August 19, 2009

Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8

JDMike just commented about pre-war cars, so here’s one.

A little history

The firm established by Cesare Isotta and Vincenzo Fraschini built its first automobile in 1904. Never a car for the masses, the Isotta Fraschinis aimed at the elite, seduced by a cocktail of luxury, performance and innovation. On the later front, Isotta seldom invented anything new, but had a talent to adopt new promising techniques as soon as they were applied by others. Thus, Isottas were among the first ones to market cars with overhead camshaft, four-wheel brakes and eight-cylinder engines. The later was first fitted to the new Tipo 8 in 1919. It was then a large inline eight displacing 5.9 litres for 80 bhp and, with this car, Isotta Fraschini was definitely playing in the same league as Rolls-Royce.

The prosperity that followed the Great War helped to make the Tipo 8 a success. An ever increasing share of the production was shipped to America. During the same period, Rolls-Royce opened a production line in the U.S. in order to satisfy the local demand. As for them, Isottas were imported, resulting in staggering price tags. This didn’t hamper their success – in an era of riches quickly made, the elite wanted to let anyone see how much fortune had been good to them by buying only the best and most expensive. The most frivolous of all customers, the Hollywood stars, became suckers for Tipo 8s.

By 1924, the Tipo 8 wasn’t able anymore to satisfy such a clientele, ever willing to be seen in more impressive automobiles. Isotta Fraschini answered the call with its Tipo 8A, now powered by a titanic 7.4-litre straight eight rated at 115 bhp. The huge 8A chassis was sold bare, ready to be fitted with a custom-built limousine or town car body, but for those who still found these too formal and wanted a livelier automobile, Isotta proposed too short-wheelbase versions, the S and SS, equipped with engines boosted to up to 160 bhp.

The Tipo 8A was produced until 1931 when it was superseded by another evolution of the original design, the Tipo 8B. However times were rapidly changing. That specialized firms offered landaulet or town car bodies for the plebeian Ford chassis suffices to indicate that the happy days were over for luxury automobile manufacturers. The Tipo 8B was produced until 1936, when Isotta Fraschini withdrew from the market. With a conflict ending in Ethiopia and another one erupting in Spain, the Italian company, since long involved in aeronautics, correctly estimated that much more money was to be made from the war contracts granted by Mussolini than derived from the production of exclusive automobiles.

About the model

Model: Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A
Year: 1930
Maker: Ixo
Scale: 1/43
Distributed by: Altaya as no.7 of its Voitures Classiques press series
Acquired: brand new, in August 2006, in Souillac, France

Ixo tastefully reproduced this icon of a by-gone era. Body as well as chassis are moulded in metal, making it a rather heavy model. It is accurately detailed and well finished. I’d give a 14/20 to it.







JDMike's Diecast Site said...

another beautiful masterpiece! thanks for the pictures and for its history, i learn something new everyday! :-)

lorenzo721 said...

Thanks a lot JD! I'm happy that you enjoy your (frequent) visits here. Regarding "everyday", it's true that I changed the way I publish my posts and now try to add one new every morning.