Arizona | Lot 269
1927 Isotta-Fraschini Tipo 8A Boat-Tail Tourer by Carrozzeria Italiana Cesare Sala
$407,000 USD | Sold
| Phoenix, Arizona
20 January 2012
110 bhp, 7,370 cc inline overhead valve eight-cylinder engine, three-speed manual transmission, solid front axle and live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel power-assisted mechanical drum brakes. Wheelbase: 145.6"
• Prestige Italian marque
• Spectacular boat-tail tourer with recent cosmetic and mechanical freshening
• Exclusive Italian coachwork on ultra-exclusive Tipo 8 chassis
• 2009 Amelia Island award-winner
Isotta-Fraschini underwent a complete change after World War I. Until that time building a plethora of models, the company adopted a single-series policy. A novel breakthrough in the company’s engineering was the alloy-block inline eight-cylinder engine in unit with its gearbox, generally recognized as the first production straight eight. Aiming high, the car was targeted to the upper echelon of buyers in Europe and America. Introduced in 1919, this new Tipo 8 came as a chassis only. Bodies were typically from Italy’s top-tier coachbuilders, Castagna and Cesare Sala, although other European and American firms lent their hands to the task. Isotta aimed for refinement over sportiness, eschewing overhead cams in favor of pushrod-operated overhead valves. The brakes, of course, operated on all four wheels and were fitted with power assist.
About half of all Tipo 8s made their way to America, where they became very fashionable in Hollywood. Rudolph Valentino and Clara Bow had Isottas, as did boxer Jack Dempsey and newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. Cognoscenti owners elsewhere included the Queen of Romania, the King of Egypt, the Aga Kahn and Pope Pius XI.
The Tipo 8’s displacement was increased, along with power in 1924, resulting in the Tipo 8A. By 1928, however, the company became more heavily involved in aircraft work, a trend accelerated by the Depression that followed, which hit American sales particularly hard. Manufacture of cars dwindled through 1935, after which most remaining parts were scrapped. A brief post-World War II revival was unsuccessful.
One of Italy’s oldest coachbuilders, Carrozzeria Italiana Cesare Sala of Milan began as Taramella & C. in the mid-19th century. One of the earliest to convert to motor car bodies, they began building on Benz chassis in 1897. Their high-quality work brought them to the notice of the Italian royal family, which ordered a limousine-landaulet for Queen Margharita on a 24-hp Fiat chassis. The name Carrozzeria Italiana Cesare Sala dates from 1905, when the company was refinanced by Duke Umberto and a group of investors. During the 1920s, their principal client was Isotta-Fraschini, for whom they clothed many Tipo 8 and 8A chassis.
This stunning Isotta-Fraschini 8A was reportedly discovered in excellent original condition in 1986 by California’s Blackhawk Collection. A set of period photos shows what is believed to be this car in the catalogue of Pacific Auto Rentals, a legendary company supplying cars to the Hollywood film industry in the 1930s to 1950s. Shortly after acquiring it, Blackhawk sent the car to Mike Fennel Restorations in Saugus, California for a comprehensive two-year rebuild. The unusual color combination is believed to be authentic. Upon completion the car was put on display at the Blackhawk Museum, where it remained for 20 years.
When acquired by the current owner in 2007, it had seldom been driven. He sent it to D&D Classic Automobile Restoration in Covington, Ohio to be put in top running order. The car was given a cosmetic freshening, which included a new top with bows of purpleheart wood and the iconic radiator stone guard. When lowered, the top fully disappears into the boat-tail section of the body. The car was also sorted mechanically, which included complete cleaning and sealing of the fuel system.
The car was invited to the 2009 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, where it received the Chairman’s Choice Award. It has been invited to many other shows and concours but has seldom been shown. A new owner will have the pick of many prestigious events at which to exhibit the car, and with its large eight-cylinder motor, it could certainly prove to be a formidable touring car.