Earlier this year, a 1924 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A Landaulet crossed the auction block in Arizona and hammered for $434,500. This particular 1924 Isotta Fraschini spent the better part of the last century hidden. And, since the car is Italian, it is only fitting that it was, indeed, an Italian barn find. Well, it was a "warehouse" find but the cool part? This car may have never been officially delivered to a buyer by the factory, was preserved, and then put in storage for 90 years.
In fact, this beauty qualifies as one of the greatest "barn finds" ever. I've told you about Mark Lieberman and his business, Nostalgic Motors. If you don't remember, he bought a Tucker out of a barn last year. You'd think that would have been enough for Lieberman and he would have just coasted, resting on his laurels for the rest of the year. But he got word of another old car hidden away for decades, this time in Italy. He inquired about buying it and also researched the car's history to make sure it really was what it appeared to be. He negotiated the purchase and had the car crated up and flown to the US.
Research by the experts confirmed that this Isotta Fraschini is probably the first Tipo 8A–the company's flagship car–built. It was the product of two different coachbuilders which is also something quite remarkable. This particular car was ordered by a man named Filippo Bolzari of Milan but for reasons lost to history, he may never have taken delivery. The factory kept it and used it as a trainer for drivers who needed to learn how to pilot such a car. Not long after, the car was placed in storage away from the factory, which turned out to be a good thing. World War II saw the Isotta factory flattened, but it didn't kill the storage facility.
The car has a 110-HP engine with a little over 7-liter displacement from an inline 8-cylinder. The driver shifts a three-speed transmission and sits on the right-hand side. This car is huge: it has a 146 inch wheelbase. And the way you see it in the pictures is pretty much how it was found. The tires had been replaced about 35 years ago (while it sat in storage). The car had been maintained, service and repaired over the years by the caretakers. The fluids were changed out and the mechanicals were checked. And after perhaps 90 years in storage, the car runs and drives.
A walk around the car is not just lengthy; it is fun. The coach builders believed in nickel-plating almost everything. Exotic wood is used throughout. And the passenger can communicate with the driver by pressing buttons for "Left," "Right," "Fast," "Slow," and so on. The buttons are in Italian, of course, but you'd have plenty of time to figure it out as you sat in the back of this wonderful car.
Are there more barn finds out there? Obviously, yes. They can apparently be found in almost any corner of the globe. But ones like this are exceedingly rare, and all the more incredible each time they're discovered.
Steve Lehto is a writer and from Michigan. He specializes in Lemon Law and frequently writes about cars and the law. His most recent books include Preston Tucker and His Battle to Build the Car of Tomorrow, and Dodge Daytona and Plymouth Superbird: Design, Development, Production and Competition. He also has a where he talks about these things.