1930 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A

Established as an automaker in 1902 by Cesare Isotta and the brothers Fraschini (Oreste, Vincenzo and Antonio), from around 1920 to the early 1930s Isottas were more popular in the United States than any other foreign marque except for Rolls-Royce. One of the world's most innovative automakers, IF introduced four wheel brakes in 1909, and the Tipo 8 series, unveiled in August 1912, featured an in-line eight cylinder engine, the first of its type put into series production anywhere in the world. The Tipo 8A series, introduced in 1924, offered 115hp, a redesigned frame and suspension and Isotta's highly regarded three-speed synchromesh transmission. In America, where nearly a third of Isottas were sold, the price of an 8A exceeded even that of a Model J Duesenberg; a chassis alone was priced at $9,750, and coachbuilt models were demanding upwards of $20,000.

The Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A had the most powerful production straight eight engine when it was introduced in the mid-1920s. Most models were mounted on a very long 145 wheelbase chassis. There was an original guarantee that these cars would do 90mph, with the capability of running at both 90mph and 6mph in the same gear. About 950 Tipo 8As were built during the 1925-1931 model run. By 1931 the company was struggling as the Great Depression in the USA had severely affected sales of expensive vehicles. Thus, in order to boost sales, the company introduced a new model, the Tipo 8B.

The company was nearly saved by Henry Ford who was anxious to produce Isottas in Detroit and have his cars built in Italy, but the Italian government blocked this deal. Instead in 1932 the aircraft maker Count Caproni di Talideo, who considered the aero engines as indispensable for his own business, acquired the company. Car production virtually ceased that year and apart from a brief attempt at a rear engined V8 vehicle in the post-war period, Isotta Fraschini disappeared as a car manufacturer.

Source - Christie's Inc.

Vehicle Profiles

Boattail Cabriolet
Coachwork: Castagna

Chassis Num: 1581
Engine Num: 1599

In its aim to be considered amongst the very best automotive manufacturers in the world, Isotta-Fraschini would perform an all-out assault during its early years of existence. However, at the conclusion of World War I, the company would rely on just ....[continue reading]

SS Convertible Sedan
Coachwork: Castagna

The Tipo 8 was powered by a 5.9-liter eight-cylinder engine capable of producing 100 horsepower. They were clothed in elegant bodies and purchased mostly by the rich and famous. Their engines made them one of the most powerful cars of their era and....[continue reading]

SS Convertible Sedan
Coachwork: Castagna

Chassis Num: 1578
Engine Num: 1522

Cesare Isotta and the Fraschini brothers Vincenzo, Antonio and Oreste began their careers in the automotive industry by importing French cars to be assembled in Italy. In 1904 the Societa Milanese Automobili Isotta Company was formed. In 1905 engin....[continue reading]

Special Sports Torpedo
Coachwork: Castagna

Chassis Num: 1659

The Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8 series engine was designed by chief engineer Giustino Cattaneo during World War I and introduced with the new Tipo 8 chassis in August 1919. The Tipo 8 was followed in 1925 by the Tipo 8A, with an engine enlarged to 7.3-li....[continue reading]

Flying Star Roadster
Coachwork: Touring

Chassis Num: 687

The Milanese Carrozzeria Touring built a striking two-passenger roadster body on a Tipo 8A chassis. It was finished in bright white, including its chassis, and featured a veered and contoured windshield, rear-mounted spares, and a smooth, plunging, c....[continue reading]

Boattail Cabriolet by Castagna
Chassis #: 1581 
SS Convertible Sedan by Castagna
SS Convertible Sedan by Castagna
Chassis #: 1578 
Special Sports Torpedo by Castagna
Chassis #: 1659 
Flying Star Roadster by Touring
Chassis #: 687 


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
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