Luxury brands, so ardently coveted, seemingly so permanent, can prove as fleeting as the wealth that purchases them. In the automotive arena, some of the brands’ names that once inspired envy now bring only blank looks. Herewith we take a look back at the automotive marques that you may not know, but that, to your father or grandmother or great-grandfather, might have symbolized success even more so than a silver walking stick and a silk top hat.
While the Italian automaker Isotta-Fraschini—which combined the surnames of its two founders—was founded at the turn of the century, it concentrated exclusively on the luxury market after World War I, with the introduction of the Tipo 8. The car featured an aluminum-block straight-eight and was sold as a bare chassis only; all were custom bodied. In the Roaring Twenties, the brand was a favorite of Hollywood stars, including Rudolph Valentino and the fictional Norma Desmond of Sunset Boulevard (a classic movie that many have now forgot). Isottas ferried royalty, including the King of Egypt and the Queen of Romania as well as captains of industry, such as William Randolph Hearst.