Amelia Island | Lot 153
1930 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A S Boattail Cabriolet by Castagna
$1,270,000 USD | Sold
| Amelia Island, Florida
9 March 2018
- "The Grey Goddess," among the most famous Isotta Fraschinis
- Known history back to the 1930s
- Formerly the centerpiece of the Sergio Franchi Collection
- Immaculate, concours award-winning restoration
- Classic Car Club of America (CCCA) Full Classic
Like other luxury marques, the Isotta Fraschini, "The Italian Rolls-Royce," was offered as a rolling chassis that would be sent off to be clothed with coachwork produced by the finest craftsmen of the day. The length of the massive 8A engine lent itself to a long hood and cowl that became signatures for the model. Castagna of Milan gained serious traction after it began producing automobile bodies in the early 1900s and soon, these bodies were finding their way onto the most exclusive chassis of the day, including the Alfa Romeo 8C, Mercedes-Benz, and, of course, Isotta Fraschini. The relationship between the two was so successful that it could be said that Castagna was to Isotta Fraschini what Murphy was to Duesenberg.
Simply put, few bodies on the Isotta are as attractive as the open designs by Castagna - in particular this cabriolet, inarguably one of the finest eight-cylinder Isottas ever produced.
CHASSIS NO. 1581: THE GREY GODDESS
One of three surviving Isotta Fraschinis with this Castagna "boattail" cabriolet body, Tipo 8A S, chassis no. 1581 was originally delivered through Isotta Motors, the noted importers in New York City. It was acquired during the Great Depression by early enthusiast Paul Cofrancesco, who drove and maintained it for four decades; a wonderfully evocative photograph shows Cofrancesco in a trench coat and fedora, seated on the bumper of his beloved Isotta.
In 1973 the car was purchased by the renowned actor and operatic tenor, Sergio Franchi, as a solid, well-preserved and intact original automobile. Franchi, a proud Italian, considered the Isotta the prize of his collection, and after restoration exhibited it at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in 1983. He went on to drive the car that he dubbed "The Grey Goddess" extensively, including in a Classic Car Club of America CARavan in which it scaled Mount Hood - probably the only Isotta Fraschini to do so.
The car was maintained in the Franchi collection until 2006, when it was purchased by its current owner. While it was running and driving very well prior to disassembly, a fresh restoration was commissioned by Byard Libbey of Libbey Restorations in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, with a return to Pebble Beach in mind. The chassis, suspension, and undercarriage shield were finished in a deep, even black, which was given as much attention as the exterior sheet metal of any outstanding concours restoration. The engine was lightly torn down, found to be in excellent working order, and cosmetically furnished to proper surface finishes, including the abundance of polished aluminum, as it originally appeared, and the lengthy painted red 7.3-liter block. The steering box, transmission, and rear end were fully rebuilt, and the only modification made was to use a close gear ratio in the steering box, which improved handling.
The coachwork is entirely original and constructed of aluminum, with the sheer size of the fully assembled body and its individual panels belied by exceptional proportioning of its entire sculpted length. The solidity of the body is especially impressive, due to the metal choice, and demonstrates the inherent Italian ability to incorporate sound structural support into some of the most voluptuous forms. Finished in a green-grey similar to the livery it previously wore, a lighter green belt molding is accented by a delicate forest green pinstripe that runs down its length. The long flowing front fenders make an impressively crafted turn so that they can conform and append to the side of the chassis rail and continue rearward. Adoring the front passenger-side fender is a single parking light with a green cut glass lens on the front and a red jewel on the rear, which is mimicked by the cut red glass of the taillight.
Next are dual teardrop-shaped step plates, which double as toolboxes and are accessed via the varnished wood lid, which is adorned with chrome ribs. The teardrop-shaped profiles are also finished with varnished wood and followed by the rear arches, which arc up and over the rear wheels.
All of the chrome on the exterior was re-plated, including the six wire wheels, period accessory Stephen Grebel headlights with stone guards, the Grebel spotlight, bumpers, and the distinctive radiator stone guard, which has an artistic representation of the sun's rays depicting them as electric lightning bolts with arrow tips on the ends of the rays. The many other excellently plated elements include the window and windshield frames, the Bosch wiper motor, handles, knobs, and other minor fitments and fixtures down to the frame of the Isotta Fraschini Owner's Association badge adorning the front bumper.
The exterior of the dark green cloth convertible top is fresh and clean; the interior is accented by two oval courtesy lights, which have frosted, etched glass covers. Other features include dual locking glove boxes and intricate wooden inlay, which utilizes multiple types of wood and features an artistic usage of grained and burled wood, which is matched by the finish and materials used in the rumble seat, down to the dual locking glove boxes. The quality of accoutrement also applies to the delicate dual glass ashtrays with wooden covers and the solid multiple inlay work around the door panel upholstery, which utilizes dark green leather piped with green-grey. Even the tubular door pulls are of quality, made of two-tone interwoven leather strips.
The completed restoration was awarded 2nd in Class at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in 2009, followed by Best of Show at the Newport Concours d'Elegance. It has been well preserved since in its owner's collection and is proudly offered today as a spectacular automobile with wonderful known history, fabulous lines, and extraordinary quality - in the first rank of Isottas, and therefore the first rank of Classic Era automobiles.