You may well have noticed gorgeous, massive cars in classic movies. What happened to these car makers? Were they innovators or just producers of boats or other monstrosities of little innovative value? Sort of like big tank S.U.V. trucks in these days of $ 3 a gallon gasoline. Indeed you may have spotted such cars as the Italian made Isotta Fraschine in classic movies such as the movie “Sunset Boulevard” which starred Gloria Swanson. These cars were not only the highest end luxury models of their days but they introduced early on many advanced features into cars as well as moving ahead and reinforcing standards of reliability and durability of motor vehicles. The thin edge of the wedge even then. Back in 1929 when the Tippo 8A primo motor car was delivered to its first waiting owners , the automotive name and models if Isoto Fraschini were held in the same breath , prestige and level as those of Rolls-Royce and Hispano-Suiza. The story starts in Milan, Italy thirty years earlier when Cesare Isotta and Vincenzio Fraschino joined forces and went into the “newfangled” car business.
At that time Italy was a poor country, they soon realized that with their limited car market, and luxury car market the need, indeed the necessity to export their products. The enterprising partners first shipped a car to the United Sates in 1902 and established the Isotta Import Company in New York just five years later. In 1908, Isotta won Sicily’s super tough Targea Florio race and notched up more than several important auto races in America. Two years later, the Italians launched the mighty KM model, which sported 10.6 liter, four cylinder, and sixteen valve engine. It would storm along at 90 mph at a time when few aircraft could achieve that in flight.
After World War I, Isotta Fraschini decided to concentrate on the lucrative and prestigious luxury end of the automotive market. The 5.9 liter Tipo 8 arrived in 1909 – powered by the world’s first series production straight eight engine, and was later joined, then replaced by the Tipo 8A. Customers purchased a chassis and ordered whatever body tickled their fancy from a coachbuilder. The well known high end coachbuilder of the time Sala and Castanga accounted for most of them. Others built to the likes of Fleetwood and Barker.
One of the lighter and more powerful Super Spinto versions of the *A finished sixth in the first Mille Miglia , driven by none other than Count Maggi , one of the 1000 –mile road race founders and originators. He was accompanied by Bindo Maserati. Bindo and his brother Alfieri were then working for Isota Fraschini as testers. Most of the parts for the first Masaerati cars were made at Isotta’s factory on Via Monterosa in Milan.
Launched in April 1931, the Tipo 8B is generally considered as Isotto Fraschini’s finest automobile product. It offered more performance than its predecessor. About 950 of these fine motor vehicles were manufactured and sold. The Tipo 8B Automobile product line encountered strong opposition from the likes of Rolls-Royce, Hispano and Bugatti. By the mid nineteen thirties the Isotta Frascnini car production system and enterprise was out of the automobile business. It made a short comeback after the time period approximately of the post Second World War II period when the Tipo 8C Monterosa appeared to a fanfare of postwar trumpets. The Post World War II Tipo 8C Monterosa was a most interesting concept car of its time period – a very big car with a V-8 engine its tail. Rather unbelievably, or perhaps we owe a debit of gratitude to these early luxury automobile innovators and producers in that what we take today for automotive vehicle features , engineering as well as reliability started early on with the expectations of purchasers of these luxury automobile products.