It’s exceptionally uncommon for a 50-year-old car to have only one owner from new, but that’s the case with this extremely rare Italian supercar that has been in storage for most of its life.
The 1971 Iso Grifo – which is one of three ever built – was custom ordered by its only keeper and originally intended for delivery to Rhodesia, in Southern Africa where he had been living.
However, having relocated to the UK, the buyer decided to personally collect the vehicle from the factory in Bresso, just outside of Milan, and drive it home. After using the vehicle for three years and covering fewer than 21,000 miles, it was put into dry storage in 1974 and hasn’t moved since.
The car is now set to go under the hammer at Bonhams’ Goodwood Revival sale, in Chichester, on Saturday, with the higher estimate for the ultra-exclusive motor set at a cool quarter of a million pounds.
Garaged for 47 years: This ultra-rare 1971 Iso Grifo supercar was put into dry storage by its only owner in 1974 and hasn’t surfaced since. Bonhams is now set to sell it to the highest bidder in the UK, with a higher estimate of £250,000 predicted
The auction house says the opportunity to purchase such a low-mileage version of a motor with ‘quite exceptional rarity’ and with one gentleman owner from new is an ‘unrepeatable opportunity’.
The Grifo was produced between 1965 and 1975 by Italian maker, Iso – the manufacturer that had originally made refrigerators before WW2, though post-war switched to making scooters and motorcycles and then the memorably Isetta ‘bubble car’, which was later taken over by BMW.
The Grifo was an intriguing blend of exotic European design and American muscle-car engine.
The stunning four-seat grand tourer (though even small children would have found the rear seats a squash) could easily be mistaken for a Ferrari or Lamborghini of the same generation, but under the bonnet was the choice of a 5.4-litre Chevrolet Corvette motor, a larger 7.0-litre ‘big block’ powerplant or a 7.4-litre Can-Am V8 engine, which this example features.
Versions with the bigger capacity engines were easily distinguishable from the regular Grifo by the raised bonnet scoop – dubbed the ‘Penthouse’ on account of its shape – necessitated by the taller block.
The engine featuring here produced a claimed 390bhp at 4,800rpm when new, with 500lb/ft of torque available at 3,600 revs.
The Grifo was built by Italian manufacturer Iso, which is best known for producing the Isetta ‘bubble car’. The GT model is a four-seater with sleek looks and a massive American muscle-car engine under the bonnet
Iso made approximately 412 Grifos in total. Only 90 Series II examples were sold with the 7.4-litre unit and only three in right-hand drive like the one being offered at the Goodwood Revival auction
The 7.4-litre ‘Can-Am’ engine produced a claimed 390bhp at 4,800rpm when new, with 500lb/ft of torque available at 3,600 revs
Iso made approximately 412 Grifos in total, this car being a Series 2 version. Only 90 were sold with the 7.4-litre unit and only three in right-hand drive with the bigger block motor.
The one and only owner – described by Bonhams as an ‘elderly gentleman’ – ordered the Grifo directly from the factory, specifying the largest capacity engine, a right-hand drive configuration, five-speed manual gearbox and the addition of a special Blaupunkt radio suitable for reception in Rhodesia where he was living at the time.
Bonhams claims he chose the Iso rather than a 12-cylinder Ferrari as he wanted ‘the same power but from what he describes as a more reliable V8 power unit’.
The lone keeper also ordered the car to be built with a special ‘Targa’ top option rather than a standard sunroof. This was despite Iso bosses advising against the idea, saying it would reduce rigidity.
Further options, including a leather-trimmed steering wheel, air conditioning and a heated rear screen with wiper, saw the final bill for the new motor ring up to roughly the same value as a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow at the time – around £9,925 in 1971, which equates to £157,260 in 2021.
The lone keeper ordered the car to be built with a special ‘Targa’ top option rather than a standard sunroof, despite Iso bosses advising against the idea, saying it would reduce rigidity
The stylish looks means the Iso could easily be mistaken for a Ferrari or Lamborghini of the same generation. In fact, Bonhams claims the one owner chose the Grifo rather than a 12-cylinder Ferrari as he wanted ‘the same power but from what he describes as a more reliable V8 power unit’
The one and only owner ordered the Grifo directly from the factory, specifying the addition of a special Blaupunkt radio suitable for reception in Rhodesia where he was living at the time
Having driven the V8 GT car back to London from the Milan factory, the owner used it fairly regularly, including for at least one or two trips through Europe to Spain, over the next three years.
The car had its one and only service at Peter Agg’s Trojan company near Croydon and was not registered in the UK until January 1975, having been run with Italian plates until the owner put it in the garage in 1974, never to be taken out again.
It is being sold with a logbook of petrol bills – the last entry being made in 1974 – and copies of its original purchase paperwork and correspondence, and a ‘Use and Maintenance’ manual.
At time of cataloguing, the car shows a recorded 20,873 miles and is not expected to be started before the auction.
Iso Grifos with the bigger capacity engines were easily distinguishable from the regular version by the raised bonnet scoop – dubbed the ‘Penthouse’ on account of its shape – necessitated by the taller block
As well as having the the largest capacity engine, the owner requested an example with right-hand drive configuration and a five-speed manual gearbox
Other optional extras from new included a leather-trimmed steering wheel, air conditioning and a heated rear screen with wiper (seen here). In its eventual spec, the purchase bill for the new motor would have rang in at roughly the same value as a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow at the time – around £9,925 in 1971, which equates to £157,260 in 2021. Experts suggest the £250,000 higher estimate for this weekend’s sale leaves plenty of room for profit if the vehicle is restored suitably
‘Careful reconditioning and servicing, at the very least, is suggested before returning it to regular use,’ warns the auction house, though adds that the black leather interior trim is ‘very good, with no undue signs of wear’.
Bonhams predicts it will sell for £200,000 to £250,000 when the hammer drops on Saturday at its Goodwood Revival auction.
Hagerty, which specialises in classic car valuations, says a Series II 7.0-litre Iso Grifo in excellent condition would be worth £320,000 today.
With this example having the more exclusive motor and being right-hand drive, a successful bid of a quarter of a million pounds might leave plenty of room for future profit.
The same auction this weekend will also feature the sale of a 1993 Jaguar XJ220 supercar that has fewer than 400 miles on the clock, which is estimated to achieve £500,000 when the hammer drops. Read about it in full in our special report.
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