Imagine you are fortunate enough to not only collect rare and special watches but also have a knack for special cars. In essence, you have a taste for the finer things in life and dare to spend some money to fulfil your desires. Would you opt for something new and mainstream, or rather something unique and maybe a bit left-field but oh-so-special? If a Mercedes V12, pop-up headlights, Gullwing doors AND Gullwing engine covers tickle your senses, you’re in luck! Today we take a look at a one-off sports car heading for auction and the company that built it; the 1993 Commendatore 112i by Isdera.
The 1980s and 1990s were a strange time for many reasons, but also spawned some of the most iconic sports and supercars ever made. The Ferrari F40, Lamborghini Countach, McLaren F1, Jaguar XJ220, Bugatti EB110 and Porsche 959 are perhaps the most familiar ones. As always, many others took a chance to find a segment of the market and get the wildest cars you can imagine on the road. Most of these never made it past the stage of a mere idea, often lamented as vapourware. But every now and then a plan comes along that looks so promising, and is backed by the right people and companies, that it comes to fruition as an actual road-legal car.
Ingenieurburö für Styling, Design und Racing, abbreviated to Isdera AG, has a fascinating history. It all began with Eberhard Schulz on the hunt for a job in the automotive sector in the 1970s. He decided it was a good idea to quite literally show what he was capable of. He built a Ford GT40-inspired car and drove it to Porsche and Mercedes-Benz. Porsche ended up hiring him on the spot! After about eight years he parted with Porsche and joined B&B, a German tuning company, where he designed the Mercedes-Benz CW311 concept car as a “successor” to the legendary Mercedes-Benz 300SL. Even though it wore a Mercedes badge it never made it into production.
Not deterred by this, Eberhard Schulz launched his own brand – Isdera – in 1981 and a year later their first car was presented; the Isdera Spyder 033. The design was very similar to the Mercedes CW311 concept and was carried on in the Isdera 108i in 1984, perhaps his best-known design. It featured a slightly updated design, with a 5.0 V8 by Mercedes in the rear with even larger and more powerful V8’s later on in life. It had a fibreglass body and was facelifted in 1991. In total, about 30 Imperator 108i cars were built over a 9 year period.
The successor to the 108i was the Commendatore 112i, as a homage to Enzo Ferrari. Commendatore translates to Knight Commander in Italian. In comparison to the earlier cars by Isdera, the Commendatore 112i was a much sleeker design, mainly taking inspiration from the Group C endurance racers like the Porsche 956 and 962 series or the Sauber C9 for instance. Development was started in the late eighties but it wasn’t until 1993 that the final prototype was presented. It featured a design that took some cues from the 108i and Spyder cars, like the roof-mounted rear-view mirror and pop-up headlights, things that set it aside from other cars really. The most noticeable feature thought, and a solid ten on the cool-scale, was the Gullwing doors and Gullwing engine covers. It not only looks epically cool, but it also reveals the engine and tubular chassis underneath.
Power came from a 6.0 V12 by Mercedes, which later founds its way into the Pagani Zonda. It produced a little over 400bhp, which meant the Isdera Commendatore 112i could hit 60mph in about 4 seconds and had a top speed of 340kph. Considering this is a car from 1993, it was really, really fast! Only one car was built and even though it is a running prototype, it did get approval to be used as a road car later on. Sadly the economic crisis killed the project and production never started as funds dried up.
By 1999 the car was in the hands of a Swiss consortium, which updated it into the Isdera “Silver Arrow.” It had new wheels, however, and gone was that special roof-mounted mirror. Wikipedia mentions it also had a new engine, again a Mercedes-sourced V12 but now with 600bhp. I couldn’t find any immediate indication this is true though and the car is currently listed with the original specifications. Re-acquired by Isdera in 2016, the process to bring it back to former glory was started. Now, some 18 years after it was first presented the unique Isdera Commendatore 112i is coming up for auction by RM Sotheby’s on the 13th of February. It is in stellar, working condition and could mean a lot of fun for the new owner but I imagine this will be stored as a showpiece rather than be used as it was intended. Nevertheless, a fascinating piece of automotive history!
The company is still in business and in 2006 they built the Isdera Autobahnkurier 116i as a homage to cars from the 1930s, fitted with not one but two V8 engines. It is an eclectic mix of classical automotive styling, reminiscent of the Bugatti Royale and the Mercedes 540K, yet with a fully modern interior. The pair of engines provided 600bhp but the decision was made to limit the speed to 240kph. The machine was very thirsty, as the 145-litre fuel tank only offered about 350km range. More on this car on MercedesHeritage.com. In 2018 Isdera also presented an electric car, the Commendatore GT, but to me, it’s unclear if this is still in development.