One of the most exciting cars expected to be seen at major events around Europe this year is Zagato’s dramatic ‘IsoRivolta Vision Grand Turismo’ sportscar, featured first in Sony PlayStation's Gran Turismo Sport, and now turned into reality and gearing up for a very limited production run of three to five units.
It’s certainly beating a new path, a car from a computer game being turned into the real deal but that’s been the ambition of this latest shot at reviving the legendary Iso brand, now known as 'IsoRivolta', an amalgamation of its most famous model.
The IsoRivolta Vision Grand Turismo, turned into reality by the famed Italian design house Zagato, was announced at Grand Basel on 31 August last year and officially revealed at the Tokyo Motor Show two months later.
Zagato said in a statement that the Vision Grand Turismo project “pays tribute to IsoRivolta, the renowned automaker from Milan, which during the golden era of automobiles, produced stunning Gran Turismo class sports cars that combined sleek Italian designs with the brawn of American powertrains. Passion for racing, combined with luxury and reliability, was where they found their inspiration.”
The story of Iso Autoveicoli S.p.A actually starts before the Second World War as founder Renzo Rivolta had built up a successful company, Isothermos, manufacturing refrigerators. The 1940s saw him turn his hand to scooters, keeping the well-known Iso name. From this the firm progressed to the Isetta, a 236cc bike engine powered bubble car. This was built from 1953-55 (although licence production in other countries continued until 1964).
There was a delay before the next car arrived, and when it did it was a very different beast. The Rivolta was a two door, four seat rear-wheel drive saloon, powered by a 5359cc Chevrolet V8 ohv engine. This set the trend for future Iso models, with a chassis design by Bizzarrini, bodywork by Bertone and the big Chevrolet engine.
The statement from Zagato that accompanied the launch of the Vision Gran Turismo, continued: "Now, with the IsoRivolta Vision Gran Turismo, Zagato closes the circle and takes us back to Milan, where, after World War II, the GT category of motorsport was conceptualised, created and promoted by four illustrious Milanese figures: Count Giovannino Lurani, journalists Giovanni Canestrini and Corrado Filippini, and gentleman driver Elio Zagato, the father of Andrea, the current CEO of Zagato. This intermediate GT class hosted cars that were halfway between production touring saloons and racing purpose - built barchettas of international motorsport.
“Zagato bodied models streamlined and lightweight coupes, successful in racing, but also comfortable enough for everyday use found their natural place in the new GT category, monopolising it and securing numerous wins,” the statement added. “The Zagato IsoRivolta Vision Gran Turismo is the realisation of a dream, and designed to race in the virtual world of the Gran Turismo Sport game.”
Zagato isn’t the first designer’s name that springs to mind when it comes to the Iso Rivolta as the styling of the original 1960s icon was the work of the rival Bertone design house, curiously from the pen of Giorgetto Giugiaro before he struck out on his own to join the pantheon of legendary Italian design companies in his own right. In fact Bertone teamed up with engineer Giotto Bizzarrini, who would soon go on to build sportscars under his own name, to realise the dream of Renzo Rivolta.
The new IsoRivolta Vision Gran Turismo is a striking design. Fitting straight into the PlayStation Grand Turismo game mould it has a very aggressive modern shape that embodies a strong feel of the current fashion of an uncompromising 'aerodynamic-focused' approach with a highly complex front end and a body that tapers away at the sides and sweeps round tightly to the rear to allow the rear wheels to almost stand alone much in the style of a current ‘LMP’ racecar. There is a large retractable rear wing that’s contoured to fit with the bodywork when lowered.
The car includes a few styling cues drawn from the history books of both Iso and Zagato. The front bonnet incorporates a raised air intake section that mimics the form of the early-1970s Iso Grifo ‘7 litri’ (GM engine) and ‘Cam Am’ (Ford engine), this time it fits flush, although similar distinctive slats in the recessed section can be clearly seen; meanwhile a large 'Grifo' badge is emblazoned on that cover. The Grifo's emphasis on a very pronounced moulded rear glass section is another cue to make its way onto the Vision Gran Turismo which has a cockpit where the glasshouse sweeps perfectly into the overall design. The long bonnet and rearwards slung cabin form also translates very well. Zagato’s trademark ‘double bubble’ roof, along with the integrated door finishes, is also incorporated subtly into the design as its its use of chromed A-pillars that arches across the roof to join together in one distinctive brace.
Norihiko Harada, Vice President Design at Zagato, said: “The Iso Rivolta Vision Gran Turismo was created to drive in the virtual - reality world, a world created by Gran Turismo. There is no mass in the virtual reality world, as it remains a place that exists only in our imagination. Gran Turismo, however, has enabled us to physically experience the digital realm, processing a seemingly endless stream of data. Like a Mobius strip, the PlayStation game has allowed ourselves to be transported from reality and thrust into a world of pure fantasy, and then back again.
“The body style of the IsoRivolta Vision contradicts the sense of oneness that has evolved over the past hundred years of automotive design,” continued Harada. “Although the canopy and fenders seem to stand out on their own, in the end, the Zagato’s overall design comes together in regard to both its proportions and general ambience.
“Our next wish is that this car, which was born in Gran Turismo, will take to the road in real life and one day grow larger in your rear-view mirror, eventually passing you at high speed,” adds Harada. “When this happens, you will feel the limits of your imagination being severely tested, blurring reality.”
The IsoRivolta Vision Gran Turismo is built around a bespoke chassis fitted with a Corvette Callaway powertrain, another clear link to history as the original Iso sportscars also used Chevrolet engines. The twin turbo 6.2 litre GM V8 engine feeds to the rear wheels and claimed power output is 997 hp.
Claimed performance data kicks off with a top speed of 365 km/h (227 mph) and thanks to weighing in at 1129 kg (2489 lbs) it accelerates from 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) in 2.7 seconds. The gearbox is a 10-speed automatic with sequential operation.
Kazunori Yamauchi, Gran Turismo creator and President of Polyphony Digital Inc. added: “It is a design that has grit, but is still beautiful. I think that’s what really makes the IsoRivolta Vision Gran Turismo a Zagato. It carries the heritage of the brand with design cues such as the double bubble roof, dual humps that are signature to the Milan design house.”
Zagato says that it intends to build “three to five units” of the IsoRivolta Vision Gran Turismo. It’s sure to be a show stopper and is one of the Italian coachbuilder’s most significant works this decade.
Iso ceased production in 1974 after going bankrupt, in the end building well under two thousand cars. There were a couple of attempts to revive the name in the 1990s that came to nothing so it is to be hoped that the dramatic Vision Grand Turismo project can now put the legendary Iso name back on the map.
Photos: Zagato IsoRivalta Vision Gran Turismo (Facebook)