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A Unique 1929 Isotta Fraschini 8A Floyd-Derham Convertible Sedan – A Loving Tribute

John Shibles, owner of this outstanding 1929 Isotta-Fraschini 8A Floyd-Derham Convertible Sedan discusses it’s history and a tribute to his wife in a video above, courtesy of the Pebble Beach Concours d’ Elegance.

Sometimes an unfortunate event long ago has an unforeseen positive result many years later. Such was the case when Joseph J. Derham, founder of the famous coach building firm that bore his name, died unexpectedly at the age of 63 in 1928. The tragic event caused friction between his sons about the direction the company should take with the eventual result that son Phillip left the family business and set up shop on his own.

Entering into a partnership with well established Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania based European car importer William Floyd who financed the operation, he established the Floyd-Derham Company in 1928. A very few outstanding cars were produced before Floyd pulled the plug on the fledgling operation just before the Crash of 1929. This is one of them. The combination of a body from such a short-lived coach builder on a rare, high quality chassis makes this automobile truly one-of-a-kind. It would not exist but for that family rift eighty-five years ago.

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  • Photos above and below as shown at the 2013 Pebble Beach Concours d’ Elegance, courtesy of Richard Michael Owen of  Supercars.net 

The Tipo 8A was built to be one of the world’s finest cars from the outset and developed a splendid reputation. The new OHC 7.4 liter 115 horsepower straight eight engine was designed to replace a 5.9 liter unit used in the earlier Tipo 8. The powerful Isotta straight-eight had built up an enviable reputation, as the firm was the first to built a production model of the engine type in 1912. It was backed by a three speed transmission and set in a 145 inch wheelbase chassis.

Semi-elliptic leaf spring suspension was used front and rear along with the company’s advanced mechanical four wheel drum brakes which were always state of the art. They were one of the pioneering forces behind four-wheel brakes, having developed them and put them into production in the early teens. The cars were built without regard to cost. Prices rivaled and in some cases surpassed those of contemporary Duesenbergs.

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  • Lavish ostrich hide upholstery is featured in Mr. Shibles elegant automobile. It was restored by Steven Babinski’s Automotive Restorations Inc.

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K.W. Stillman covered the twenty fourth annual New York Automobile Salon for Automotive Industries in their December 8, 1928 issue. The opening paragraph of his article as follows sums up the significance of our feature car which was on display there:

“The twenty fourth annual New York Automobile Salon, which has been in progress in New York all this week is probably one of the best exhibitions ever held in this country. With all the leading ‘carrossiers’ of the world offering their latest developments in body designs and with several new chassis being presented to the public for the first time, public interest in the exhibition has been high all week.”

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The illustration above shows the front of a Castagna-bodied Isotta-Fraschini 8A, also on display at the same show. The characteristics of the coachwork by Floyd-Derham on our feature car are described below by Stillman in his further coverage of the Salon.

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You’ll find more coverage of some of the very special cars that have been at the Concours in our previous posts, and see more about next year’s Pebble Beach Concours d’ Elegance here.

2 responses to “A Unique 1929 Isotta Fraschini 8A Floyd-Derham Convertible Sedan – A Loving Tribute

  1. I met John Shibles at Steve Babinsky’s shop in NJ on one of my numerous visits there over the past 2 years. John is a great guy, true enthusiast and lover of history, this car could not have a better home then with John as owner. The colors are perfect and great restraint has been kept to not overload it with to many lamps etc. It captures the “right” period look that so many owners today forsake for non period colors on their pre war cars because they feel “the car is theirs” and they can paint it any color they want. Great post and to hear John’s comments. thanks very much.

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