Isotta Fraschini 8A Boattail Tourer
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 car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in January of 2012 at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa, Phoenix, Arizona.
110 bhp, 7.3L 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"
Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright David Arnold