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Coachwork by Carrozzeria Castagna of Milan

1930 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A S Roadster

  • Known history and provenance including the collections of D. Cameron Peck and Al Ferrara
  • Retains its original chassis, engine and body
  • Documented restoration to exceptional standards
  • Eligible for concours, tours and important events worldwide
  • Highly regarded in Isotta Fraschini circles as one of the most striking examples
  • Myriad of unique, one-off features; The pinnacle of Italian luxury car design

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Isotta Fraschini vividly captures all the enchanting grandeur of a bygone era, when luxury marques collaborated with coachbuilders who were among the greatest artists of their time. This near-mythical level of craftsmanship is difficult to fathom in our mass consumption, disposable society. These automobiles were made not only to last but to be cherished. Fraschini produced less than 2,500 cars in its brief, innovative history and their cars continue to be among the most desirable collectible automobiles in the world. The fact that any of their pre-war automobiles survived is a miracle, largely made possible by their export to North America. This numbers-matching original engine, body and chassis, 1930 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A S Roadster, custom bodied by the incomparable Carrozzeria Castagna, is one of those rare survivors and has endured intact thanks to two historic collectors and the current owner who has lavished the ultimate restoration on this rare automobile.

The history of Isotta Fraschini is relatively short but significant, which has resulted in an increasingly fewer number of these automobiles left in the world. Cesare Isotta and the Fraschini brothers started an automobile repair and racing operation in 1899 but found their true métier when they began manufacturing luxury automobiles. They would earn a reputation for innovation as the first manufacturer of the straight-eight-cylinder engine and for their early introduction of the overhead cam. They debuted this car, their Tipo 8, at the 1919 Paris Salon and the brand became an overnight sensation that quickly garnered a following with Hollywood royalty. Prized automobile to Rudolph Valentino and Clara Bow, it would also be featured in the glamorous sagas of F. Scott Fitzgerald and detective novels of Raymond Chandler. A Tipo 8A, bodied by Castagna, lit up the silver screen in Billy Wilder’s opus Sunset Boulevard as the treasured vessel of aging silent film star, Norma Desmond. The Tipo 8A was an improvement on many levels from its Tipo 8 predecessor and boasted the most powerful straight-eight-cylinder engine of its time; at 7.3-litres it was capable of a then-whopping 93 miles per hour.

However, it was the luxury coachwork of Carrozzeria Castagna of Milan that set many Isotta Fraschinis apart. Castagna epitomized the old-world luxury coachbuilder. Steeped in traditional craftsmanship derived from their days as luxury carriage builders for the royal heads of Italy after acquiring the Ferrari Coachbuilding Company in 1849, the firm inevitably evolved into a coachbuilder for automobiles. In no time, Castagna was at the apex of opulent coachbuilding and remained so until World War II. A mere glance at the woodwork, brightwork, German silver, and artisan detailing on this car confirms the assumption that this was one of the most grandiose cars of the gilded age. At the time Ercole Castagna inherited the Milan factory, it boasted 400 artisan employees and its own chrome and nickel-plating department. They designed the first double-phaeton coach with side doors. Their work graced the cars of royalty and tycoons from around the world. Over time, Castagna became synonymous with Isotta Fraschini and was said to be to Fraschini what Murphy was to Duesenberg, with even more luxurious panache. With Carrozzeria Castagna’s artisan coachwork and Isotta Fraschini’s formidable powertrain, the magnificent Tipo 8A Roadster fetched an even higher price tag than a Model J Duesenberg. Only 950 Tipo 8As were completed over their production run from 1925 to 1931, which makes this implausible survivor all the rarer. Unfortunately, the ravages of World War II took their toll on Italy, Isotta Fraschini, and Castagna. Their factory in Milan was bombed off the map. Despite their best efforts, neither company would ever truly rise from the ashes following the war. In fact, this particular Tipo 8A S Roadster, bodied by Castagna, is among the last produced.

Chassis 1657 is a car of well-documented, serious provenance and has a narrative quite as compelling as that of Isotta and Castagna. The delivery plate on the driver’s side dash confirms the car was delivered new to Isotta Motors of New York City. Extensive research traces early ownership history through Mrs. Sterling Linder-Davis of Cleveland’s Sterling Linder-Davis Department Store to Thomas B. Wolf of Winnetka, Illinois. From there, the car entered the collection of D. Cameron Peck who was one of the early influential classic car collectors in the United States; at its pinnacle, the collection was one of the largest in the world until he auctioned his entire collection in 1951. The next owner was James S. Howard who registered the Isotta with the Classic Car Club of America in 1956. Chassis 1657 then landed in the hands of Joe Loecy, Jr. of Chardon, Ohio who lovingly kept the car for the next 25 years. Al Ferrara had been biding his time until Loecy was ready to sell. When he was, the car found a new home in the world-class collection of Al Ferrara of Gate Mills, Ohio in 1984. In the CCCA magazine, Torque, the fabulous Isotta Fraschini was featured in the summer 1989 issue. Al restored the car and proudly put it on display at the Michigan Grand Classic in Dearborn where it garnered First Prize and was granted Senior Badge #1280. Chassis 1657 would spend the next many years in the Ferrara Collection alongside other singularly important classic era automobiles.

A new chapter in this Isotta’s illustrious history would find the car eventually making its way into another collection of significant classic cars. Recognizing not just the beauty, but the importance of 1657 retaining its original engine, body and chassis and being adorned with bespoke features, it was determined it was deserving of another world-class restoration. A multi-year meticulous and extensive restoration ensued. Beneath the bonnet, the original engine has been completely rebuilt with correct piston rods and bearings; the original clutch and radiator have been rebuilt. The stunning red burgundy paint is fresh and the brightwork, including extensive German silver, gleams like new. The interior was expertly conducted by Tailored Trim out of New Philadelphia, Ohio and the regal Isotta is absolutely primed for the world’s greatest concours.

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