable large leather seats and the understated design of the cabin of the first Iso Rivolta produced. As you can see it was a 2+2

Spare parts are not impossible to find, but you really have to know what you’re doing: the engines are Corvette, but ISO, upon arrival in Bresso, opened them up and equipped them with as many as three different types of special connecting rods, depending on the power, dedicated oil pans and high performance camshafts. For the bodywork, there are still period spare parts available but, increasingly, especially for those parts that are prone to rotting, such as the sills and the undertray (especially in the rear trunk), you have to give serious consideration to custom, hand-crafted reconstruction. A wonderful GT that you only have to try once before falling in love with, instantly forgiving what many call the original sin of being equipped with an American engine. 

The generous cockpit of the GT IR 300 provides comfortable seating even for rear passengers. Without a shadow of a doubt this model has all the hallmarks of an interesting investment, as it still commands reasonable prices