In the words of Piero, Renzo Rivolta’s son:
“I don’t remember the exact occasion, but at one point in time Nuccio Bertone, my father and I were seated together in the grand reception room of our family villa in Bresso, which faced the park that separated our residence from the factory. Nuccio Bertone, the famous automotive designer and builder, was always very attentive to detail and had noticed the images of four large griffons painted on the vaulted ceiling of the room.
My father explained the symbolism of this mythological animal and what it had to do with our family history. The griffon, with the head of an eagle and the body of a winged lion, signifies power and perfection because it combines the two most majestic creatures of the earth and sky. It also stands for protection, fearlessly executed with swift precision.
Perhaps the image of the mighty eagle, also a symbol for America, was a sort of premonition, since in the late 1970s I moved there and became a United States citizen.”
Sometime later, while discussing the new two-seater that the ISO Rivolta and Bertone companies had decided to launch together, Nuccio Bertone suggested using the name “Grifo” and showed a sketch of the icon for the car. Everyone agreed with enthusiasm.
The symbolism of the griffon reflects the credo dating back through generations of the Rivolta-Barberi family members, who attempted new ventures with little or no fear, leading to a series of innovative transportation products from the motorcycle to the Isetta and ISO Rivolta cars. In the beginning the griffon icon was used only with the sports line of the two-seaters, but its use was eventually extended to all of the cars with the introduction of a new logo.
The emblem depicted the griffon on a white field with stripes of green, white and red behind it, representing the colors of the Italian flag. It was designed by Piero’s wife Rachele, whom everyone called Lele, like the car named after her that debuted in 1969. In the new design, Rachele had outlined the figure of the griffon in order to show its form more clearly and had made its wings resemble a mechanical gear.
The griffon icon thereafter became an intrinsic visual in all of the projects the Rivoltas pursued, including the design and construction of boats and buildings, as well as real estate development.
The history of ISO Rivolta is singular in the dynamic way that it changed with the times, with the main intention of remaining independent and creative—a kind of renaissance way of doing business.
Renzo Rivolta was born in Desio, a town just north of Milan, into a family of well-respected industrialists, who were very active in the
In 1936, Renzo married Marion Barberi, whose family was based in Turin, shared a similar heritage and also was known to have a great cultural and artistic tradition. Renzo and Marion both exhibited a passion for nature and for beautiful, fascinating things. The core business of the Rivolta family was in milling wood and related products. This instilled in Renzo a deep appreciation for trees, which he planted wherever he could; but he also had a passion for speed and mechanical devices, which was the true spark that ignited the ISO and ISO Rivolta story.
In 1939, Renzo bought a small company called Isothermos that was producing refrigerators and heaters. He later relocated his family and business to a XXVIII century villa surrounded by a large tract of land situated in Bresso, right on the Milan city limit. Renzo and Marion put a lot of love and effort into restoring the classic mansion—which is known to this day as Villa Rivolta.
They also planted many new trees in the grounds of the existing estate to create a lovely area that later was dubbed the Renzo Rivolta Public Park, following the wishes of their son Piero. In line with the family’s industrialist nature, they built their new factory next to the park.
After WWII, the demand for new means of transport increased. Being a field that had attracted Renzo since his youth, he eagerly dedicated himself to building scooters, motorcycles, small vehicles, and then the famous Isetta Bubble Car. It was in this evolutionary period that the company name was shortened to simply 'Iso'.
In 1962, the time was ripe for a sports car venture, and so the first Gran Turismo, called the ISO Rivolta GT, was completed. It was based on a visionary concept for that time: a large displacement engine, powerful and reliable, combined with an exceptionally performing chassis resulted in a car that was pleasant and safe to drive, especially at high speeds.
Following that theme, in the mid '60s, Piero Rivolta - Renzo’s son - continued to produce exciting new models and decided to change the name of the company to ISO Rivolta, as a tribute to the first GT. In 1971, a new, more modern factory was built in the nearby town of Varedo. By that time, ISO Rivolta had become internationally famous among the most sophisticated car enthusiasts for their innovative approach in marrying Italian design with American powertrains, thus producing exceptional and reliable performance automobiles.
ISO Rivolta sports and racing models participated in some of the world's greatest motoring competitions, such as the 12 Hours of Sebring, the 1000 km of the Nürburgring, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and two seasons in the Formula 1 Championship under the Marlboro sponsorship.
The post-World War II economic boom marked the advent of the modern GT. Back then, commuter flights and high speed rail travel were non-existent, so Gran Turismos catered to the industrialist or executive who needed to comfortably and rapidly travel for business or vacation.
Iso patriarch Renzo Rivolta was the prototypical Gran Turismo client. He owned several over the years, including models by Jaguar and Maserati. The cars’ road limitations and unreliability often left him frustrated; he was certain that others experienced similar disappointment.
Seeing an opportunity for improvement, the company entered the GT industry in the early 1960s. Rivolta’s design and development team created a sophisticated platform chassis more advanced than anything else being used at the time.
The result was a fast car that offered a relaxing, forgiving drive and excellent road handling. The era’s fallibility issues were overcome by fitting the vehicles with powerful and reliable Chevrolet Corvette engines—thereby
Italian style with an all-American heart.
The first Gran Turismo, called the ISO Rivolta GT, debuted in 1962 and anticipated the current trend of being open-minded enough to join together the best of different countries in order to achieve the utmost in comfort, speed
The GT quickly received critical acclaim as a stylish 2+2 with room enough for four adults. It offered a choice of different horsepower engines and transmissions in order to give this vehicle—and eventually, all the ISO Rivolta
cars thereafter—the ability to satisfy even the most demanding sports car enthusiast. Production of this model continued until 1970