Isotta,
Lot 237
1929 Isotta-Fraschini Tipo 8A 7.4 litre Sport Landaulette 1390
Sold for £298,500 (US$ 495,302) inc. premium
Lot Details
1929 Isotta-Fraschini Tipo 8A 7.4 litre Sport Landaulette
Coachwork by Carrozzeria Castagna of Milan

Registration no. GU 6061
Chassis no. 1390
Engine no. 1390

Footnotes

  • A World Tour of the most exclusive motor car manufacturers in the 1920’s would embrace a visit to Hispano-Suiza in France, Pierce-Arrow in Cleveland, Ohio, Rolls-Royce at Derby, England, and Bugatti at Molsheim, but the more discerning traveller would choose to spend two days in Milan with Fabbrica Automobili Isotta-Fraschini, Italy’s noblest car maker. Cesare Isotta and Oreste Fraschini founded their company in 1900, displaying their first primitive 5hp, single-cylinder car at the Milan Exposition in 1901. Progress was rapid, speeded by the company’s involvement in motor sport, celebrated victories including the 1908 Targa Florio and a sensational second place in the challenging 1908 Vanderbilt Cup. Like its contemporaries, Hispano-Suiza and Rolls-Royce, Isotta-Fraschini built engines for the new-fangled aircraft industry and were favoured with Government orders for their aero engines, providing the motive force for Mussolini’s indomitable Savoia-Marchetti seaplanes.

    Chief Engineer, Giustino Cattaneo, focused on a one model policy for Isotta-Fraschini in the 1920’s, launching the world’s first production straight-eight motor car, the Tipo 8, in 1920. This mirrored the then current one-model policy of Rolls-Royce in England. The early Isotta engines featured push-rod operated, overhead valves and had a capacity of 5.9 litres. Manufacturing standards were of the highest order, 80hp was produced and sophisticated, mechanical, servo-operated, four-wheel brakes were a modern luxury. The Tipo 8A, announced in 1925 was still more sophisticated with a larger, 7,372cc engine, vacuum-assisted braking and was offered in three different engine specifications, the Spinto and Superspinto developing a massive 150hp. The 8A was unashamedly expensive and Isotta-Fraschini controlled with care a select list of favoured customers.

    GU 6061 was first registered in England in 1929 and is thought at one stage during its life to have been owned by a former Mayor of Portsmouth. The first owner shown in the old log book, which was certainly with the car in the 1980’s but disappeared prior to the present ownership, was G G Dell of Purbrook in Hampshire. Its complete early history is not recorded but in 1957 it remained in show condition and is reported as winning the Premier Award at a Concours d’Élégance event here at Goodwood – just fifty years ago almost to the day.

    Thereafter it sank into some neglect prior to discovery in the 1980’s by Bonhams consultant and ‘barn discovery’ super-sleuth, Michael Worthington-Williams. Bert Fielding was the owner and proprietor of a garage in Borth, a sleepy seaside town just north of Aberystwyth. Fielding had first owned the car in the 1950’s, sold it and bought it back a couple of years later when the new owner went bankrupt. When Worthington-Williams prised open the garage doors the car was found to be in a forlorn state, the radiator, headlights, bumpers and massive Eagle mascot had been removed and stored safely in the house, the aluminium coachwork was encrusted in surface corrosion and the car had not been started or run for some years. Worthington-Williams reported that “twenty-five years of neglect had not altered its handsome lines”. Careful checking of the chassis and engine numbers, clearly displayed on the car, with factory records confirmed coachwork by Castagna, although they recorded it incorrectly as a tourer. Records also suggested that the car may originally have been fitted with engine number 1413, although we feel that this is unlikely and possibly a clerical error in the Milan office.

    No matter what the answer to the numbers conundrum is, there was no doubt that here was an exceptionally original car of outstanding quality and originality. The present owner acquired this car in its run-down state some twenty-three years ago and embarked upon a painstaking restoration, leaving no stone unturned in preparing the car to the standard in which it was clearly presented in the Goodwood Concours d’Élégance in 1957 – indeed perhaps even better. The landaulette coachwork was removed from the chassis and a detailed chassis restoration undertaken. The engine, believed to be the Sport model, was completely rebuilt and the Castagna coachwork carefully dismantled. Much of the wooden framing, still retaining its Castagna stampings, had served its usefulness and was carefully replicated in minute detail by master-craftsman joiner Enrique Llinares. The upholstery was entrusted to the trim shop at Plus Four Motors, carefully following the original pattern with black leather to the front and bold patterned cloth upholstery to the rear.

    GU 6061 is now presented to concours standards and liveried in blue and black with fine coachlining. It is generously equipped with Twolite headlamps, twin side-mounted spare wheels, triple bar front bumper and Willocq & Bottin indicators, leather spring gaiters and highly polished aluminium wheel discs. The towering Isotta radiator is protected by a contoured stoneguard and dashboard equipment includes the finest instruments, Jaeger speedometer and clock, a Fournier thermometer and Le Nivex fuel guage. Remarkably this car comes with no less than three radiator mascots, the giant eagle mascot which it wore in the 1950’s, a dramatic illuminated Lalique Eagle’s Head mascot and Isotta-Fraschini’s own trademark radiator emblem. Notable features from the distinguished Milan coachbuilders include the curved glass passenger division, each side winding down separately, running-board foot-scrapers, luggage carrier, windscreen visor and twin scuttle ventilators.

    Since restoration this powerful Italian motoring icon has covered little more than 500 miles and has been carefully maintained within an exclusive private collection in a heated garage. GU 6061 is offered with a current MoT certificate and road fund licence, a U.K. registration document and a detailed photographic record of the restoration.

    This imposing landaulette is guaranteed invitations and acceptance at the world’s most prestigious motoring events and on the best-manicured Concours d’Élégance lawns.

Saleroom notices

  • Further information has now come to light suggesting that the chassis number of this car is 1349. In the 1980s Michael Worthington-Williams had the opportunity to inspect an old registration document which indicated that the car was a Type 8A 1349. The same document quoted chassis and engine number as 1390. It appears that the chassis number was incorrectly quoted and in our opinion the chassis number is most likely to be 1349. Sadly, this old registration document was not passed on to the current owner and its whereabouts are not known. Isotta-Fraschini factory records are at best sketchy and incomplete, however it is known that consecutive chassis number 1348 was dispatched on 22nd March 1929. It is known from Worthington-Williams’ notes that the old registration document recorded first registration of the car today offered was 12th April 1929 which seems consistent with a batch produced in March/April 1929. We are asked to point out that car no.1390 with engine no.1413 survives in a private collection in Europe. This car is not currently licenced.
Auction information

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