That we at Secret Classics have a heart for rare cars and long-forgotten car manufacturers may already have been noticed by our regular readers. That’s probably why you’re here – or maybe just to learn something new. The history of the automobile is rich in rarities and in the course of the more than 130 years since the motor car was patented, there have been more than 10,000 brands worldwide that have been more or less successful in this field. So more than enough material is available to present it here in our online magazine. We already reported on Isotta Fraschini last August. Nevertheless, these Italian vehicles are fascinating enough to push a Tipo 8A into our virtual spotlight once again.
After the brothers Antonio, Oreste and Vicenzo Fraschini founded the ‘Fabbrica Automobili Isotta Fraschini Milano’ together with Cesare Isotta in Milan in 1899, they initially only started to complete various De Dion and Renault models under licence from individual parts delivered in boxes. In 1903, they started their own automobile production with vehicles they had developed themselves. The brand concentrated particularly on the luxury sector, but also took part in car races such as the Targa Florio. During World War 1, the company mainly produced aircraft engines, which led to various experiences for the post-war period that were used to build their own inline eight-cylinder engine for large saloon cars. In 1924 this Tipo 8 was followed by the new Tipo 8A, which was mentioned as a competitor with major brands such as Cadillac, Rolls-Royce, Hispano-Suiza, Duesenberg, Horch and Maybach in the same sentence.
RM Sotheby’s is auctioning off the oldest known specimen of the Tipo 8A at the Retromobile in Paris in early February. Isotta Fraschini supplied the chassis with the number 655 to the then very renowned coachbuilding company of Cesare Sala in Milan. The result was an elegant Landaulet, i.e. a chauffeur-driven sedan in which the driver sits outside while the passengers take their seats in an elegantly furnished compartment behind. As an early vehicle in the 8A series, this car still shows many similarities to its predecessor, the Tipo 8, for example the individual bumpers, the shape of the fenders or the ventilation openings on the bonnet in a nautical design.
The first owner of this Tipo 8A was Filippo Balzari, owner of the Hotel Metropole et Monopole in Milan. On 29 September 1927 he registered the vehicle for the first time on the license plate MI 11753. Due to a move to San Remo, where Balzari also owned the Hotel Excelsior Bellevue Palace, the license plate was changed to IM 4151 on 2 July 1936. After World War 2, which this Isotta Fraschini survived undamaged, Balzari registered the car as a rental car for the hotel. On 16 July 1958 he finally sold the car back to Isotta Fraschini. The company had the car optically reworked back to its original condition at the coachbuilder Carrozzeria Riva. Over the following years the former car company Isotta Fraschini changed its name to Mec-Fin SpA, then to Finmeccanica. Until 2017 the Tipo 8A Landaulet was kept as a reminder of the company’s origins. The current, only third owner of the car sent it to RM Auto Restoration after its purchase, where, among other things, the carburettors and the water pump were overhauled. At the same time all fluids were changed and gaskets replaced where necessary. New tyres and brake pads ensure that the Isotta Fraschini can still be used for outings. RM Sotheby’s expects a hammer price between 400,000 and 550,000 €.
Images: RM Sotheby’s, Tim Scott