#0094 - Isotta-Fraschini Tipo 8A Cabriolet by Fleetwood, 1927
Photographed: Radnor Hunt Concours d'Elegance, 2011. Owner: Joseph Cassini, III & Margie Cassini
Close Enough: A few examples of this body style exist, two on Isotta-Fraschini 8A chassis. The name of Rudolph Valentino is often shuttled around in reference to this car, although it is not the one ordered by the famous actor, but rather the second exercise patterned after his specification. A Mercedes-Benz also took the same coachwork around this time.
That said, the execution of shape is marvelous, with sweeping manta wing front fenders and linear elements back through the length of the body. It's daring compared to a Castagna bodied car—mightily imposing instead of beautifully delicate—and lives up to the attitude posed by its cobra mascot.
Black paint might as well be called concours black these days, at least in the spirit of retail red, because like it was in the eighties when you wanted to sell a sports car and it had to be red, today if you want to impress at Pebble Beach, it's got to be black. That's the wisdom of the moment. However, black is like a sounding board for these classics. In many ways it strips away the problem of appealing too much or too little to someone's individual taste, and instead puts all focus on the shape.
In a similar vein, black allows for other elements to jump out, as in the incredible, exotic leather trim throughout the compartment and rumble seat on this car. (By the way, information would be greatly appreciated on this aspect.) And the craftsmen at RM Restorations gave the wheels a similar copper treatment as seen on our Talbot-Lago T-150 C Roadster. The same stunning wheel arrangement is also notable on period Mercedes-Benz, again matching the coachwork connection these two marques share respective to their great luxury achievements of the late twenties.
Fleetwood, Beyond Cadillac: Not too far from where this car was photographed, Fleetwood turned to the automotive coachwork industry in 1909, baring ties to industrial manufacturing in both Reading and Kutztown. I should note the geography is interesting as my mother is a Kutztown graduate, whereas I went to Franklin & Marshall just down the road some ways in Lancaster. (No further Pennsylvania connections are claimed, however, as I'm a Baltimore kid.)
Anyhow, Fleetwood became synonymous with Cadillac style during the classic era, a namesake doted upon by General Motors throughout the balance of the twentieth century, and in spite of the fact that the now more obscure Fisher Brothers company was the parent coachbuilder. It's fair to say mainstream American styling was driven by Cadillac in the thirties, and most of the body work was delivered under the Fleetwood moniker. Prior to this great liaison, few coachwork exercises have the flair and presence of this design, making it one of the best Fleetwood has to offer in their history.
Ironic, then, that it comes on the chassis of an Italian luxury craft. It's the stuff of international motoring passion—Hollywood celebrities and middle-east royalty ordering the most expensive cars with the most selective, individualistic bodies. Fleetwood would be known as the king clothier of Cadillac production lines, much like Dietrich was for Packard, but this design goes down as a stand-out performance.
Want to known about Fleetwood? Everything is here at Coachbuilt.com.
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