Isotta Fraschini represents two Italian manufacturing companies which produce, respectively, marine engines and luxury goods. In the early 20th century it was famous worldwide as a luxury car manufacturer. The first automobile bearing this marque featured a four-cylinder engine with an output of 24 hp. The car, driven by Vincenzo Fraschini, appeared in several races. In 1905, Isotta-Fraschini gained notoriety in the Coppa Florio, where they entered a Tipo D with an enormous 17.2-litre (1,050 cu in) 100 horsepower (75 kW) engine. For a short time in 1907, Isotta-Fraschini merged with French automobile company Lorraine-Dietrich. The firm started out making race cars using this same 100 horsepower (75 kW) engine, establishing the company’s reputation and gave its name considerable cachet. It was also one of the first cars with four-wheel brakes, following their invention by the Arrol-Johnson Company of Scotland in 1909. They were also among the early pioneers of OHC, with an engine designed by Giustino Cattaneo. In 1924, the Type D was one of the first European cars with an eight-cylinder engine (following the first production straight eight by Rolls-Royce in 1905).
The die struck, chrome plated copper and handcrafted enamel shows that this is a quality badge. It meassures appr. 44x70mmm, weighs 70 grams and has two mounting screws and nuts on its backside for easy fitting to any car.
With the growth of the wealthy middle class in North America in the 1920s, Isotta Fraschini marketed deluxe limousines to the new American aristocracy. Early film stars Clara Bow and Rudolph Valentino drove Isotta Fraschinis. A 1929 Tipo 8A Castagna Transformable is featured in the 1950 film Sunset Boulevard and another appears in the 1934 film, Death Takes a Holiday with Fredrik March. An Isotta also makes a featured appearance in the 1946 film Without Reservations with John Wayne and Claudette Colbert.
Seriously affected by the economic crisis of the 1930s and by the disruptions of World War II, Isotta-Fraschini stopped making cars after the war (1949). Only five of the last model, the Monterosa, were produced. The plants were converted to produce marine engines.
The company was still left on the company register and in 1955 it was merged with engine manufacturer Breda Motori and named F.A. Isotta Fraschini e Motori Breda. The company started to produce trolley buses again and in 1960s built a new diesel engine factory in Bari. In the 1980s the company was renamed Isotta Fraschini Motori SpA and it became part of Fincantieri group, with administrative headquarters in the old factory in Bari.
In 1990-s attempts to revive the automotive industry of Isotta-Fraschini were made. Concept-car coupe and roadster Isotta-Fraschini T8 were built in 1996, and concept-car roadster Isotta-Fraschini T12 was built in 1998.
In 1908, Vincenzo Trucco won the Targa Floria with an Isotta Fraschini Type I.