Formerly of the Richard Paine Collection
1927 ISOTTA FRASCHINI TIPO 8A TWO-PASSENGER ROADSTER
COACHWORK IN THE STYLE OF LEBARON
Chassis No. 1175
Engine No. 1174
Bright Caribbean blue with light blue chassis, running gear and wire wheels with dark blue leather interior and tan canvas top
Engine: L-head, straight eight cylinders, 7,370cc, 154bhp at 2,400rpm; Gearbox: three-speed manual; Suspension: semi-elliptic leaf springs front and rear; Brakes: four-wheel servo-operated mechanical, foot and hand brakes operating on all wheels. Right hand drive.
If Alfa Romeo was the greatest Italian sports car in the 1930's, then the Isotta-Fraschini was its luxury counterpart. This was the true thoroughbred of Italian motor cars in its day. Established as an automaker in 1902 by Cesare Isotta and the brothers Fraschini (Oreste, Vincenzo and Antonio), from around 1920 to the early 1930's 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 inline 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.
Isottas were owned by the likes of King Faisal, the Agha Khan and William Randolph Hearst among others. The 8A models are often seen with a hooded cobra radiator ornament inspired by a similar mascot fitted to the hood of film star Rudolph Valentino's Isotta-Fraschini 8A Coupe de Ville. The original was given to the actor by friends Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. when Valentino completed the 1925 Paramount film, 'Cobra'.
The Isotta Fraschini Tipo, or Type, 8A had the most powerful production straight eight engine when it was introduced in the mid-1920's. Most models were mounted on a very long 145" wheelbase chassis, with a 134" wheelbase chassis for sport models such as this roadster. There was an original guarantee that these cars would do 90mph, with the capability of running at both 90mph and 2½ mph in the same gear. About 950 Tipo 8A's were built during the 1925-1931 model run. This roadster is found in the chassis listing in Isotta Fraschini, Angelo Tito Anselmi's landmark study of the marque.
In 1925 film superstar Rudolph Valentino ordered one of these fabulous looking Roadsters from Isotta, however, Valentino passed away before receiving the car. In his memory, the Company displayed the one off Isotta at the New York Automobile Salon in November 1926. The car dazzled all those who walked by the Isotta Fraschini exhibition. The car's vee-shaped windshield, its unusually angled fenders and fine body shape and molding details made it a natural model for duplicates. Fleetwood Body Co. appears to have been the first coachbuilder to copy it, in 1927.
Purchased from the Collection of Mr. Richard Paine in 1987, this very original example joined the Browning Collection in much the same condition that it remains today. Though the early history of this car is not known, it appears to feature a very similar style of bodywork to that of the Valentino car. Differences, however, can be seen in the Isotta's absence of a golf bag compartment. In addition the current dashboard appears quite crude and not in keeping with the standard of elegance normally employed on an Isotta Fraschini during the period. At this time it is difficult to authenticate the originality of the coachwork, however, with its early Tipo 8A series chassis and engine numbers and Super Sport chassis, it is highly likely that this Isotta began life as a Roadster. The elaborate wood-over-metal running board, the small drum-shaped lights at the ends of the windshield and dual spare tires at the rear of the car are some of the most visible details followed from the Valentino car. The bright blue paint represents an authentic mid-1920's hue as it was certainly a time when everyone wanted to be noticed driving such an impressive vehicle.
The overall condition of this car indicates a much older restoration. The brightwork is in fair condition, blemishing and pitting are present in numerous areas. The paintwork and bodywork are presentable, though the fenders are dented and have a limited amount of paint chipping and scratches throughout. The interior is presentable and, similar to the Roadster top, show signs of wear and use. Some of the interior details include a Fournier temperature gauge, Bijours clock, Le Nivex gas gauge and a Jaeger speedometer which is currently showing just under 36,000 miles. Exterior details include the chromium plated Stephen Grebel headlamps, Corcolite tail lamp and dual rear mounted spares with top matched covers. The engine bay and motor are in presentable condition, however, the porcelain is cracking in some areas, additionally a Zentih carburetor is fitted. As we are unsure of the origins of this body, we encourage visual inspection of the Isotta for all interested parties. With its raked vee windshield, this Isotta Fraschini appears very sleek and sporting. Though possibly in need of some mechanical attention, it is a lovely candidate for high speed touring or for a complete frame off restoration with Pebble Beach in mind.