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by Jay Traugott
The Iso Rivolta Lele was a beautiful Italian-built GT coupe, but the automaker's financial troubles killed it off after just a few short years on the market.
A few weeks ago we had a feature article about the Iso Rivolta Fidia, an Italian luxury sedan that may have looked the part but definitely didn't have the build quality to match its expensive price tag. Although the Italian automaker built the car, the Fidia was in fact designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro but was only on the market for a few short years due to the company declaring bankruptcy. In addition to the Fidia, during that time Iso Rivolta also built a coupe it called the Lele.
First launched in 1969, the Lele was a 2+2 large coupe powered by a V8 engine and designed by Marcello Gandini while he was working at Bertone. The name Lele comes from Lele Rivolta, the wife of Piero Rivolta who was the son of the company's founder. For the five years it was built, the Lele was always powered by a V8, originally sourced from GM. Like the situation regarding the Fidia, that engine was swapped in 1972 to a Ford V8. The reason being was that GM was demanding payment from Iso Rivolta in advance for the engines due to suspicion of the latter having financial issues, thus an inability to pay on time.
This turned out to be the case so instead of trying to make a credit deal with GM, Iso Rivolta turned to Ford instead. The new engine was the beloved Cleveland V8. The original GM V8 produced up to 350 horsepower but the Ford engine managed 360 hp. The Lele came standard with a five-speed manual transmission but buyers could opt for a five-speed slushbox as well. Iso Rivolta also signed a big contract deal with Philip Morris Cigarette Company to create the Iso-Marlboro team for Formula 1. Two bespoke Leles were then built for the team's drivers, Howden Ganley and Nanni Galli.
Each of the cars had their sound deadened and power steering taken out in order to cut weight but were also given a newly designed dash and the engine received some modifications. In addition, the cars featured some exterior design changes that later made their way to the Lele Sport model. However, the Lele along with the automaker itself didn't survive for much longer. Iso Rivolta officially declared bankruptcy in 1974 and soon shut its doors for good. Needless to say, the Lele's life ended right then and there.
This 1969 Lele that's currently up for sale on eBay is #87 out of a total of just 285 units built.
It was originally owned by an Iso factory employee before making its way to California in 1984. Power comes from the original Chevy V8 mated to a five-speed manual transmission. With its white exterior and burgundy leather interior, this Lele has 73,000 miles on the odometer. The engine was recently rebuilt and a new Edelbrock carb and intake manifold were added. It also received a new exhaust system that includes polished stainless steel mufflers and tips. while the wheels have been refurbished. All in all, this classic Italian GT coupe appears to be in solid shape throughout.
The seller claims the car has been displayed at the Pebble Beach Concours for the past 26 years and has won many awards at other venues as well. The current bid is $20,000 but for something as rare as this Lele, the seller undoubtedly has a much higher price in mind. Photos courtesy of davis1967.