The first Zagato-bodied sedan featured prominent vents for the 8C's rear side-mounted radiators.

David Durochik

1931-1934 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8B

In spring 1931, the improved Tipo 8B was introduced. The engine block, pistons, and connecting rods of its 7.4-liter eight-in-line were made of a new nickel-steel alloy. Output climbed to 160 bhp at 3000 rpm. A three-speed transmission remained standard equipment, but a four-speed Wilson pre-selective gearbox could be ordered.

Unfortunately, there was little welcome for such a car. The stock-market crisis of 1929 that touched off the Great Depression in the United States dried up the pool of wealthy Americans who had been good customers for earlier Isotta Fraschinis. Shock waves from the crash were felt in other countries as well, further reducing the ranks of potential purchasers for a marque that relied on exports.

The U.S. price for a bare Tipo SB chassis was nearly $10,000 when a complete 1931 V-16 Cadillac cost at most about $8,800. Bugatti, Packard, and Mercedes-Benz also had fantastic reputations, and their cars were dramatically less expensive. Even in the best of times, Isotta Fraschini only constructed about 100 cars annually; after the Depression set in, the market for luxury cars naturally declined and this number decreased from year to year to mere handfuls of production thereafter.

Not that the company didn't attempt steps to improve its position. Messrs. Isotta and Fraschini bowed out of the firm's affairs in 1922. The succeeding ownership, headed by Count Lodovico Mazzotti, undertook negotiations with none other than Henry Ford in 1930-1931 for a manufacturing deal that could have pumped new life into the Milanese factory's car-making operations. But these talks faced one imposing obstacle.

The motoring press got its first peek at the car at the 1947 Mille Miglia. By then, a front-mounted radiator was fitted and Zagato had revised the bodywork.

David Durochik

Benito Mussolini -- II Duce (The Leader) -- and his Fascist Party were in complete control of Italy's industry and commerce. Intent both on keeping Isotta Fraschini focused on building aero engines for Italy's rearmament and opposing foreign investment, the government prohibited all further contact with the Americans.

Cattaneo resigned in 1933. His leaving brought to an end the era of a glorious automobile. Six months later, in the summer of 1934, the last Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8B left the assembly line, only 30 units having been produced since 1931.

For more information on the 1947-1948 Isotta Fraschini 8C Monterosa classic sports car, continue on to the next page.

For more information on cars, see: