Want to go for a ride with Isotta Fraschini?
With its history dating back to the dawn of the 20th century, Isotta Fraschini is the largest Italian deluxe luxury car manufacturer. Cesare Isotta and Vincenzo, Antonio and Oreste Fraschini founded the company in 1900 with what today might seem to be a very simple and straightforward motto: “Import, sell, repair cars.” Despite this apparently basic goal, Isotta Fraschini was known from the very beginning for making some of the most prestigious and innovative cars of its time.
While Isotta Fraschini was in constant competition with other car makers such as Rolls-Royce and Hispano Suiza, the Italian manufacturer remained at the top of the market thanks to its innovation. In 1910 they pioneered the popularization of cars with four-wheel brakes, an idea that we might take for granted today, but which was a revolutionary invention at the time.
The incredible speed of Isotta Fraschini cars came into the spotlight in 1905 when a huge Type D entered the Coppa Florio race. In fact, two years later Fernando Minoia won the Targa Florio for Isotta Fraschini when he completed 301.8 miles in 4 hours and 39 minutes. The notoriety these events brought to the brand let to its popularity among Europe’s elite. Even the Italian opera composer Giacomo Puccini, who loved fast cars and boats, bought two Isotta Fraschinis in 1905 and 1906, although he later tipped one car and broke his shin when he drove it too fast.
In 1919 Isotta Fraschini introduced the Type 8, a new car that would go on to become a legendary example of classic car design and a cultural icon. What set the Type 8 apart was an internal combustion engine with all eight cylinders mounted in a straight line along the crankcase, the first engine with this configuration.
The success of the Type 8 led Isotta Fraschini to introduce the Type 8A in 1920. This model proved that Isotta Fraschini’s cars were not only speed vehicles for the daring, but also elegant status symbols. The long-bodied and elegant Type 8A could in many ways be compared to a limousine. It was used to trasport aristocratic and cinematic royalty including the King of Egypt, boxer Jack Dempsey, more than one pope and film stars Rudolph Valentino and Clara Bow.
Isotta Fraschini might not be a car brand that most of us are familiar with now, but it lives on in our cultural imagination. Today, all you need to do in order to understand the incredible style and luxury this Italian car exuded is press play on Billy Wilder’s 1950 film classic “Sunset Boulevard” and watch Gloria Swanson in her Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A.