Antique convertible enchants passersby at the Glickman Tower
With its ostrich leather seats and German silver and English walnut running boards, the antique automobile owned by newspaper publisher Peter T. Boyle made quite a statement while on display in June in the Glickman Tower lobby.
Passersby gravitated to the 1928 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A SS, one of only two vehicles of its particular style ever shipped to America. It was made by the world-famous Italian company Isotta Fraschini, which at one time produced a series of luxury vehicles that rivaled Britain’s iconic Rolls-Royce.
Mr. Boyle, whose family owns The Derrick in Oil City, Pa., bought it from a Florida collector in 2005 and had it completely restored by D&D Classic Automobile Restoration of Covington, Ohio, under the direction of Roger James.
Both Mr. Boyle, a Cleveland Clinic heart patient and supporter, and Mr. James were on hand during the June exhibit, which was presented by the Arts & Medicine Institute and aptly titled “The Art of Automobile Design.” Mr. Boyle, in fact, refers to his car as “rolling sculpture.”
The exhibit was a gift to Cleveland Clinic, providing a rare chance to glimpse the impeccable workmanship of this classic convertible. As Mr. Boyle noted, “Cars like this are not on every street corner.”
He relished pointing out the car’s unusual features, including its silver-plated “Spirit of Triumph” hood ornament. He popped open the door to a narrow right-side compartment, revealing a set of antique golf clubs and balls nestled in an antique golf bag.
The car has a distinctive shape, with the back end coming to a point like the tail of a boat. It also has a single rumble seat, another unusual feature.
Beyond aesthetics, the Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A SS can hold its own on the road, according to Mr. James. “In 1928, it was guaranteed to do 100, so it was ahead of its time,” he said. “It even has power brakes – unheard of at the time.”
After restoration, Mr. Boyle and Mr. James shipped the car to Pebble Beach, Calif., where it was on display for the first time in more than 60 years. It also proved that it is still roadworthy. “We drove it in California on Highway 1 and Big Sur,” Mr. James said. “We had it up to about 75. I have no doubt it would do 100. It has plenty of power left.”
The car’s original owners were silent movie star Marguerite Clark and her husband, aviation pioneer Harry Williams. Of the actress, Mr. James said, “Everyone knows of her. You just don’t know you do.” Ms. Clark played the part of Snow White on Broadway. In the audience for one of her performances was a young Walt Disney, who drew his cartoon character of Snow White in Marguerite Clark’s image.
“To find a car with this much history just makes it wonderful,” said Mr. James, who has been restoring cars since 1985. Of all the cars he’s worked on, “This is way up there,” he said. “Top 5.”
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