Iso (ISETTA) (Italy) 1953-1976.
Before the second world war, Renzo Rivolta had built up a succssful company, Isothermos, building refrigerators. The 1940s saw him turn his hand to scooters, keeping the well known Iso name. From this they progressed to the Isetta, a 236cc bike engine powered bubble car. This was built from 1953 to 55 (although licence production in other countries continued until 1964).
Iso's first motor vehicles were scooters and two-stroke motorcycles.
Next, they built the Isetta "bubble-car" with double-piston two-stroke engines of 236cc; it was also license-built by BMW in Germany, VELAM in France and Isetta in Great Britain.
Manufacture of big luxury cars commenced in 1961. Most had Ghia and Bertone-built bodywork and big Chevrolet V8 engines. The range included the 5359cc Rivolta coupes and limousines. There was also the very sporting Grifo Lusso, a two-seater coupe. Others included the Lele, a Bertone-coupe with a 5768cc Ford V8 engine, the Fidia and the Grifo. There was also the Grifo IR 9 Can-Am with a 7443cc Chevrolet V8 and a top speed of 182 mph.
There was a delay before the next car arrived, and when it did it was a very different beast. The Rivolta was a two door, four seat rear-wheel drive saloon, powered by a 5359cc Chevrolet V8 ohv engine. This set the trend for future Iso's, with a chassis design by Bizzarrini, bodywork design by Bertone and the big Chevrolet engine.
Shortly afterwards the Grifo emerged from Iso's Milan factory. This used a similar engine and chassis to the Rivolta in a new two seat coupe body. The Fidia, which was introduced in 1967, was a four door, four seat saloon, still based on a similar combination of chassis and engine. The last production car from Iso was the Lele, a 2+2 coupe replacement for the Rivolta, still with basically the same engine and chassis.
In 1966 Renzo Rivolta, the man behind the company, passed away and his son Piero took control. The company made an ill-judged move into Formula One with Frank Williams and at about the same time the oil crisis hit. The combination of these events saw the closure of Iso in 1975.
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