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This week Paris will be the place to be for those who hold a passion for old and exceptional cars. A particularly rare example is being offered for sale on Friday 5th in Bonham’s auction of ‘Les Grandes Marques du Monde au Grand Palais’. Lot 373 is a 1930 Isotta Fraschini 8A SS Cabriolet in absolutely perfect condition after a comprehensive restoration by its current owner and during the careful research (to ensure all details were correct) it was discovered, almost certainly, to be the very car that graced the Isotta stand at the 1930 Milan Salone dell'Auto.
Isotta Fraschini’s chief engineer Giustino Cattaneo focused on a one model policy in the 1920's, and launched the world’s first production straight-eight motor car, the Tipo 8, in 1920. The revised Tipo 8A was introduced in 1924 at the London Motor Show and featured a 7.3 litre engine producing about 115bhp, and the SS (Super Spinto) 135bhp at 2,600 rpm.
An open 4 seater example came 6th in the first Mille Miglia driven by Count Aymo Maggi with co-driver Bindo Maserati, chief test driver at Isotta Fraschini. It wasn’t so much a desire to win as to enter socially, the head of Isotta having created the Mille Miglia.
The engine gained a good reputation for smooth and reliable running and the enormous torque prompted the company to state in the owner’s handbook that first gear was only for uphill starting and the car could normally be started in second with a change to third as soon as 30mph was reached. The crankshaft was machined from a single billet of steel , turning in 10 bearings within the aluminium crankcase – the block and head being of cast iron.
The body is from Castagna who were renowned for their stylised quality interiors and this exceptionally fine example has being carefully refurbished. Retaining the existing silver hardware and inlays, referencing other Isottas, its leather has been carefully renewed in the correct patterns, with the tasteful embellishment of ostrich hide panels to the doors, and arm rest panels. Luxurious and decorative Carpathian elm veneers are incorporated into its wood finishes.
To fully appreciate this magnificent car, you have to see it in the flesh, to explore every glorious, majestic expensive inch of it, and begin to appreciate why they were chosen by owners such as Rudolph Valentino, Jack Dempsey and this car believed to have belonged to the son of William Randolph Hearst. Isotta Fraschini themselves published a list of owners of their cars: a Queen (Rumania) , a King ( Faisal), an Empress ( Abyssinia), seventeen princes, four princesses, four Maharajahs, the Aga Khan, Benito Mussolini, assorted dukes and duchesses, barons, counts and viscounts, and heading the list, His Holiness The Pope.
To see one of these hallowed Isotta Fraschinis freshly restored gives some idea of the sheer presence and statement that they must have made when they graced the roads in the Twenties and Thirties, quite literally people must have been awestruck. And yet they balance this with refined blend of engineering and style, a clean uncomplicated engine bay, stylised dashboard, and uncluttered interior epitomising the Art Deco era. As a late example quite a long way down the production, and probable Salon car, this may be considered to be one of the definitive examples of its marque, and as a result it is all the more rare and covetable.
(Text Robin Batchelor, pictures courtesy Bonhams)
You will not be surprised to read that you're looking at a wellknown GM product. Yet, that's the easy part. The challenge for you is to decide which exact type and which body is the object of this weekend's quiz. We don't think you need too many extra hints. What we can add is that the car only recently emerged from oblivion. And the owner of course knows a lot more, but he also has many unanswered questions. Next week Saturday you will learn all about it.
Now before writing down your response, be sure to read the Rules under Read More. This may be your chance to win the coveted PreWarCar T-shirt. Results and source of photo will be published next Saturday, February 7.
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