Historic Car Brands

Isotta Fraschini

Isotta Fraschini was an Italian luxury car manufacturer, which also produced trucks and marine and aviation engines. It was founded in Milan, in 1900 by Cesare Isotta and the brothers Vincenzo, Antonio, and Oreste Fraschini.


Cesare Isotta and Vincenzo Fraschini began importing Mors and Renault automobiles and Aster proprietary engines in 1899.  Isotta and Fraschini then assembled cars that were very similar to Renaults and were powered by Aster engines, with underslung front radiators.


1909 Isotta Fraschini FENC – Carfacts


In 1904, the first Isotta Frascini branded car  was powered by a 24hp, four-cylinder engine and contested several races, driven by Vincenzo Fraschini.

In 1905, Isotta Fraschini gained notoriety in the Coppa Florio, where they entered a Tipo D with a 17.2-litre,100 horsepower engine. For a short time in 1907, Isotta Fraschini merged with French automobile company Lorraine-Dietrich. 


Vincenzo Trucco Targa Florio – Bain News Service


Isotta Fraschini made more race cars, using the 100hp engine, establishing the company’s reputation and giving its name considerable cachet. Isotta Fraschini won the prestigious Targa Florio in 1908.

Isotta Fraschini was at the forefront of technology, being one of the first companies to adopt four-wheel brakes, following their invention by Arrol-Johnston of Scotland in 1909. 


Isotta Fraschini straight-eight engine


The company was also among the early pioneers of the overhead-camshaft (OHC) design, with an engine designed by Giustino Cattaneo. 

Isotta Fraschini introduced their Tipo 8, the first production automobile to be powered by a straight-eight engine, at the Paris Salon in 1919 and began delivering them to customers in 1920.

Isotta Fraschini 8A Roadster – Luc106


Isotta Fraschini was quick to recognise the importance of the US market in the 1920s, observing the growth of the wealthy middle class. The company marketed deluxe limousines to the new American aristocracy. 

Messrs. Isotta and Fraschini bowed out of the firm’s affairs in 1922 and were succeeded in ownership by Count Lodovico Mazzotti, under whose ownership the desirability of Isotta Fraschini automobiles increased.


Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A Castagna Landaulet – Larry Stevens


Early film stars Clara Bow and Rudolph Valentino drove Isotta Fraschinis. A 1929 Tipo 8A Castagna Transformable was featured in the 1950 film Sunset Boulevard[ and another appeared in the 1934 film Death Takes a Holiday with Fredric March. 

An Isotta Fraschini made a featured appearance in the 1946 film Without Reservations with John Wayne and Claudette Colbert. 


Isotta Franchini Berline 8A by Cesare Sala


An Isotta Fraschini was gigolo Lindsay Marriott’s car in Raymond Chandler’s book Farewell, My Lovely (1940) that was made into the motion picture Murder, My Sweet (1944), starring Dick Powell and Claire Trevor. The grille of the Isotta Fraschini with the lightning bolt insignia is seen parked in a ravine, just before Lindsay Marriott gets zapped to death. 

An oversized Isotta Fraschini was also the vehicle of choice for Dick and Nicole Diver in F Scott Fitzgerald’s 1933 novel Tender is the Night.


Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8B – Tomislav Medak


Seriously affected by the economic crisis of the 1930s, Isotta Fraschini turned up production of aero engines it had been making since 1908. The company also a negotiated an agreement with German truck maker, MAN, to build trucks and diesel engines.

Count Mazzotti negotiated with Henry Ford in 1930-1931 for a manufacturing deal that could have pumped new life into the Milanese factory’s car-making operations. However, Mussolini’s government would not allow any US involvement with Italian vehicle production and mandated production of Isotta Fraschini engines and trucks for the coming World War II effort. 



In the summer of 1934, the last Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8B left the assembly line, with only 30 units having been produced since 1931.

During the War, Isotta Fraschini designers quietly worked away at a post-War revival of the marque and secretly developed a brand new car.

When the Isotta Fraschini Monterosa Tipo 8C Monterosa took place in October 1947 at the Paris Motor Show it caused an absolute sensation. With more than just a nod to the Czech Tatra design, the new Isotta Fraschini design employed a rear-engined layout, with unit engine and four-speed transaxle, albeit with front-mounted radiator and water cooling.


Isotta Frascini Tipo 8C Monterosa Boneschi – Larry Stevens


The lightweight, single overhead-camshaft per bank, V8 engine was finally sized at 3.4 litres, after prototype 2.5-litre and three-litre engines were built.

All-wheel independent suspension was featured, along with four hydraulic jacks in the wheel wells.

Four-door Zagato and two-door Boneschi bodies were designed, but unfortunately, pricing was around double that of any comparable luxury vehicle and in the post-War world there wasn’t that sort of cash pile available.


Isotta Fraschini 8c rear-mounted V8 engine


Between three and six Monterosas were produced, before production was abandoned and the plants were converted to produce marine engines.

In 1955, Isotta Fraschini merged with engine manufacturer Breda Motori and named F A Isotta Fraschini e Motori Breda. The company started to produce trolley buses and, in the 1960s, built a new diesel engine factory in Bari. 

In the 1980s, the company was renamed Isotta Fraschini Motori SpA and it became part of Fincantieri group, with administrative headquarters in the old factory in Bari.


Isotta Fraschini T8 roadster


In the 1990s, attempts to revive the luxury car heritage of Isotta Fraschini were made. Concept-car coupe and roadster Isotta Fraschini T8 models were built in 1996 and a concept-car roadster Isotta Fraschini T12 was shown in 1998. Neither model went into production and the company went bankrupt in 1999.


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