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The Iso Grifo: Italian-American Grand Touring

The Iso Grifo is a classic Italian-American grand touring car that was produced by Iso Autoveicoli S.p.A. from 1965 to 1974. Designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, the Grifo combined Italian styling with American power, resulting in a unique and powerful sports car. With its sleek lines, powerful engines, and luxurious interiors, the Iso Grifo quickly became a symbol of style and performance. In this article, we will explore the history, design, performance, and legacy of the Iso Grifo, highlighting its significance in the world of automotive design and engineering.

The History of the Iso Grifo

The Iso Grifo was the brainchild of Renzo Rivolta, the founder of Iso Autoveicoli S.p.A., an Italian automobile manufacturer. Rivolta had previously gained success with the Iso Isetta, a small microcar that became popular in post-war Europe. However, he wanted to expand his company’s offerings and enter the high-performance sports car market.

In the early 1960s, Rivolta approached Giorgetto Giugiaro, a young and talented designer who was working for Carrozzeria Bertone at the time. Giugiaro was tasked with creating a design for a new sports car that would combine Italian elegance with American power. The result was the Iso Grifo, a stunning grand touring car that would capture the attention of automotive enthusiasts around the world.

The first Iso Grifo prototype was unveiled at the 1963 Turin Motor Show, and it received positive feedback from both the press and the public. Encouraged by the response, Rivolta decided to put the car into production, and the first production model was introduced in 1965.

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The Design of the Iso Grifo

The design of the Iso Grifo was a perfect blend of Italian and American influences. Giugiaro drew inspiration from classic Italian sports cars, such as the Ferrari 250 GT and the Maserati Ghibli, while also incorporating elements of American muscle cars, such as the Chevrolet Corvette.

The Grifo featured a long hood, a low-slung roofline, and a short rear deck, giving it a sleek and aggressive stance. The body was made of steel, with aluminum doors, hood, and trunk lid to reduce weight. The front end of the car was characterized by its distinctive pop-up headlights, which were a popular design feature at the time.

Inside, the Iso Grifo offered a luxurious and comfortable cabin, with leather seats, wood trim, and a full array of gauges and controls. The attention to detail and high-quality materials used in the interior reflected the car’s premium positioning in the market.

The Performance of the Iso Grifo

One of the key selling points of the Iso Grifo was its impressive performance. The car was available with a range of powerful engines, including V8 units sourced from American manufacturers such as Chevrolet and Ford.

The base model Grifo was equipped with a Chevrolet Corvette-sourced 5.4-liter V8 engine, which produced 350 horsepower. This engine allowed the car to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just 6.3 seconds and reach a top speed of 160 mph.

For those seeking even more power, Iso offered a higher-performance version of the Grifo called the Grifo 7 Litri. This model featured a 7.0-liter Ford V8 engine, which produced a staggering 435 horsepower. With this engine, the Grifo 7 Litri could reach a top speed of 171 mph, making it one of the fastest cars of its time.

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In addition to its powerful engines, the Iso Grifo also featured advanced suspension and braking systems, which contributed to its excellent handling and stopping power. The car’s chassis was derived from the Iso Rivolta GT, a previous model produced by the company, and it provided a solid foundation for the Grifo’s performance-oriented setup.

The Legacy of the Iso Grifo

The Iso Grifo was a commercial success for Iso Autoveicoli S.p.A., with over 400 units produced during its production run. The car was well-received by both critics and customers, who praised its design, performance, and craftsmanship.

However, despite its success, the Iso Grifo was not able to save Iso Autoveicoli S.p.A. from financial difficulties. The company faced various challenges, including increased competition and changing market trends, which eventually led to its bankruptcy in 1974.

Nevertheless, the Iso Grifo left a lasting impact on the automotive industry. Its design influenced many future sports cars, and its performance capabilities set a new standard for grand touring cars. Today, the Iso Grifo is considered a classic and highly sought-after collector’s car, with prices reaching into the millions of dollars for well-preserved examples.


The Iso Grifo is a true icon of Italian-American automotive design. Its combination of Italian elegance and American power made it a standout in the grand touring car segment. From its stunning design to its impressive performance, the Grifo captured the hearts of automotive enthusiasts around the world.

Although Iso Autoveicoli S.p.A. faced financial difficulties and ultimately went bankrupt, the legacy of the Iso Grifo lives on. Its influence can be seen in the design of many modern sports cars, and its performance capabilities continue to be admired by car enthusiasts.

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Whether it’s the sleek lines, the powerful engines, or the luxurious interiors, the Iso Grifo remains a symbol of style and performance. As a classic Italian-American grand touring car, the Iso Grifo will always hold a special place in the hearts of automotive enthusiasts and collectors alike.

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