My Car Quest

February 23, 2019

The Iso Lele – The Last Iso GT

This year is the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the Iso Lele – the last car designed by Iso. A version of this article was first published in September 2015.

by Mike –

The Iso Lele was the replacement for the aging Rivolta GT and fit in between the two seat Grifo and four door, four seat Fidia sedan. It is the last production car designed and built by Iso.

Iso Lele

Introduced at the New York Auto Show in April 1969 the Iso Lele, named after the wife of Piero Rivolta the company president, was well received by the automotive press.
This 2+2, styled by Marcello Gandini of Bertone, has distinctive sharp angles that Gandini also brought to other designs notably Lamborghini models like the Jarama and Espada.

Iso Lele

Iso Lele

Compared to the Rivolta GT, the Lele is sportier with modern sharp lines, 300 pounds lighter, has half covered headlights, is four inches shorter (although the wheelbase is the same) and the height is three inches lower. The menacing looking half covered Lele headlight design was later adopted on the Series II Grifo which some thought gave it a modern updated look. Gandini handled the modifications to the Grifo required for this front end change.

Iso Lele

Iso Lele

The Lele used the same chassis and suspension design as the Rivolta GT; front independent suspension with wishbones, coil springs, hydraulic shocks and anti-roll bar, the rear suspension is a de Dion tube, twin trailing radius arms, transverse linkage bar, coil springs and hydraulic shocks.

Iso Lele

Production started in 1970 with the Corvette 327 engine followed by the Corvette 350 engine. Iso changed to the Ford 351 in 1972. The Lele Marlboro model was a limited edition, sportier and faster version made for the Iso racing sponsor, Marlboro. One Marlboro version was given to each of the two Iso Formula One drivers, Nanni Galli and Howden Ganley. The Lele Sport model is the Lele Marlboro version that was sold to the public.

Iso Lele Chassis No. 0087

Development of the Iso Lele Marlboro

This model grew out of the brief involvement of Iso in the Formula One racing world. The Iso team’s main sponsor was Marlboro (owned by Phillip Morris) and the team manager was Frank Williams, now Sir Frank Williams.

Iso Lele Brochure

Marlboro wanted a small number of Iso Lele Marlboro cars for promotion purposes and to use as the Phillip Morris fleet to replace their Mercedes fleet. The Lele Marlboro had to be special in performance and appearance. For that Iso head engineer, Giuseppe Caso enlisted the assistance of Giotto Bizzarrini.

Their mission was straight forward – increase the power and reduce the weight. They increased the power by removing the anti-pollution equipment and redesigned the headers. They reduced the weight by removing some insulation in the doors and other locations and new light weight seats were used in front and back. The doors themselves were also lighter.

Iso Lele Brochure

The interior has a different design including bucket seats in the back and a different dashboard layout than the standard Lele. The steering wheel was changed to a lighter leather wrapped Nardi instead of the usual Personal wood wheel. Other wood in the interior was also removed.

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The front and rear bumpers were black painted fiberglass and there is a black air spoiler below the front bumper. The rocker panels are also black creating a lower black area connecting the front to the back of the car.

This weight reduction effort reduced the weight by approximately 484 pounds bringing the Lele Marlboro down to 3,124 pounds from the approximate 3,608 pounds of the standard Lele with the Ford engine. The power increased to 360 hp from 325 hp. The Lele Marlboro was only available with the ZF 5-speed manual transmission and an axel ratio of 3.31:1.

Add the Marlboro badging on the outside and Phillip Morris had the special Lele they wanted. In all there were only five made.

The Lele Marlboro power to weight ratio is slightly less than the Grifo 7-Liter and Grifo Can Am and would provide either a competitive drag race.

