Isdera Imperator 108i

The “Ingenieursbüro für Styling, Design und Racing” (Engineering Bureau for Styling, Design and Racing), or Isdera for short, presented a radical sports car in 1984. However, car fans already knew the shapes for six years. Unfortunately, the car didn’t become a great sales success, although it wasn’t until 2008 that the final example was created. And yet, to this day, onlookers are delighted when they come across an Isdera Imperator 108i at a sports car meeting, in a museum, or by chance in moving traffic. With Bonhams about to auction the car with chassis number 021, it is time to tell the story of the Imperator.

New gullwing sports car

The start of this story has been in the mid-1970s. Eberhard Schulz had already built his first own sports car for his job interview at Porsche in 1969 and brought it with him to Zuffenhausen. As a developer, he was subsequently involved in various improvements to the 911. However, he already had a new design of his own in mind that would succeed the legendary Mercedes-Benz 300 SL. He finally realized this in 1978 together with the car tuner bb Automobiltechnik from Frankfurt under the abbreviation CW311. In addition to the gullwing doors, there was plenty of technology made in Germany. Parts from Porsche and Mercedes-Benz were used and a large Mercedes star was screwed into the front radiator opening. Since the Swabian brand knew about this project to some extent and hadn’t intervened in the run-up to the world premiere, they left it at this actually unauthorized use of the logo – probably also because the CW311 appeared favorably in automotive headlines worldwide. In 1980, the unique model also appeared in the movie “Car-napping”, which made it even more famous.

Small series production from 1984

However, the CW311 had no chances for series production, although there was some demand. These chances ceased to exist at the latest after Eberhard Schulz and bb’s CEO, Rainer Buchmann, clearly disagreed on some aspects. Schulz, however, took advantage of the publicity of his sports car study and set up his own business, the Ingenieursbüro für Styling, Design und Racing, in Leonberg in 1982. In addition to a stylish brand lettering, he chose an eagle on a blue background as the logo. Just one year later, Isdera presented the Spyder as its first small-series car. Visually, it corresponded in many details to the CW311 without a roof. To get in, the complete cockpit surround folded up to the front. In March 1984, the Imperator 108i was on display at the Geneva Motor Show, which meant that Eberhard Schulz was finally able to put the CW311 on the road after all. However, the car was 15 centimeters longer and thus more comfortable.

Only available with Mercedes V8 engines

In terms of design, Eberhard Schulz and his team adopted various details from modern sports cars of the time. The pop-up headlights of the concept car, for example, disappeared in favor of clear-glass lights. One special detail remained: the singular rearview mirror mounted periscope-like on the driver’s door. Only for markets that required two exterior mirrors, such as Switzerland and Japan, were vehicles built with mirrors on the side window triangle. This mainly affected cars in the second series from 1991, which again had plastic covers over the headlights and new air outlets above the front wheels. Behind the two passengers, a V8 engine from Mercedes-Benz worked under a huge hood as in the CW311. However, the engine changed to the newer generation with five liters of displacement. Later there were variants with 5.6 or even six liters, as well as tuning packages from AMG on request. ABS and an exhaust system with catalytic converter were also available at extra cost. Power was transmitted to the rear axle via a five-speed manual transmission. Depending on the version, the Imperator sprinted to 62 mph in around five seconds and reached a maximum speed of between 161.5 to 192.6 mph.

Fewer than 30 examples built

Depending on the source, a maximum of 17 examples of the first series of the Imperator 108i were built. The highest chassis number overall is in the range of 030, although apparently not all numbers were assigned. One car was built in a so-called Evo spec with a lower chassis and the wider track of the Series 2. Originally Isdera planned to use it in GT racing. For various reasons, however, these plans were abandoned, the car was converted for road use and sold.

Number 021 at Bonhams

Bonhams will auction the Imperator 108i with chassis number W09108215KWJ02021 on April 23. This car was originally delivered by Isdera to a Japanese customer in 1991. In the mid-2010s, it made its way to the UK and was offered for sale by classic car dealer DD Classics. To this day, the car wears its original silver metallic paint combined with black leather interior. At the auction in Monaco, experts now expect a hammer price of between 500,000 to 700,000 €.

Images: Bonhams