Iso was founded in 1939 in Genoa, and was originally concerned with the manufacture of refrigeration units. Dubbed "Isothermos" by its founder Renzo Rivolta, the company moved to Bresso in 1942, and following the war was able to again re-open its doors. Rather than continue with the manufacture of refrigeration units, the company realised an opportunity in the then lucrative light motorcycle (moped) business. The most famous are the 1948 Furetto, 1950
Isomoto and 1953
The company was renamed Iso Autoveicoli S.p.a. in 1953, and Rivolta set about the development of a small car due to the incredible popularity of 3 wheeled light-cars such as the Heinkel Kabine
and Messerschmitt. The result was the now extremely collectable Isetta bubble car
, the design of which was licensed to manufacturers in France, Spain, Great Britain and, most successfully, BMW
of Germany (where there was overwheling demand for small, cheap and economical transportation).
As prosperity returned to Europe during the late 1950's, it was obvious that manufacturers of light vehicles would need to adapt and manufacture something more substantial. Teaming with engineer Giotto Bizzarrini and designer Giorgetto Giugiaro, Renzo Rivolta began the development of the Iso Rivolta IR 300, which was displayed at the Torino Motor Show in 1962
. Beautifully executed and in a league of its own, the Rivolta and subsequent Grifo were instant classics.
During the 1967
Earls Court Motor Show John Lennon would be photographed sitting behind the wheel of the Iso Grifo, the image catapulting the car to legendary status. Lennon owned an S4, while George took possesion of the Grifo. Soon it became the plaything of the rich and famous, and slightly aloof. Sony and Cher both owned Grifo's, along with Bobby Hatfield from the "Righteous Brothers". A year earlier Renzo Rivolta had died suddenly, his son Piero assuming control at the age of 25. The company struggled on for another 8 years, until finally declaring bankruptcy in 1974
, after some 1,700 Iso Gran Turismos had been built.