The Iso Grifo A3/L prototype hammers at $1.6 million to set an auction record. Photos by Mike Maez unless otherwise noted; all photos copyright and courtesy of Gooding & Company.
The Iso Grifo, like the Iso Rivolta IR 300 that preceded it, was the Italian automaker’s attempt to blend Italian style and American V-8 power to create the ultimate grand-touring automobile. First shown as a prototype at the 1963 Turin Motor Show, the Iso Grifo would see production from 1965-’74. Last week in Scottsdale, chassis 420001, the 1963 Iso Grifo A3/L prototype shown in Turin, crossed the stage at the Gooding & Company sale, where it changed hands for an auction record-setting and fee-inclusive $1.76 million to earn a spot in the sale’s top-10.
The Iso Grifo prototype was styled by Giorgetto Giugiero, then at Bertone, while the mechanical details were sorted by Giotto Bizzarrini. Built upon the Iso Rivolta chassis, Bizzarrini again turned to a familiar supplier for the prototype’s engine, selecting the 327-cu.in., 340-horsepower V-8 used in Chevrolet’s Corvette, the same engine that powered later Iso Rivolta models.
Concepts are generally created to gauge consumer interest, but company owner Renzo Rivolta was reportedly so impressed by the Grifo prototype that production was immediately approved. Chassis 420001 would continue touring the European show circuit before being sent to America in time for the 1964 New York Auto Show, but, following this, was returned to the factory to serve as a development car for production.
Compared to the factory’s later output, the prototype differed in a few significant ways. Its nose was a bit more angular and less intricate, while the roofline and beltline were a bit lower (egress, after all, is rarely a consideration for show cars). The prototype sported a stainless-steel trim band that wrapped around the roof, while production cars would carry a smaller decorative stainless-steel panel on the rear pillar. Inside, the prototype’s cabin was wrapped in the finest leather and trimmed in wood, with even the steering wheel receiving a custom inlaid A3/L badge.
Eventually, the prototype returned to the United States, imported by an unnamed actor who retained possession until the mid-1970s, when 420001 was purchased by collector Ron Kellogg. It passed through another caretaker, and during this time was finished in orange with conventional Iso Grifo front-end sheetmetal.
By the early 1980s, the prototype was purchased by collector and concours judge John Ling, who also owned a restoration shop in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Wishing to return the car to its original appearance, Ling hired restorer Scott Grundfor, who recreated the car’s original nose using CAD software and scanned period photos of the show car. Once the bodywork was finished, the car was returned to Ling’s Wisconsin shop for mechanical restoration before being repainted in its original silver hue.
The restored Iso Grifo debuted at Pebble Beach in 1989, where it earned second-in-class honors, but also captured the Gwenn Graham Memorial Trophy for Most Elegant Closed Car, the first time this was presented to a postwar automobile. Circa 1995, chassis 420001 was sold to Dr. Frederick Reeser, who was again invited to show the car at Pebble Beach, where it won its class on its second appearance. Two years later, it would also be shown at the Meadowbrook Concours d’Elegance and at Concorso Italiano.
Around this time, it sold to Scott Grundfor, then passed through a New York collection before being acquired by the consignor. Despite the restoration dating back to the late 1980s, the remarkably well-preserved prototype was shown again at Pebble Beach in 2005, and more recently at Concorso Italiano in 2015. Under the consignor’s care, it was maintained by – and shown at – the Blackhawk Museum in Danville, California.
1931 Bugatti Type 55 Roadster. Photo by Mathieu Heurtault.
Other lots in the top-10 at Gooding & Company’s Scottsdale sale included a 1965 Ferrari 275 GTB Speciale, which sold for an auction record-setting $8.09 million; a 1954 Ferrari 500 Mondial Series I, which sold for an auction record-setting $4.46 million; a 1931 Bugatti Type 55 Roadster, which sold for $4.07 million; a 1967 Ferrari 330 GTS, which sold for $2.53 million; a 2014 Pagani Huayra, which sold for $2.09 million; a 2015 McLaren P1, which sold for $1.73 million; a 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing, which sold for $1.32 million; a 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing, which sold for $1.16 million; and a 1960 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster, which sold for $1.1 million.
For complete results from this Scottsdale auction, visit GoodingCo.com.