Amelia Island

10-11 March 2017

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Lot 236

1933 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A Dual Cowl Sports Tourer by Castagna

  • Chassis no. 1664
  • Engine no. 1664

Sold for $902,000


110 bhp, 7,370 cc OHV inline eight-cylinder engine, three-speed manual transmission, solid front axle and live rear axle with semi-elliptical leaf springs, and four-wheel power-assisted mechanical drum brakes. Wheelbase: 145.6 in.

  • One of two extant examples of this exceptional Castagna design
  • Believed to be the 1933 Paris Salon show car; delivered new in New York
  • Formerly owned by Matt Browning, Otis Chandler, and J. Peter Ministrelli
  • Long, well-known cinematic career; featured in Without Reservations, Giant, and others
  • A famous and highly significant Isotta Fraschini


The early production of Società Milanese Automobili Isotta, Fraschini & C. focused on high-horsepower cars. These cars were veritable fire-breathers that achieved celebrity in the crucible of racing, with an early highlight being 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 gained notoriety as the first production car to feature a straight-eight engine.

About half of all Tipo 8s made their way to America, where they became very fashionable in Hollywood. Rudolph Valentino and Clara Bow had Isottas, as did boxer Jack Dempsey and newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. Cognoscenti owners elsewhere included the Queen of Romania, the King of Egypt, the Aga Kahn, and Pope Pius XI. Cattaneo increased the Tipo 8’s displacement and power in 1924, resulting in the Tipo 8A, of which the car offered here is a prime example.

A “GIANT” AMONG ISOTTAS

Chassis number 1664 was one of two known 8As surviving with this exquisite dual-cowl sports tourer body by the renowned Milanese coachbuilders, Castagna, who achieved their finest work on Isotta Fraschini chassis. It is the only example of the two to have a “cut-down” door on both sides. The chassis number indicates production around 1931, but the car was not completed until two years later, when this Castagna body was mounted. The finished car is believed to have been shown at the 27th Salon de l’Automobile in Paris in October of 1933, after which it was shipped to New York and exhibited in Ugo d’Annunzio’s lavish Isotta Motors showroom in Manhattan. As a later car, it has features of the higher-horsepower 8A SS model, including larger vacuum tank and carburetors. Tradition has long held that its original owner was American radio comedian Joe Penner, whose catchphrase, “Wanna buy a duck?” was rooted in vaudeville tradition.

By the 1940s the car had come to the West Coast, where it was acquired by Pacific Auto Rentals, an agency operated by George Schweiger, Sr., that supplied automobiles to Hollywood studios for filming.

In its ownership by Pacific Auto Rentals, the Isotta had a noted “film career,” cast first alongside Ilona Massey and Peter Lorre in Invisible Agent (1942). It next appeared as one of the stars of Without Reservations (1946), in which John Wayne and Claudette Colbert purchase it, early in the picture, and proceed to drive it in many scenes thereafter. Publicity photographs of Wayne and Colbert with the car on set were widely distributed. Other appearances included Mr. Imperium (1951) and the Ben Hogan biopic, Follow the Sun (1951). Even the classic 1941 horror film, The Wolf Man, included the Isotta Fraschini. The car’s most famous cameo, however, was in the 1956 epic, Giant, in which it speeds along the Texas plains against a background of dutifully pumping oil derricks, carrying none other than James Dean.

After its screen time, the car was acquired during the 1960s by renowned Utah collectors, Matt and Barbara Browning. The car appeared in this livery in Angelo Tito Anselmi’s definitive 1977 book, Isotta Fraschini. Since then it has been a prize of other significant collections, including those of the late Los Angeles Times owner Otis Chandler and Michigan enthusiast J. Peter Ministrelli, both known for the superb quality and presentation of their hand-chosen collections. The current restoration was performed some years ago, to a comprehensive modern concours standard, in a rich two-tone burgundy, and has been mechanically and cosmetically maintained to the very highest of standards.

The Castagna sports tourer is widely held to be among the most attractive and sporting bodies ever mounted to the Isotta Fraschini chassis. Indeed, the other extant example is a past Best of Show winner at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Both are arguably iconic and revered, and chassis 1664 may well be considered to be one of the most famous of all Isottas, by virtue of its numerous appearances in film and print. Its aura is summed up most succinctly by a description in the 2006 book, 365 Cars You Must Drive, featuring this very car: “Isottas were well crafted, a dream to drive, said you had both taste and money, and wanted something different. They still do.” It was true on the silver screen or on the open road.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

aweaver@rmsothebys.com

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

asabatie-garat@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

bruprecht@rmsothebys.com

+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig

dswig@rmsothebys.com

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

drose@rmsothebys.com

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

dgould@rmsothebys.com

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

gduff@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

jauerbach@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

kforry@rmsothebys.com

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

mmalamut@rmsothebys.com

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

msquire@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

mfairbairn@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

ocamelin@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

pdarvill@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

pfisher@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

smyers@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

tvandervelden@rmsothebys.com

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more