By the end of the Second World War Isotta Frashini was a long established car manufacturer, which was first set up as far back as 1900. Building successful racing cars gave them an international reputation and they were one of the first companies to provide cars with four-wheel brakes, and their Tipo 8, which came out in 1919, was the world's first production car with a straight eight cylinder engine, and a serious competitor to Rolls-Royce. As usual this was offered as a rolling chassis only, with the body created separately by specialist coachbuilders.
During the 1920s there was an economic boom in America and their cars were a great hit there. Movie heartthrob Rudolph Valentino drove one; as did the IT girl Clara Bow. They appeared in several major movies. Even the Pope and the Aga Khan were reputed to own one.
The future looked bright; and then came the stock exchange crash of 1929. The market for luxury cars dried up; however Italy under Mussolini was gearing up for war. The company stopped manufacturing cars in 1934 then put all its efforts into war production. However they still had dreams of getting back into making luxury cars again! Planning and design work began during World War II and in 1947 the 8C Monterosa was unveiled at the Paris motor show.
On the face of it this was a superb car. It could seat six people in comfort, and was available as a saloon, cabriolet and a two-door model. The beautiful, body was made of aluminium. The interior was sumptuous; it had an all synchromesh five speed plus overdrive gearbox, hydraulic brakes all round, spring assisted doors, seats covered in camel skin, hydraulic shock absorbers, and even hydraulic jacks by each wheel.
Performance was not forgotten; the 3.4 litre V8 engine producing 125 brake horsepower could propel it to over a hundred mph.
It was powerful, beautiful, and well-made. There was just one problem. It was the wrong car, at the wrong time.
This was one expensive vehicle, at around twice the price of the top models from Pacard or Cadillac. And to make matters worse World War II had just ended and an era of austerity had begun. What the public wanted was a small economic car, and what Isotta Frashini produced was huge, heavy, petrol guzzling, and very, very expensive.
Very few were made – perhaps 10 in all – before the plug was pulled. Isotta Frashini never built a car again.