A Decades-Long Tale Of Italian-Americans: The ISO Rivolta GTZ Meets Its Inspiration In Milan
Photography by Luca Danilo Orsi
The origins of the ISO brand go back to the late 1930s, but it would be a while yet before Isothermos would exit the home appliance market and become known as an automaker. For instance, it first had to be known as a scooter company.
When he founded the company in 1939, Renzo Rivolta’s factory was chiefly concerned with the production of electric heaters and refrigerators, not sports racing cars. In the early 1950s however, such a transition started to take root with Rivolta changing the company to Iso Autoveicoli, developing a series of scooters, and eventually a concept for a vehicle that was halfway between a car and a motorcycle—recognizable by most in its BMW form, the Isetta.
By the end of the decade, Rivolta aimed to take his business in another direction and founded Iso Rivolta in the early 1960s to solidify the transition into automotive production, led by the 1962 debut of the Bertone-designed IR 300 grand tourer. The following year saw the launch of the A3 sports car, which would lead the company to the race track in its competition variant (the A3/C) under the guidance of Giotto Bizzarrini. Bizzarrini did not stay on the team much longer, and the Oil Crisis in 1973 ensured that the ISO brand didn’t stick around either. Many decades after the company’s dissolution, a revival took place. Born from a collaboration with Zagato and first manifested in a video game, ISO Rivolta has been revived with this, the ISO Rivolta GT Zagato (GTZ).
Production on the C7 Corvette-based GTZ began last fall, and I was recently given access to shoot the new model at the Zagato headquarters in Milan—with the original A3 design it takes its cues from. The partnership with Zagato should come as no surprise given that Renzo Rivolta’s granddaughter, Marella Rivolta, is married to Andrea Zagato, the grandson of founder Ugo Zagato—a true Italian automotive dynasty.
“Ever since I began working in the automotive world, with Andrea, I have always felt a strong desire to pay tribute to my family’s history by bringing back to the market a brand that has marked the automotive history, not only with the iconic Isetta, but also with the Granturismos that combined Italian style with powerful American V8 engines,” says Marella Rivolta, the Art Director at Zagato, continuing, “A choice that began three years ago with the first Vision GT, a virtual prototype made for the Gran Turismo video game series with the idea of involving the millions of players with the brand. Thanks to this operation, we laid the foundations of the reloading of ISO. An idea that then came to full maturity—given the great success of the first initiative—with the decision to create the ISO Rivolta GTZ, a real car from the Atelier Zagato.”
The study and development of the new GTZ design was entrusted to the expert Norihiko Harada, chief designer at Zagato. “This Granturismo Zagato represents the perfect combination of design and performance like its progenitors: the historic ISO Rivolta GTs,” Harada remarks. “The ‘wave’ design of the GTZ’s side is where the present meets the past. It takes inspiration from the ISO A3, unveiled at the 1963 Turin Motor Show, which, in turn, was the inspiration for several subsequent iconic models, one among them, for example, the Lamborghini Miura.
“The body is made of carbon fiber to keep the weight low and offer a seamless sculptural design,” Harada continues, “The fender, tapered fastback, domed windshield, and side air intakes—which extend the A3’s signature up to the front profile—create an elegant and well proportioned car with great stage presence.
“The GTZ, in honor of its ISO A3 progenitor, does not feature—intentionally—one of Zagato’s distinctive features: the ‘double-bubble’ roof. It certainly enhances the concept of essential beauty, visible in the purity of the rear lines in the details that recall the most beautiful Italian lines of the ’60s. Interpreting and designing an icon of classic lifestyle and competition, and obtaining a unique result, was not an easy task,” Harada concludes.
And this “heritage” element is addressed beyond the styling, seeing as the GTZ is based on a C7 Corvette Z06—in keeping with the way things used to be, the new ISO Rivolta is powered by a big-displacement V8 from the United States. The supercharged 6.2L V8 makes 660hp, allowing the GTZ to reach a reported top speed of 315km/h, and the 0-62 sprint in 3.7 seconds. For those seeking even more American muscle, ISO Rivolta offers an upgrade package that boosts the output to 750hp.
Only 19 examples (three of which have already been delivered, with nine others on their way) of the GTZ will be built, clearly aimed at collectors—of the ISO brand, of Zagato, and of Italian motoring excellence in general. The GTZ is far from the first “retro” design in the automotive world, but it’s one of the few that goes deeper than a compromised aesthetic callback. Say what you must about the Corvette base, but GM equipment never phased Renzo back then, or as he used to put it: “We chose General Motors V8 engines for all our GT cars, because they are faster and do not break when you close the hood.”