When race drivers from the world of F1 motor racing choose this car then you can be sure it is something very special. It goes on sale with Silverstone Auctions
on May 28th at Sywell Aerodrome four miles from Wellingborough. Its estimate is £320,000 to £360,000.
The ISO Grifo is perhaps best known for its popularity with the Beatles, John Lennon owned a number of ISOs. An ISO Grifo was in The Beatles film 'Magical Mystery Tour'. (possibly this car). Like the Rivolta and the Grifo, it was a favourite with the great and the good.
Lionel Abbott, of Silverstone Auctions, says: One of only 26 RHD Series 1 Grifos built, superbly restored, motor sport celebrity ownership and a colourful history, this is a 'must' for any serious collector. Having spent some time driving the Grifo recently you can definitely get what all the fuss was about in the late sixties. The power is more than adequate with a satisfying V8 exhaust note and the ZF 5-speed gearbox clicks through the gears with precision, rewarding any driver
From a company that brought us the tiny Isetta bubble car, it seems hardly likely that one of their next creations would be a V8 powered GT car, however, in 1965 Renzo Rivolta did just that with the magnificent Iso Grifo. The Rivolta GT was Iso's first four-seater GT and the Grifo was based on a shortened Rivolta chassis, adapted to take a variety of American V8 engines, hoping to take the fight to the established leaders in the 'Grand Touring' segment. At launch, the Bertone-styled Grifo was considered to be one of the most beautiful cars in the motoring world, and its swooping curves and masculine lines are still striking to this day.
The stunning Grifo GL350 on offer here has truly led 'una vita interessante' as testified by its fascinating history file which opens with a copy of the original build sheet issued by Vettura Iso Rivolta on 28 August 1967 detailing the build specification which included a 350bhp, small-block Chevrolet 327 (5358cc) V8, ZF 5-speed gearbox, 3.31 differential and air-conditioning. Peter Agg of Trojan Ltd., the UK importers, invited Autosport magazine's Technical Editor and renowned journalist, John Bolster, to collect his new Iso Grifo demonstrator from the factory at Bresso, visit the Italian Grand Prix and then drive through France back to England.
In his subsequent article in Autosport on October 13, 1967 (copy included) he wrote that it would be difficult to imagine a more delightful journey. The Grifo is illustrated bearing the Italian registration number, 17241EE, which it carried until 1973. The Iso's celebrity continued with an appearance in The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour film in 1967 and the Autocar magazine of October 12th, 1967 carries a photo of members of the Surrey Constabulary taking a good look around the car before delivery to its first owner, World Motorcycle Champion, Mike Hailwood.
Few sportsmen have made such an indelible impact on the fast-moving worlds of motorcycle and car racing as the legendary Mike Hailwood. The son of a very comfortably off Oxford businessman who bought him the best machinery that money could buy, he quickly cast aside the 'rich kid' image which had been thrust upon him, to earn the respect and admiration of his peers through the enormity of his talent, the strength of his personality, and his outrageous sense of fun.
He won nine motorcycle World Championships between 1961 and 1967, then turned to four wheels, following in the wheel tracks of his mentor and friend, the late John Surtees CBE, with whose cars he became European Formula 2 Champion and began his Formula 1 career. In time, he might well have added a Formula 1 World Championship to his list of achievements, but his motor racing career ended abruptly in 1974 when he crashed his McLaren at Germany's daunting Nurburgring. Disabled by his leg injuries, he retired to New Zealand, where he quickly became bored, and by 1978, at the age of 38, he was back at the Isle of Man, the scene of so many of his earlier triumphs, not only to race bikes once again but to take on and beat the entire field. His victorious return to 'The Island' has been described as one of the most emotional moments of 20th-century sport.
In late 1968, Mike struck a deal to join entrepreneur, Andre Loubser, as a non-executive director of The Mike Hailwood Autospray System pioneering a quick drying acrylic paint system in South Africa. In 1969, Mike shipped the yellow Grifo to Durban planning to use it to as his personal transport for the Springbok Series which included the 9HRS at Kyalami. One of these races was the Cape Three Hours held in Cape Town on November 22nd, however, Mike and co-driver Peter Gethin (future winner of the 1971 Italian Grand Prix) retired with mechanical failure.
Whilst returning from that race the car was being driven at Mike's normal pace, flat out, and having just passed through the small town of Parys in the Orange Free State Mike came flying over a blind rise to find three cows in the middle of the road. With characteristic racer's reactions, Mike selected the central one as the smallest target and sadly the cow is no longer with us but Mike and Peter were uninjured apart from a few cuts although the Grifo didn't fare too well. When the car was returned to the Autospray head office, it didn't look very happy, however, foreman Tony dos Santos felt that it could be saved and with Mike's OK, the relevant parts were duly ordered from Italy. It was finally finished in February 1972 and in the history file there is a polite letter from Mike, on Hotel de Paris, Monte Carlo headed paper wondering when he would see his beloved Grifo again. Also in the file is a fascinating article by Andre Loubser telling this story in full as well as a number of other amusing incidents with Mike and the Grifo.
Returning to the UK in late 1972, the next owner was a Mr. McCallum who purchased the Grifo from a Mr Robert Watkinson. It was then registered as PLD 938L on 18th April 1973 and its first UK MOT in 1973 shows 36,765 miles. The history file also contains invoices from H.W. Motors Ltd. of Walton on Thames (HWM) and personal letters from George Abecassis extolling the virtues of his Intercontinental Cars Ltd. The Iso stayed with that owner for many years before a growing family forced the Grifo into long term storage.
A letter in the file from him to Mike's widow, Pauline shows he kept it until 2007. Mike's Grifo was then sold and subject to a most exacting, no expense spared restoration in Germany. Finished in the correct Iso colour of Giallo Limone, the quality of that restoration is still evident with the paintwork retaining a deep shine and the factory interior, originally trimmed by Cuoio Franzi, being equally impressive.
Since returning from Germany in 2011 it has been enjoyed as part of two significant UK collections before becoming the focal point of our vendor's cossetted collection.
One of only 26 right-hand drive Series 1 Grifos built, superbly restored and with a fascinating history, this remarkable motor car must be on the 'to buy list' of any serious collector.