My Car Quest

April 23, 2024

All In The Family – Iso Rivolta GT

by Buddy Pepp –

In addition to being a loving father and mentor, my father had a passion for automobiles. No, he was not a collector. He enjoyed owning exotic cars as his daily drivers. Growing up, my father had Ford woodies, a 1955 T-bird with a McCullough supercharger, a 1958 HK500 Facel Vega, a 1965 Bentley S3 and other vehicles that were not prominent in our neighborhood. His interest in collector cars as his daily driver lasted as long as they were comfortable, or he lusted for another special interest vehicle or the car spent an exorbitant amount of time in the shop.

Iso Grifo

September 1981. My father saw an ad for a 1974 Iso Grifo. The seller was Ron Tonkin, Portland, Oregon. Ron’s Ferrari dealership was, and still is, the oldest Ferrari dealer in the United States. Ron was also an Iso dealer.

Buddy Pepp's Iso Grifo

Iso Grifo, Palo Alto Concours d’Elegance (2011) – photo by Mike Gulett

My dad bought the extremely low mileage Grifo from Ron and had a friend drive it from Portland to Los Angeles. He loved the design of the car but disliked the seats coupled with the fact that he was not enamored with the 5-speed ZF. Fast forward 90 days after the purchase. He decided the Grifo needed to go back to Ron Tonkin in Portland. I loved the car but did not have the financial wherewithal to buy it. A deal was struck. My father financed the purchase of Grifo #406 and forty eight monthly payments later the pink slip was mine. Thirty seven years later, I still own the Grifo.

Aston Martin V8

My father bought a very low mileage flip tail 1977 Aston Martin V8 sun roof coupe sight unseen from a Chicago exotic car dealer in 1982. The car was delivered to Los Angeles and my dad drove the car sparingly until he passed away in 1995.

Aston Martin V8

1977 Aston Martin V8 – photo by Buddy Pepp

I was the lucky recipient of his generosity as he willed the Aston to me. Today the Aston has 32,000 miles from new. I had the car totally restored and converted to Vantage X-pack specifications with an original ZF. The Aston is a pleasure to drive, draws crowds whenever it is out of my garage and is unbelievably dependable. Beautiful car…wonderful memories.

Iso Rivolta GT

In April of 1965 my father bought a new Iso Rivolta from Michelmore Motors in Reseda, California (currently a collision repair facility). Michelmore was an authorized VW and Porsche dealer but also sold various other exotics. Iso started building Rivoltas in 1963. My dad’s car was serial number 215. When production ended in 1970, a total of 799 Rivoltas were produced.

Iso Rivolta GT

Iso Rivolta GT, Concorso Italiano (2018) – photo by Bruce Caron

Iso Rivolta GT

Iso Rivolta GT, Concorso Italiano (2018) – photo by Bruce Caron

In 1965, I was newly married and embarking on a career. My daily driver was a 1948 Lincoln Continental convertible with a 303 Olds engine.

I remember the Rivolta well. I drove the car a few times during the one year of his ownership. It was absolutely gorgeous in all respects. The 300 horsepower Chevrolet motor coupled with the exquisite Bertone design was a jaw dropper. Rivoltas have the perfect mix of stainless and chrome. The interiors were trimmed in magnificent leather. Rivoltas were special in every respect…gorgeous to look at and fun to drive. In the mid 60’s, it was a head turner wherever it went.

Iso Rivolta GT

Iso Rivolta GT, Concorso Italiano (2018) – photo by Bruce Caron

Iso Rivolta GT

Iso Rivolta GT, The Quail, A Motor Sport Gathering (2018) – photo by Mike Gulett

Earlier I mentioned that my dad’s exotic cars were his daily drivers. That was the case of the Rivolta. For various reasons, most of which I do not recall, the car spent a large percentage of its time in the Michelmore service bays receiving warranty work. To the point where after a year of ownership and 9000 miles, my dad sold the car. The buyer, Earl Waggoner of Manhattan Beach, CA was a TWA pilot and loved exotic Italian cars including Isos and Ferraris.

Earl was a fabulous caretaker of Rivolta number #215. During his 51 years of ownership, Earl drove the car approximately 29,000 miles…all in Southern California. From time to time I would see Earl at various car events and on more than one occasion I casually mentioned to him something to the effect “if you every want to sell my dad’s Rivolta, I would love to buy it”.

Iso Rivolta GT - photo by Bruce Caron

Iso Rivolta GT and Buddy Pepp at Concorso Italiano (2018) – photo by Bruce Caron

Fast forward to January of 2017.

I received a call from Earl. “Would you like to buy your dad’s Iso Rivolta along with two other Rivoltas”? One a parts car which had serious front end damage, the other a complete car that needs a total restoration….everything. In addition to the vehicles, Earl had accumulated numerous parts and memorabilia. It took me approximately 20 seconds to make my decision. Yes-yes-yes.

