The Iso Rivolta Lele is a high-performance GT car that many have never heard of, under the hood you’ll find either a Corvette or a Ford V8, and it has a Marcello Gandini styled body riding on a Giotto Bizzarrini-designed chassis.

If you think this sounds like a recipe for an incredible car you’d be correct. The combination of Italian handling with abundant American V8 power, a luxurious interior and seating for four made the Lele one of the most practical Italian GTs of its time.

Fast Facts – The Iso Rivolta Lele

  • The Iso Rivolta Lele would be the final production car introduced by Italian automaker Iso Automoveicoli S.p.A., it’s a 2+2 GT car with an American V8 that was developed to challenge the Lamborghini Espada.
  • Iso Rivolta started out as Isothermos, an Italian company that built refrigeration units, after WWII they began building motor scooters and microcars before developing their first luxury GT car in 1962 – the Iso Rivolta IR 300.
  • The Iso Rivolta Lele was introduced in 1969 at the New York International Auto Show where it caused quite the stir, at the time of its launch it was powered by the Chevrolet Corvette V8 and its chassis was developed by Bizzarrini, the same man who developed the Ferrari 250 GTO.
  • Ultimately a few factors would lead to the closure of Iso Rivolta, the company had already been in some financial difficulty however the 1973 Oil Crisis all but wiped out any demand for luxury V8 GT cars with a penchant for drinking gasoline.

Isothermos And A WWII Bombing

During World War II a small Italian company that made electric heaters and chillers was bombed by the Allies, the remnants of the company, named Isothermos, were moved to Bresso in the north of Italy.

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Image DescriptionBy the standards of the time the interior of the Lele is opulent, with ample leather upholstery, thick carpeting, air conditioning, and electric windows.

If anyone had predicted that within 20 years Iso would be building some of the most desirable cars in the world developed by some of the best automotive engineers on earth they would likely have been committed to a mental health facility.

Though it would have sounded like madness, this is exactly what happened.

From Refrigerators To Supercars

In the years immediately after WWII it became clear to company owner Renzo Rivolta that motor scooters were going to be hugely in demand, both in Italy and across Europe as a whole. He decided to pivot Iso from refrigeration units to small-capacity motorcycles, and in the 1950s his new company, now called Iso Automoveicoli S.p.A, developed the Iso Isetta bubble car.

This tiny little three-wheeled microcar would be built in Germany by a company named BMW, it was also manufactured under license in France, Argentina, and Brazil.

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Image DescriptionThe Gandini-designed headlights have a brow that can be popped open when headlight use is required.

Renzo Rivolta seemed to greet each new decade with a new pivot, and so it was that by the time the 1960s were underway he had a team developing a new vehicle, the Iso Rivolta IR 300.

Never one to do thing by halves, Rivolta had the chassis design and engineering for the IR 300 done by former Ferrari engineer and father of the 250 GTO Giotto Bizzarrini. The body was styled by Giorgetto Giugiaro at Bertone and power was provided by the 327 cubic inch (5.35 liter) 300 hp V8 from the Chevrolet Corvette.

The IR 300 proved popular, it led to the development of other cars from Iso including the Iso Grifo and the Le Mans racing supercar the Iso Grifo A3/C.

The Iso Lele

The Iso Lele, also called the Iso Rivolta Lele, was one of the most sensible cars ever made by the Italian automaker. It features understated styling by Marcello Gandini, the man who penned the Lamborghini Miura among other icons, and it rides on a modified version of the chassis developed by Giotto Bizzarrini, the lead development engineer of the Ferrari 250 GTO.

Unlike its Italian rivals there is no complex V12 under the hood with maintenance costs that could bankrupt a small nation. Instead the Lele was initially powered by a 300+ hp Corvette V8 with later cars receiving the Ford 351 Cleveland producing 360 hp.

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Image DescriptionThis is one of the earlier Iso Leles with the Corvette V8 under the hood and a 4-speed manual transmission. This engine has been rebuilt and now produces 350 hp.

Iso developed the Lele to compete with cars like the Lamborghini Espada, luxurious 2+2 GT cars with serious sporting credentials. The interior of the car was opulently upholstered in leather and things like air conditioning and electric windows came as standard.

285 examples of the Iso Lele were built between 1969 and 1974 when the company folded. Today they remain among the least expensive of the Iso V8s, having never quite achieved the status of their siblings like the IR 300, Grifo, and the A3/C.

The Iso Lele Shown Here

The car you see here was restored in 2008/2009 by Roberto Negri of Iso Restorations. Negri worked at Iso in the 1960s and 1970s and remains one of the world’s most sought after Iso restoration specialists – knowing more about the cars than anyone on earth.

The Corvette V8 was sent off to Yankee Motors in December 2015 for a rebuild, during this process it was modified and tuned to produce 350 hp, up from the original output of 300 hp.

The interior was fully retrimmed during the restoration by Negri, and today the car remains in excellent condition throughout. It’s now being offered for sale out of Düsseldorf, Germany through Collecting Cars.

If you’d like to read more about this Lele or register to bid you can click here to visit the listing.

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Images courtesy of Collecting Cars

Published by Ben Branch -