The Isotta Fraschini 7.3-liter Tipo 8A, launched in 1924, was built to three different specifications - the standard Tipo 8A on a 145-inch wheelbase and two powerful 150 horsepower models, the Spinto S and Super Spinto SS, each on a 134-inch chassis.
Isotta Fraschini marketed their elegant automobiles to the new American aristocracy, the stars of stage and screen - and they flocked to Isotta's showrooms on Fifth Avenue in New York City, often paying a lot more for an Isotta than they would have paid for a Model J Duesenberg. Clara Bow and Rudolph Valentino both owned Isottas.
The chassis of this Isotta Fraschini was built in Italy and then delivered to the LeBaron Company in the United States to have the boattail body with single rumble seat put on it. Its 160 horsepower straight eight engine made this a powerful and fast car.
Built in Italy and with Custom Coachwork by LeBaron, this Isotta-Fraschini was introduced at the 1928 New York Auto Show. Two such custom boattail bodies were produced. Isotta-Fraschini's were favorites among those such as silent movie star Rudolph Valentino and this particular car was owned by 'America's Darling of Broadway and The Silent Screen,' Marguerite Clark (born in Cincinnati, Ohio) and her husband the aviator Harry Williams. Ms. Clark was the inspiration for the Walt Disney character of 'Snow White.'
This car, which has been unknown to the collector community, is a wonderful piece of history. In 2007, it was shown for the first time in public since the 1930's. The car only has 22,000 original miles and was previously owned by collector Jim Thomas of Florida since the 1960's. The current owner showed the car at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in 2007 where it placed Second in Class.
In 1902, Cesare Isotta and Vincenzo Fraschini created the Isotta Fraschini Company. This decision was made after years of successfully importing French vehicles to Italy. Automobile production was very new and this led to the creation of hundreds of independent automobile producers world-wide. It was also a very unique time in history since the automotive market was evolving, and so were the designs. This was true for the Isotta Fraschini Company, and they were rewarded for their unique creations by continued success. The elegantly designed automobiles were popular with the rich clientele. Their creations were reliable, stylish, and quick. At Targa Florio in 1908, one of their automobiles won.
In 1912 the Isotta Fraschini Company introduced a straight eight cylinder engine but would not go into production until 1919 due to World War I. During the war, the Company shifted its resource to building airplane engines. When the war was over, the eight-cylinder engine was used to power their Tipo 8, making it the first straight-eight cylinder engine to go into production. The 5.9-liter engine was capable of producing 100 horsepower, an extremely difficult accomplishment at the time.
In 1924, the engine capacity of the engine was increased to 7.3 liters, giving the vehicle between 110 and 120 horsepower depending on the configuration. The name was modified to reflect this change and was dubbed the 8A. The company claimed the vehicle could accelerate to a top speed of 90 miles-per-hour.
The vehicle could be had in a variety of flavors and sizes. The standard model sat atop a 145 inch wheelbase while a sportier version was fitted with a 134 inch wheelbase. The price to own one of these magnificent creations was not cheap, weighing in around $20,000.
In 1931 a four-speed gearbox and a refined engine was introduced and the name was changed to 8B. As with most businesses at this time, the Great Depression and a second World War had taken its toll on the company. The company had shifted focus to creating airplane and marine engines during World War II. After the war, several efforts were made to jump-start the vehicle production but all attempts failed. The factory was forced to close.
By Daniel Vaughan | Aug 2006