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1931 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A Coupe Martini Publicity Car

The Three Lives of the Martini & Rossi Isotta Fraschini Coupe

Reader Bernard Berkein of Belgium sent in this pair of photos of a streamlined Isotta Fraschini with custom coachwork and a very interesting story. The car is likely to be one of the last of the Tipo 8A models produced that were powered by a 7.4-liter OHC straight-8. It was delivered new with a sedan body in February of 1931 to Mr. Willy Dombre, head of the famous Grand Hotel Villa d’Este on Lake Como in Italy. In 1932, he sold the car to Mr. Piero Noseda, a gentleman from a wealthy family living in Como.

Four years later on February 4, 1936, Noseda sold the car to Count Rossi of Martini & Rossi, well-known for the vermouth and wines that it produces. Shortly thereafter, the company decided to replace its publicity car (a Delage bodied by Chapron) as it had been in an accident. The newly-purchased Isotta was next sent to the Turin, Italy based Carrozzeria Viotti where this exceptional aerodynamic coupe coachwork was constructed.

According to Berkein, Count Revelli, who was the chief designer for Viotti at the time, produced the drawings for this coachwork. It was completed with a dorsal fin and rear fender skirts of the style that were popular in the late-1930s. The Viotti Coupe was used in Italy for publicity purposes until 1939 when it was shipped to the newly opened Belgian branch of Martini & Rossi. After the war, the car was used at many bicycle and automobile races by Martini.

  • 1931 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A Coupe Martini Publicity Car
  • The Isotta with the new Viotti Coupe coachwork at a bicycle race in the 1930s.

In the early-fifties, the car then being close to thirty years old was quite mechanically outdated, and it was decided to place the coupe coachwork on a more modern chassis. Unfortunately, they could not find one that was as long as the Isotta chassis, and a shorter one from 1937 Lincoln Zephyr V12 was utilized.

The job was performed by an outfit possibly called Ets. Vermeulen, located in Schaarbeek, near Brussels, Belgium. The front of the car received changes and different fenders, the rear fenders were altered by adding some sheet metal and sections of Lincoln fenders. The Englebert Magazine featured the photo of the car below in 1954.

  • 1931 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A Coupe Martini Publicity Car
  •                             The “Englebert Magazine” featured the rebuilt car in 1954.

By 1968, the car was no longer being used, and Martini decided to send it to a wrecking yard. After a time, the yard sold the car, and it changed hands numerous times thereafter. It was bought, sold, and used by a restaurant, a discotheque, and several used car dealers. After 25 years of trying to purchase it, Berkein finally succeeded in buying the car from the last used car dealer who owned it, but in a rather sad state. At that point it was minus its dorsal fin and Martini bottle, some of the interior fittings, the seats, and wheels.

Berkein has been working at restoring the car to its former glory and is recreating the dorsal fin and the missing interior pieces. Hopefully, someday a period Isotta Fraschini chassis and engine will be found, and the body can be transferred on to it. We wish him well with the endeavor.

The photo below courtesy of the Registro Italiano Alfa Romeo shows for comparison purposes a 8C 2500 S Alfa Romeo with a very similar body attributed to Viotti. The photo was taken in East Africa on February 5, 1939, at a rally. This Viotti creation has also survived.  You can view many more streamliners here on The Old Motor and other Isotta Fraschini automobiles.

6C 2500 S Alfa Romeo with Viotti coachwork

5 responses to “The Three Lives of the Martini & Rossi Isotta Fraschini Coupe

  1. I have owners manuals for both my tipo8 and for an tipo8a . They are both OHV. And to my knowledge all their 8 cylinder in line motors were OHV. What an amazing body! Lyndon.

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