Isotta Fraschini is an automaker that’s largely unknown today, but back in their pre-Depression heyday they were globally recognised as a leader in the production of luxury automobiles – second only to Rolls-Royce in fame and reputation.

The company started life in 1900 as a small Italian outfit that assembled and sold early Renault automobiles, by 1904 the company was producing its own car and by 1905 Isotta Fraschini had built and entered a monstrously powerful 17.2 litre (1,050 cubic inch), 100hp car in the first Coppa Florio road race running from Brescia through Cremona and Mantova before arriving back in Brescia in time for appertivo.

Isotta Fraschini flourished in the 1910s and 1920s due to the booming American economy, movie stars and business tycoons would regularly be seen driving the opulent Italian automobiles – which did the marque no harm in building its reputation and competing with Rolls-Royce.

The car you see here is a 1927 Isotta Fraschini 8A S Roadster, it was originally ordered by silent film star Rudolf Valentino who was in the process of filming the movie Cobra – the coachbuilders at Fleetwood who had been tasked with bodying the 8A S felt that the cobra hood ornament would be a nice touch. Sadly, Valentino died suddenly of complications from appendicitis in mid-1926 and as a result he was never able to take delivery of the car, which instead passed on into slightly less famous ownership.

By the late 20th century the 8A S Roadster had found its way into the private collection of the Browning family of Utah (heirs to the Browning firearm fortune), in the early 2000s the car changed hands again – this time landing in the possession of noted classic car collector Judge Joe Cassini who commissioned a body off, frame up restoration.

The car is now in concours condition and has been shown extensively in the USA, its next major outing will be the Hilton Head Island Concours d’Elegance due to be held on the 24th of October to the 26th in Savannah, Georgia before moving to Hilton Head Island for the 1st and 2nd of November 2014.

Isotta Fraschini 3

Isotta Fraschini 1

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Isotta Fraschini 2

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Ben Branch has had his work featured on CNN, Popular Mechanics, the official Smithsonian Magazine, Road & Track Magazine, the official Pinterest blog, the official eBay Motors blog, BuzzFeed, and many more.

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