The resurrection of a legend, or is it? The eight and final episode of The Iso Rivolta Chronicles; Iso Grifo 90, back to the future.
Iso Rivolta was a pioneering Italian automotive brand in the 1950s and -60s. It was a family business led by engineer Renzo Rivolta, who, in the late 40s, decided to transform his firm from producing fridges to creating motorcycles. Rivolta was right; during the 50s, Italian motorcycle production was booming, led by Piaggio’s Vespa, Innocenti’s Lambretta and of course Iso Moto. He then changed his business to automobiles. From city cars, like the Isetta bubble car, to luxury sports cars with big American V8 muscle.
Following the downfall of Iso Rivolta in 1974, Piero Rivolta repeatedly tried to resurrect his fathers brand. The last attempt dating back to the end of the nineteen eighties, with the Iso Grifo 90, that would eventually be presented to the press in 1991. Alas, the presentation is again far from reality. The car presented at the Modena Motor Show as a finished prototype, is in fact nothing but a wooden fullsize mock up. Not even the wheels will turn. The promised launch of the production model in 1994 is just as big a haze as the whereabouts of the shown prototype. Until ten years later another version of the prototype emerges from a shed at Zagato, sparking the enthousiasm for Iso Rivolta once again…
The prototype in the shed has little in common with the Iso Grifo 90 as it was presented in the past. To the horror of the Iso enthousasts that want to adopt the project, Zagato has thoroughly reworked the design to its own likings. This isn’t the Iso they had in mind. This is no Iso Rivolta! However, by chance a little later an Italian collectioneur finds the original prototype by Gandini and Dallara in another lock up. The Iso scene goes berserk, even Piero Rivolta becomes enthousiastic over the spontaneous plans to finally build a small series of the car, offering his full collaboration. Federico Bonomelli, Iso Rivolta collectioneur and owner of Mako Shark, a company specialised in composite materials, takes on the task of recreating the Iso Grifo 90 together with his son. The ultimate goal, a small series of 12 cars.
Nowadays no-one can afford to build a small series of cars from scratch, not with the existing laws and regulations on modern traffic. Thus Mako Shark sets out on a quest for an existing automobile with the right dimensions, room for an American V8 engine and, most important of all, a windscreen that has roughly the right dimensions and angle compared to the original prototype. The final weapon of choice is the Chevrolet Corvette C5. What remains of the original Corvette is the bare necessity, on which a completely new car is constructed. Piero Rivolta does his part and even Marcello Gandini helps to refine his original design of the Iso. The result after five long years is a supercar that anno 2010 resembles the original 1991 prototype with an accuracy that is truly scary. It carries all the genes of a true Iso Rivolta. This one magnificent car is all that comes of it. The economic crisis melts away the last bit of interest in the Iso Grifo 90 like snow under the sun. What remains is the one and only truly last Iso Rivolta, the GM-Mako Shark Iso Rivolta Grifo 90.
The Iso Rivolta Chronicles is the first series produced by CineCars’ Italian counterpart An Italian Garage. They are an independent production studio, specialized in automotive videos, aiming for a series of single-topic seasons. This summer CineCars will bring you the full series of The Iso Rivolta Chronicles in HD. Stay tuned for more classic Italian engineering.
Marc GF Zaan