After about three or four minutes of negotiations, we agreed on a price that was fair. Now, what am I going to do with three Rivoltas? The one that was near and dear to my heart was #215, the one my father bought new 52 years prior. Having been an active member of the Iso-Bizzarrini Owners Club (IBOC) for decades, I knew who to call…Ron Ciardella. Ron is an enthusiastic, knowledgeable and passionate collector of everything Iso. (Over the years he has probably owned 15-20 Iso’s and presently has a building stuffed with Rivoltas and Iso parts). I asked Ron if he was interested in two more Rivoltas and a bevy of spare parts. His immediate response was….. yes-yes-yes. Done deal.

Rivolta #215 was complete and lovingly cared for, sorta. The rebuilt engine was on an engine stand in the corner of the garage. The Campagnolo wheels were on a rack above other vehicles in Earl’s multi car garage. The car was on jack stands, very possibly for two decades or more.

Iso Rivolta GT

Buddy and Arline Pepp and their Iso Rivolta GT, The Quail, A Motor Sport Gathering (2018) – photo by Mike Gulett

Being somewhat of a perfectionist a purist for sure, I decided to do a total restoration that, when completed, would be the finest Rivolta in the world.

Renowned builder and restorer, Scott Bonowski (Hot Rods and Hobbies, Signal Hill, CA) was chosen to do a total restoration of Iso Rivolta 215. Scott’s current and previous restorations included numerous Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Maseratis, Jaguars, Porsches and many other exotic and classics in addition to hot rods.

Iso Rivolta #215 was stripped down to bare metal. Every piece was disassembled and restored, plated, painted, rebuilt or replaced. Sixteen months later the Pepp/Waggoner/Pepp Iso Rivolta is not only totally restored but handles and performs like a dream.

This year Rivolta #215 made its “second debut”. Not only was it on display at Concorso Italiano, it also has another distinction…it was the first time it has been out of Southern California since it was sold new in 1965.

Thanks to Scott Bonowski and his unbelievably talented team at Hot Rods and Hobbies, Earl Waggoner, Ron Ciardella, Tim Phillips, Darren Frank, Jeff Reade, Don Melizo, Ted Hirth and Maurice Mentens…without their expertise and guidance, Iso Rivolta #215 might very well still be on jack stands.

Photos in the slide show below are by Bruce Caron and Buddy Pepp.

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

THE AUTHOR: Buddy Pepp has been an automobile enthusiasts since childhood. For the first 19 years of his life he lived next door to a 76 Union Oil Gas Station where he spent a lot of time working on cars to the detriment of the Three R’s.

After four decades manufacturing various products Buddy spent 2 1/2 years as the executive director of the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, California.

Since retirement from the Petersen Buddy has been devoting time to his car collection, family, golf and travel. He has been married for more than 50 years with three children and six grandchildren.



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All In The Family - Iso Rivolta GT
Article Name
All In The Family - Iso Rivolta GT
A car adventure where the son is able to buy the father's Iso Rivolta GT 52 years later. And there is an Iso Grifo and Aston Martin V8 too!


  1. Jack Freethy says

    Special Memories of life come in various sizes and shapes. Your Dad’s love for the automobile is appreciated by all of us. Sharing this story of your Dad, and your continued efforts to maintain the history of your cars are a special memory to all of us.. Thank you,


  2. Mike Clarke says

    What a great surprise to see this beautifully restored Rivolta GT in Monterey. The quality of this restoration really shows how elegant Rivolta GT’s were when new. Unlike Porsche’s, Jags or Mustangs you can’t just open a catalog and order new parts. Congrats on a job well done.

  3. We’d love to have you at the Blackhawk Automotive Museum!

  4. Ron Ciardella says

    What a great testimony to your Father and his love of cars. Having three sons myself who love cars, especially Isos, it was a fantastic experience to be there with my son John when #215 was exhumed from Earl’s garage. To see the extent that the team at Hot Rods and Hobbies has gone to with each and every piece of this fabulous Rivolta GT is truly amazing. A new standard has been set for Iso Rivolta GTs. I am honored to have been able to participate in all the fun. Congratulations to Buddy and Arline!

  5. Jim Kiefer says

    Buddy, you and Arline look great. Mary Jo and I just celebrated 56 years together. Since your a car guy you would like my new Porsche.
    Regards, Jim

  6. Peter Michelmore says

    This is Peter and David Michelmore. Our dad and grandfather were killed coming home from Sebring in ‘65. We owned Michelmore Motors.

    Our mother Shirley, Dave, and I live in Kailua, Oahu now. All are doing well.
    We have some pictures of the dealership and a white Lincoln convertible that is maybe your dad’s car?

    In 1963, my mom and dad were driving an ISO Rivolta and were hit by a Lincoln. Mom was pregnant with my brother Dave at the time. All survived. But the car was a total loss.
    Feel free to reach out
    Peter Michelmore

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