Around this time each year it’s nice to draw up a ‘wish list’ of things that, were I obscenely rich, I’d love to get myself as a holiday present. And if you’re Jeff Bezos, bored, reading this blog, and feeling spendy for some reason, this one is top of my list. What you see here is a car that not many are very familiar with. It comes from the firm Isdera, which doesn’t sound particularly German at all. But Isdera is an acronym for Ingenieurbüro fur Styling, DEsign und RAcing, which does seem particularly German. In fact, I’m surprised it’s not just one word. Anyway, Isdera was the brain child of Eberhard Schulz, who started off by building himself a sports car called the Erator GTE that looked very similar to the GT40, but had gullwing doors. Shulz worked for Porsche and Mercedes for a bit as a result of this impressive prototype, and later moved to the tuning firm B&B which ultimately led to the CW311 show car in 1978. Based upon Mercedes-Benz mechanical components and stylistically the successor to the Mercedes-Benz C111 rotary prototypes, Isdera then launched his own topless form of the CW311 called the Spyder 036i, 17 of which were made, and finally a ‘production’ version of the B&B CW311 called the Imperator 108i.
Not stasfied with 20-odd 108is produced through 1991, Shulz then dropped a 6-liter V12 in the middle of the chassis and hooked it to a Ruf-modified gearbox, Porsche suspension, a windshield wiper yanked from a Japanese Skinkansen bullet train, and a name befitting the founder of a certain Italian supercar maker. The result was stunning in 1993, and I’d argue it’s still pretty stunning today. And if you can pony up a whole lotta cash, the one existing example can be yours early next year.
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1993 Isdera Commendatore 112i at RM Southeby’s Paris Auction 2021
Model: Commendatore 112i
Engine: 6.0 liter V12
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Mileage: 6,300 mi
Location: Paris, France
Price: A lot.
The only Isdera Commendatore 112i built
Fitted with Mercedes-Benz’s iconic M120 V-12 engine, also found in the Pagani Zonda
Less than 10,500 km from new, presently road-registered in Germany
Offered directly from Isdera, an unrivalled opportunity to acquire a ground-breaking supercar from the original manufacturer
The story behind Isdera’s Commendatore originates in 1971, when a young Eberhard Schulz drove his homemade sportscar, the Erator GTE, to Porsche and Mercedes-Benz and persuaded them to give him a job in their design department. Schulz had very few recognizable qualifications, but eventually Porsche rightly considered the Erator in the car park evidence enough of his talent and ambition.
Despite working for Porsche, Schulz developed in his spare time a concept which should be considered as a successor to the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL. After departing Porsche, Eberhard Schulz joined B&B GmbH & Co Auto KG in Frankfurt/Main which allowed Schulz to finish the development and to build one prototype the CW311 which was shown in 1978 at the IAA at Frankfurt. To spice up the market reaction, B&B put a Mercedes-Benz star at the grill which was later sanctioned by Mercedes-Benz. After splitting from B&B, in 1982 Schulz setup his own company for small-series production, design and engineering services and named it Isdera (an abbreviation of Ingenieurbüro fur Styling, DEsign und RAcing). Starting with the Isdera Spyder, the dream of Schulz was always to introduce the road going version of the CW311. Eventually in 1983 the car was launched as Imperator 108i. Comparable with exotic sportscars of its day, it featured gullwing doors and was powered by Mercedes’ M117 5.0-litre V-8 engine, whilst much of the interior was sourced from OEM parts. Less than 20 examples were produced between 1983 and 1991, all built to order with each car taking a year to construct.
Not a man to rest on his laurels and in an era dominated by engine size, technological innovation, top speed, and visual drama, Schulz’s successor to the Imperator was a step up in every department. Unveiled in 1993 and named in honor of Enzo Ferrari himself, the Commendatore 112i was a far more thoroughbred affair than the Imperator it replaced: under the rear gullwing engine cover nestled a 6.0-litre Mercedes-Benz M120 V-12 engine, which had dual overhead camshafts on each bank and was capable of in excess of 400 bhp. Mercedes-Benz had never developed manual gearbox for the M120, so power was channeled to the rear wheels via a bespoke flywheel, driving a specially adapted version of a RUF Porsche gearbox by adding a sixth gear to achieve the desired max speed of 340km/h.
To minimize overall mass, the bodywork for the Commendatore was made out of GRP, whilst the chassis was a no-frills spaceframe affair that connected to the road by a similar suspension setup to the Porsche 928, albeit with an active function developed together with BBS and Bilstein that lowered the car by three inches at speed to reduce drag. Schulz was so concerned with reducing drag that Isdera developed and own windscreen wiper and a periscope mirror was favored in place of conventional wing mirrors; it was no secret that the 112i had sights on racing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where there was a premium on straight line speed for the Mulsanne sections. When tested in the Mercedes-Benz wind tunnel, the car returned a drag coefficient of just 0.306 in road going form, which unlocked a top speed the interesting side of the magic 200 mph barrier.
Sadly for Schulz, 1993 also coincided with an economic slump in Japan where the majority of Isdera’s funding originated and the company was forced into restructuring. As a result, the dream of participating at Le Mans vanished, as the Commendatore 112i was meant to homologate a Le Mans-eligible racing car. Fortunately, however, the project was somehow rescued by a Swiss consortium who took the original Commendatore to the 1999 Frankfurt IAA six years later, under a new name – ‘the Silver Arrow’. Gone though were the two-piece BBS racing wheels and the periscope rear view mirrors, replaced with more conventional five twin spoke alloys and wing mirrors akin to those found on the CLK GTR. The car was also featured in the 1997 videogame Need for Speed II for Playstation and PC, helping to build its cult following.
In the ensuing decade, the car was only offered for sale once by a renowned Swiss collector in 2005, who had owned the car since the 1999. By the end of 2016, Isdera managed to re-acquire it and set about returning it to its correct 1993 specification. It is in this guise that the car is offered for sale today. It boasts its correct BBS wheels, which had to be specially commissioned, Porsche Arctic Silver paintwork, Recaro blue and black trim and most importantly, the iconic Isdera periscope rear view mirror. Today, it has covered less than 10,500 km from new. Having been rebuilt with road-use in mind, the car is currently registered in Germany and was previously registered in Switzerland, showcasing that this is no museum piece, and a car best enjoyed on the open road. It is accompanied by an intriguing history file, as well as its certificate of authenticity from Isdera, confirming it to be the only example in existence.
Offered directly from Isdera, this is undoubtably one of the most interesting one-off automobiles built in the 1990’s. Modern one-off such as the Commendatore 112i are truly few and far between the automotive landscape and this car’s significance will surely only grow with time. It would not be surprising to see the Commendatore 112i attracting lots of attention at concours events in the coming years, alongside comparable boutique supercars developed in the 1990s, such as the Koenigsegg CC8S or Pagani Zonda C12s.
Needless to say, this is an unrepeatable opportunity to acquire a completely unique 1990s hyper-car with an exceptional story.
What is there to say? It’s perfect. I love the Arctic Silver Porsche-homage paintwork to set off the 928/68-style headlights. Matched with the gold BBS race wheels, it’s stunning if the shape weren’t already. Inside you get blue leather over the Recaro seats, and the splash of Mercedes-Benz DNA gives the weight of quality rather than a 1-of-1 build. While there were a lot of poster-style supercars in the late 80s through the 90s and it’s hard to just choose one, if I were pressed I think this would be it.