At the end of the swinging sixties Iso presents the GT of the future. Episode seven of The Iso Rivolta Chronicles; Lele, the last GT before the oil crisis.
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 premature demise of his father, Piero Rivolta stands to the ungrateful task to develop a suitable successor for the successful GT300. There is no budget to simply turn the page and start from scratch, but thanks to the generous downpayment of a rich client there is enough room to create a new body and interior for the trusted GT300 platform. This time Marcello Gandini does the honours as chief designer for Bertone this time. His work results in a design that breaks with the conventional Iso lines. It truly is a car for the next decade. The Lele oozes seventies before they even really started.
The Lele is presented to the public in 1969. It is relatively cheap compared to the competition and delivers the usual abundance of torque and power. At first the Lele sports the usual Chevrolet 327 engines, from the second model year it’s replaced by the more torquey Chevy 350. Iso takes advantage of the engine swap by giving the Lele a small cosmetic update. In 1972 the Lele like all other Iso’s in production switches to the Ford Cleveland engine. Iso’s Formula One dreams result in a contract with Philip Morris, on its turn resulting in the Iso Rivolta Lele IR6 Marlboro. Designated for the track the stripped down Lele looses no less than 230 kg.
Sadly the Lele will be the last model developed by Iso Rivolta. The oil crisis and the threats of left wing extremist terror make the last bit of market share disappear in to thin air. Even turning to an external partner is of little use. Even a quotation on the New York stock exchange brings no relief. In a short period of time Iso Rivolta is stripped down to its bare shell. Looking for higher margins on the cars this goes literally for the cars produced. In 1974 Iso Rivolta closes its doors for good. The dream is over.
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