Società Milanese Automobili Isotta, Fraschini & C. was founded on January 27, 1900. The firm was focused on the assembly of Renaults before advancing to production of its own namesake automobile. Early on, they focused on production of high horsepower cars: veritable fire-breathers that achieved notoriety in the crucible of racing. Of early note is Isotta’s victory in the 1908 Targa Florio. In 1919 the firm established itself as a luxury manufacturer with the introduction of the Tipo 8, which became the first production car to feature a straight-eight engine. The successor to the 5.9-Liter Tipo 8, the 8A, had a 7.3-Liter straight-eight that could easily propel the car to cruising speeds of well over a hundred miles an hour.
Like other luxury marques, the Isotta-Fraschini was offered as a running chassis with grille, bumpers and fenders that would be sent off to be clothed with coachwork produced by the finest craftsmen of the day. The length of the massive 8A engine lent itself to a long hood and cowl that became signatures for the model. Carrozzeria Castagna gained serious traction after it began producing automobile bodies in the early 1900s, and soon bodies by Castagna were frequently finding their way onto the most exclusive chassis of the day including Mercedes-Benz, Rolls-Royce, Duesenberg and of course, Isotta-Fraschini.
Chassis #1540 is a long-wheelbase Tipo 8A with this gorgeous Cabriolet coachwork by Castagna. It was first displayed at the prestigious 1930 New York Auto Salon at the Hotel Commodore, a show that would later evolve into the renowned New York International Auto Show. Subsequently known as “The Commodore,” approximately 10 similar examples were constructed, of which this is one of two known to survive. With massive yet well-balanced proportions, the word “sporting” is an understatement. Highly appealing are the distinctly European dual rear-mounted spare tires, as is the stylish 1920s look of the squared-off windshield pillars and rear of the convertible top. “The Commodore” also has a number of bespoke finish details like the gorgeous radiator stone guard with a unique cubist chrome overlay, sunburst inserts on the rumble seat moldings and the highly detailed running boards with chrome ribs.