A 50-year-old sports car that had just one owner from new and was hidden away in a garage for almost its entire life obliterated its auction estimate over the weekend, selling for a whopping £345,000 at Goodwood.
The 1971 Iso Grifo, which is one of three ever built and has fewer than 21,000 miles on the clock, went under the hammer on Saturday in Chichester.
Experts had predicted it to be worth £250,000 ahead of the event, with the timewarp car having been been put aside in its owner’s garage in 1974 where it had remained until being taken to the Goodwood Revival for a Bonhams sale just days ago.
Stored for half a decade: This ultra-rare 1971 Iso Grifo sports car has been garaged since 1974. Bonhams sold the one-owner vehicle for £345,000 over the weekend, which was almost £100,000 above its higher pre-auction estimate
The auction house said decades of dry storage was highlighted by it having a number of preserved items inside, including an unopened pack of 1970s Camel cigarettes, Refresher mints and used maps of Switzerland.
Bidding opened at £150,000 immediately jumping to £200,000 and continuing to a staggering £345,000 (£300,000 before auction fees) with around six collectors duking it out on the phones and in the room to buy the vehicle.
Decades of dry storage was highlighted by a number of preserved items inside, including an unopened pack of 1970s Camel cigarettes, Refresher mints and used maps of Switzerland
Classic car insurance and valuations company, Hagerty, described the bright yellow Grifo as the ‘unexpected star’ of the auction.
‘Despite needing a significant amount of recommissioning, the 1971 Iso Grifo had an extremely interesting history and a fantastic specification,’ explained John Mayhead, collectible car expert at the UK firm.
He said the winning bid not only exceeded the Bonhams estimate of £200,000 to £250,000, it also eclipsed the top Hagerty Price Guide value of £340,000 for a ‘concours’ example (one good enough to go on display) of the car.
That’s despite Bonhams saying the engine would not be started ahead of the auction event – likely due to concerns about the running condition of the powerplant – and plenty of work required to make it roadworthy again.
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 Grifo’s one and only owner had originally requested for the Iso to be delivered to Rhodesia, in Southern Africa, where he had been living at the time of placing the order in 1971.
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 to London.
After using the vehicle for three years and covering a recorded 20,873 miles, it was put into dry storage in 1974 and didn’t move until it was uncovered by Bonhams in recent weeks and eventually offered to the highest bidder on Saturday.
The auction house had said the opportunity to purchase such a low-mileage version of a motor with ‘quite exceptional rarity’ and with one gentleman owner from new was an ‘unrepeatable opportunity’.
The 7.4-litre ‘Can-Am’ engine produced a claimed 390bhp at 4,800rpm when new, with 500lb/ft of torque at 3,600 revs
The lone keeper ordered the car to be built with a fully-removable ‘Targa top’ panel rather than a standard sunroof, despite Iso bosses advising against the idea, saying it would reduce rigidity
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 sporty four-seat grand tourer was an intriguing blend of exotic European design and American muscle-car engine.
The stunning four-seat GT (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 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
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.
Celebrity Girfo owners include Mike ‘The Bike’ Hailwood – one of a select few individuals to compete at Grand Prix level on two and four-wheels, winning nine motorcycle GP world titles before switching to F1 and competing in 50 races and scoring two podiums.
Hailwood had two Grifos, one white and one in the same yellow as this example, with the former (a Series I example with a 5.3-litre motor) selling at auction in 2018 for £270,000.
The one and only owner of the stored Grifo – 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’.
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 original owner requested an example with right-hand drive configuration and a five-speed manual gearbox
The lone keeper also ordered the car to be built with a special fully-removable ‘Targa top’ panel 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.
That means its value has more than doubled in half a century, even despite it needing extra funds to get it running sweetly yet again.
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 before being sold to a second keeper.
The winning bid also secured its 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.
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. That means it has significantly increased in value in the last 50 years
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