At the 1963 Torino Motor Show, one of the decade’s most celebrated berlinettas, the Iso Grifo A3/L, was introduced on Bertone’s stand.
Powered by a Corvette V8 and built on the Iso Rivolta’s short-wheelbase chassis, the Grifo was designed by legendary engineer Giotto Bizzarrini with substantial input from Bertone stylist Giorgetto Giugiaro.
Company principal Renzo Rivolta was so impressed with the prototype that he immediately approved production, and the model quickly achieved a faithful following for its handsome aesthetics and powerful mechanical specifications.
Chassis 001, offered here, is the prototype shown on the Bertone stand. The one-off car features numerous subtle differences from subsequent production examples. With a lower roofline and beltline, the coachwork is even sportier than the cars that followed, featuring unique details such as a stainless-steel wrap-around roof band. Likewise, the interior was more luxuriously appointed, including a special shifter and steering wheel, among other unique features.
Following display at Torino, the prototype toured auto shows throughout Europe and was exhibited at the 1964 New York Auto Show before becoming a development car at the factory. By the early 1970s, the Grifo reportedly had been imported to the United States by an actor, and while in Southern California it was purchased by well-known collector Ron Kellogg.
It then passed to an intermediary in Yucca Valley, CA, by which time the body had been repainted orange and the nose was replaced with one taken from a standard production Grifo.
In the late 1970s, this rare prototype was discovered by Winston Goodfellow, the well-known motoring author who founded the Iso & Bizzarrini Owner’s Club and is recognized as one of the world’s foremost experts on the marque.
Amazed that he had located the one-off A3/L prototype — and that the car had only 50,000 km recorded at that time — Goodfellow gently circulated word of the car’s existence. By the early 1980s, it was purchased by John Ling, a respected concours judge and collector. Mr. Ling eventually sought to return the Iso to its authentic auto show appearance and opted for a full restoration. The front-end work was entrusted to the respected restorer Scott Grundfor. He utilized a CAD program to digitally map the original nose (based on period photos) and precisely fabricate an identical copy. The beautifully restored prototype was then presented at the 1989 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, winning a class award and the Gwenn Graham Memorial Trophy for Most Elegant Closed Car (a first for any post-war automobile).
In spring 1991, the A3/L was featured in Road & Track’s Exotic Cars Quarterly, and its build was explained at length in Goodfellow’s deeply researched 1995 book, IsoRivolta: The Men, the Machines. Around this time, Mr. Ling sold the Grifo to Dr. Frederick Reeser, and he returned the car to Pebble Beach in August 1995, winning First in Class. The car also garnered awards at Concorso Italiano and the Meadow Brook Concours d’Elegance.
A few years later, it sold to an enthusiast residing in New York and then to the consignor. It was maintained and displayed at the Blackhawk Museum in Danville, CA, for many years.
Surely the most historically significant Grifo ever built, chassis 001 would make a crowning addition to any collection.