Share on Facebook
by Jay Traugott
Beautifully designed inside and out? Check. Problems with the electronics? Check. Then it must be Italian.
Let's be honest: in the past Italian automakers weren't the best at building high-quality models. In fact up until the 1990s, even brands such as Ferrari and Lamborghini didn't focus much on quality, especially with regards the interiors. It wasn't until the Acura/Honda NSX came along that things began to change. But still, big Italian-designed sedans are not really common and even today Lancia only sells a rebadged Chrysler 300. But Iso Rivolta built such a luxury sedan back in the 1970s. If you're not familiar with Iso Rivolta, then you're not alone.
But you've more than likely heard of the Isetta bubble car, which later became a BMW and was famously unsafe. The company was first founded in 1953 and went bankrupt in 1974. During the late sixties, however, it began work on what was to become the Fidia sedan. First shown at the 1967 Frankfurt Motor Show, it was the only four-door model the company ever produced. It received a solid reception and production got underway nearly right away. It was originally called the S4, but the company quickly changed the name to the sexier Fidia to highlight its comfort and sporty attributes.
The body was styled by famous designer Giorgetto Giugiaro and it's hard to mistake it for anything other than pure Italian. Its interior was covered in polished wood and hand-stitched leather. As nice as that may have been, development costs rose rapidly; basically money the company didn't already have. In turn, this caused the base price to approach that of a Rolls-Royce. Fortunately the Fidia proved to be popular enough with those who could afford one. John Lennon bought the second Fidia that was built, which happened to also be the first with right-hand drive.
Power originally came from a Chevrolet 5.4-liter V8 but this was later switched to a Ford 5.8-liter V8 when General Motors demanded payment up front before the engines were shipped. In other words, GM was aware of the Italian automaker's financial issues and didn't trust it to pay up once the engines were already shipped. Transmissions included a five-speed manual or Ford's Cruise-O-Matic automatic. The Fidia's interior received a redesign in 1971 but signs of trouble were already quite clear. In that year alone, just 15 Fidias were built. The following year it only saw 21 roll off the production line.
And by the company's declared bankruptcy in 1975, just 192 units had been produced. One of those limited-run Fidias is now up for sale on eBay. This 1973 model originated in Southern California and it's recently had a light restoration which included a fresh paint job. It supposedly runs well despite the exhaust needing some attention. The tires are also a bit worn. Like every other Italian car from that era, the electronics aren't in good shape either. At the moment, the head and tail lamps are about the only things that are working. Power comes from a Ford V8 that's mated to the slushbox option.
There's currently 88,000 miles on the odometer. As of writing, the top bid was almost $19,000 but the reserve hadn't been met. Despite the added expense of a full electronics restoration and other upkeeps, the Iso Rivolta Fidia is a rare find that doesn't come up often.