1927 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A Boat-Tail Tourer

Origins: From Imports to Innovation

Founded in Milan in 1900 by Cesare Isotta and brothers Oreste, Vincenzo, and Antonio Fraschini, Isotta Fraschini started its journey by importing French cars. By 1902, they began production, quickly making a name for themselves in the burgeoning automotive industry.

Early Success and Racing Triumphs

By 1906, Isotta Fraschini had already become Italy’s second-largest motor manufacturer. A significant highlight of this period was their victory in the prestigious 1908 Targa Florio race, which cemented their reputation for building high-performance vehicles.

Pre-War Pioneers

The pre-World War I era saw Isotta Fraschini create some of their most distinguished automobiles. However, the post-war period brought them lasting fame, particularly with the introduction of the Giustino Cattaneo-designed Tipo 8.

The Revolutionary Tipo 8

Unveiled in August 1919, the Tipo 8 was a game-changer. It was the world’s first mass-produced car featuring a straight-eight engine. This 5.9-litre, overhead-valve engine produced 80bhp at a modest 2,200rpm and included advanced features such as a nine-bearing crankshaft, alloy cylinder block, and magneto ignition. The sophisticated chassis boasted a three-speed gearbox, multi-plate clutch, semi-elliptic springs, and four-wheel brakes.

A Status Symbol in America

The Tipo 8 was primarily aimed at the affluent American market. It quickly became a favourite among celebrities and moguls, including Rudolph Valentino, Clara Bow, William Randolph Hearst, and Jack Dempsey. Building on this success, the 1924 Tipo 8A followed, featuring a 7.3-litre engine that delivered around 115bhp. This model was renowned for its three-speed synchromesh transmission and enhanced chassis and suspension, further solidifying Isotta Fraschini’s reputation.

Challenges and Adaptations

Despite their success, the Great Depression hit Isotta Fraschini hard. Although their cars were as prestigious and costly as Rolls-Royce, economic hardships forced the company to rethink its strategy. After 1935, they shifted focus from luxury cars to aero engines and trucks, marking the end of an era for their iconic automobiles.


Conclusion: A Mark of Distinction

Isotta Fraschini’s legacy is a testament to innovation and excellence in the automotive world. From their early days importing cars to creating pioneering designs like the Tipo 8, they have left an indelible mark on the history of luxury automobiles. Though their focus shifted, the prestige of the Isotta Fraschini name endures, symbolizing a golden era of automotive elegance and performance.

Photos by David Arnold courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

Our mission is to take you on a thrilling ride down memory lane, exploring the history, design, and unforgettable moments that define the golden era of automobiles.

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