Open Menu
Open Menu

Owners of former Iso factory waffle on plan to turn it into museum

Published in

Image courtesy Iso Millennium Committee.

For nearly 20 years, a group of Iso enthusiasts has worked to establish a museum dedicated to the auto and motorcycle builder in its former headquarters and factory in the heart of the Milan suburb of Bresso. However, a change of heart by the Bresso administration has put those specific plans in jeopardy and may doom the museum altogether.

Originally formed to build refrigerators, the company that would eventually become Iso Autoveicoli moved to Bresso in 1942, specifically to a complex of multiple connected quonset hut-like hangars. After World War II, it began building motorcycles and then in 1953 company owner Renzo Rivolta designed the motorcycle-engined Isetta bubble car, which Iso produced for a couple years and then licensed to a number of manufacturers around the world, among them BMW. In 1962, the company returned to automobiles with the Chevrolet-engined Iso Rivolta sport sedan, followed by the Grifo sport coupe, Fidia four-door, and Lele 2+2 — all low-production cars powered by either Chevrolet or Ford V-8 engines.

Production ceased in 1974 (aside from a handful of Leles and Fidias built by a successor company in Milan) and for the next 25 years the Iso complex fell into disuse, eventually passing into Bresso municipality’s ownership. By 2000, Bresso’s administrators had entertained the idea of demolishing the entire factory works, but a group of Iso owners and enthusiasts formed the Iso Millennium Committee specifically to circulate a petition to save at least part of the works and turn it into a museum.

While the Iso test track and a majority of the factory works fell to the wrecking ball, the Iso Millennium Committee’s efforts spared three of the hangars, one of which housed Renzo Rivolta’s offices, as well as the research and development space. In those three, the committee drafted plans not only for an Iso museum, but also for an Iso-themed restaurant and for a multipurpose space for the city to hose concerts, festivals, and other events.

The closest those plans have come to fruition since consists of a semi-museum — Spazio Iso Rivolta — in one of the hangars, architectural drawings, several Iso car and motorcycle meetups at the factory site, and a series of discussions with the Bresso administrators.

Those discussions, however, haven’t appeared to convince the administrators of the need to build the museum. According to a report earlier this month on Italian auto news site Quattroruote, the town administrators have decided to put management of the site up for bid with more of an emphasis on the site’s use as a multipurpose facility than as a museum.

“A museum is not an easy task to manage,” one Bresso administrator told the magazine, noting that small municipalties’ ability to take on debt to fund museums has become more restricted since the Iso Millennium discussions began.

As Iso Millennium members have pointed out, the Bresso administration’s decision to put the management of the site out for bid doesn’t necessarily eliminate the possibility of a museum, but does make the possibility far less likely.

“There’s the risk to miss forever the dream of a heart for the Iso world, a place where (we can) hold and preserve the Iso memory,” the group wrote on its Facebook page.

While the Bresso administrators early on in the discussions entertained the idea of placing an Iso museum elsewhere, the Iso Millennium Committee appears unwilling to consider any site but the former Iso works.

The Bresso administrators are expected to put out a formal request for bids either later this summer or early this fall.