Iso Lele

Lele Model Summary – approximately 285 total produced from 1970 to 1974

Lele and Lele IR6 – approximately 260 produced

Engine: Corvette 327 V8 or 350 V8, 300 or 350 hp – approximately 125 produced from 1970 to 1972
Transmission: Borg-Warner 4-speed; option, ZF 5-speed, Turbo Hydromatic (300 hp engine)

Engine: Ford 351 Cleveland V8, 325 hp – approximately 135 produced from 1972 to 1974
Transmission: ZF 5-speed; option, Ford 3-speed “Cruise-O-Matic”

Lele Marlboro – 5 produced in 1973

Engine: Ford 351 Cleveland V8, 360 hp
Transmission: ZF 5-speed

Lele Sport – approximately 20 produced from 1973 to 1974

Engine: Ford 351 Cleveland V8, 360 hp
Transmission: ZF 5-speed; option, Ford 3-speed “Cruise-O-Matic”

Model summaries and numbers produced from “Iso Rivolta – The Men, The Machines” by Winston Goodfellow.style="border:none

Iso Lele Brochure

Iso Lele Brochure

Iso Lele Brochure

Iso Lele Brochure

More photos are in the slide show below.

Iso Lele Logo

Summary
The Iso Lele - The Last Iso GT
Article Name
The Iso Lele - The Last Iso GT
Description
This year is the 50th anniversary of the Iso Lele, the last GT car designed by Iso.
Author

Comments

  1. Mike Clarke says:

    Thanks Mike for the excellent update on the Iso Lele. This Iso model was the pinnacle of Iso engineering and incorporated a number of refinements that made it the best driving of all the Iso cars.

    The cabin design of the lele was more spacious, easy to get in and out of and had good visibility.

    Lele’s used the upgraded 4 bolt Elektron Campagnolo’s which were safer and easier to maintain than the older Rudge splines rims.

    Many Lele’s were outfitted with the optional factory ZF power steering which made driving much easier than the slower Burmam box.

    Ford powered cars received the front suspension cross bar which reduced flex in the front suspension and provided better handling.

    A larger radiator was also used.

    A/C was also fitted into many Lele’s.

    All of these upgrades made the Lele a better GT and IMO the best driving of all the Iso cars.

  2. Joe Corbacio says:

    Mike, a correction is needed. Only 2 Marlboro cars were built, #184 and #185 built for Howden Ganley and Nanni Galli. The other cars were simply Lele Sports with Marlboro badges attached.

    I’ve done extensive research on these cars. There is a very significant difference between #184 & #185 and the Lele Sports. I have a future article planned for the Griffon detailing the differences.

    Joe Corbacio
    Editor – IBOC Griffon
    Owner Lele Marlboro #184

  3. Don Meluzio says:

    Mike, The IBOC- Iso Bizzarrini Owner’s Club, of which you are a long time member and participant in many of our activities is celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Lele at Concourso Italiano this year. In an effort to get as many Leles as possible to attend. The Club will reimburse Any Club Member who enters their Lele in 2019 Concourso Italiano by May 31st.

  4. Don Meluzio says:

    Thank you, Mike!

  5. SKIP HINOJOS says:

    I DID NOT KNOW ABOUT THESE VARIATIONS. I COULD HAVE BEEN INTERESTED IN THE ONES WITH THE, CLEVELAND POWER; Lele Marlboro – 5 produced in 1973

    Engine: Ford 351 Cleveland V8, 360 hp
    Transmission: ZF 5-speed

    Lele Sport – approximately 20 produced from 1973 to 1974

    Engine: Ford 351 Cleveland V8, 360 hp
    Transmission: ZF 5-speed; option,

  6. Bill Cooper says:

    Hi Mike,
    Thanks for a great and informative article about the LeLe.
    Just thought I would add that my LeLe has a GM Muncie 4 speed wide ratio transmission coupled to the 327/350HP L79 Corvette engine. The 2.88 rear axle ratio does not provide for rapid launches, however I’m working on that.

  7. wallace wyss says:

    I heard, and maybe Iso folks can correct me, that the right for Iso to use Chevys got yanked away by a rival automaker (a German car that sounds like an alcoholic drink) who convinced GM that his cars would be more classy. So in desperation Iso went to Ford. I owned a white Lele for about a week when I was a barn hunter and remember being marooned in Santa Barbara when there was an electrical short caused by there not even being a cover for the fuse box (maybe it fell off or there never was one…). I applaud any four seater with this much style.

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