If you live in a zip code where a Bugatti Chiron is a common sight, and all of your neighbors already have a Pininfarina Battista on order, auction house RM Sotheby’s has just what it takes for you to stand out. It’s selling a 1993 Isdera Commendatore 112i, which is a one-off supercar that elevates esoteric design to an art form.
While its name sounds Italian, and it was indeed chosen as a tribute to Enzo Ferrari, the Commendatore 112i was the brainchild of German engineer Eberhard Schulz. RM Sotheby’s explained he landed a job in Porsche’s design department by driving a home-made sports car he named Erator GTE to the company’s headquarters and showing it off to anyone willing to give him a few minutes of their time. He left Porsche and worked for a small firm named B&B before forming Isdera, which is short for Ingenieurbüro fur Styling, DEsign und RAcing.
Schulz’s dream was always to make a modern version of the Mercedes-Benz 300SL, and Isdera’s first car explored what the coupe might look like in the 1980s. Its second model, the Commendatore 112i, was developed to be more extreme than its predecessor in every single way, ranging from design to performance. Instead of a V8 engine, Isdera borrowed the 6.0-liter V12 that Mercedes-Benz put in the S-Class (W140) and the SL (R129) — and that later ended up in the Pagazi Zonda — and stuffed it right behind the passenger compartment.
Isdera wanted a stick-shift, and Mercedes-Benz didn’t have a suitable transmission in its parts bin, so the young carmaker sourced a five-speed manual transmission from famed Porsche tuner RUF and added a sixth gear to it. When all was said and done, the 400-horsepower 12-cylinder sent the 112i to a top speed of 211 mph.
BBS and Bilstein helped Isdera develop an active suspension system that lowered the ride height by three inches at high speeds to reduce drag. Schulz went as far as making his own windshield wipers for the Commendatore rather than using off-the-shelf components, and he fitted a periscope instead of side mirrors to improve its drag coefficient. RM Sotheby’s points out the young carmaker wanted to enter its newest creation in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Many start-ups talk endlessly; this one created a fully functional and surprisingly impressive car.
Had everything panned out, we may be writing about Isdera’s plans for the 2020s, or looking at how its newest model fares against the competition. However, a big chunk of the company’s funding came from Japan, and it vanished when the Japanese economy slowed down in 1993. There would be no Le Mans entry, no low-volume supercar, and no magazine covers. Isdera went silent, but the 112i’s story doesn’t end there; far from it.
Swiss investors courageously attempted to reboot the project by putting the Commendatore in “Need for Speed II” released in 1997 for the original PlayStation and PC. Later, they made a handful of visual changes to the car, like replacing the submarine-like periscope, and displayed it at the 1999 edition of the Frankfurt Motor Show, where it was presented as the Silver Arrow. It was sold, and it went through the hands of several owners before Isdera purchased it and returned it to its 1993 specifications. It’s now selling the Commendatore for the second time.
RM Sotheby’s notes that the odometer reads about 10,500 kilometers, which represents around 6,600 miles, and that the car is currently registered in Germany, meaning it’s theoretically street-legal anywhere in the European Union. It was previously registered in Switzerland, so can be re-registered there, too, but enthusiasts who want to drive it on American soil will need to either apply for a show and display permit or wait until it turns 25.
What’s a one-off supercar in like-new condition being sold by the people who built it worth? RM hasn’t provided a pre-auction estimate, so the bidders in the room (physically or virtually) when the Commendatore crosses the auction block in Paris in 2021 will ultimately decide its value. There’s no reserve, so someone is taking it home.