Want a mid-engined Mercedes? Tough luck, Richie Rich. Despite decades of building some of the most desirable sports and supercars to ever tear a tire and sublimate a straightaway, the amount of mid-engined cars with Mercedes’ tri-pointed star on the front grille can be counted on one hand. Recently, Mercedes-Benz stirred hearts—and offshore bank accounts—with its allegedly forthcoming Mercedes-AMG One hypercar that’s still stuck in development hell. But if it’s a low-slung Benz supercar you want, you’re stuck with hunting down one of the ultra-low-production CLK GTR homologation specials from 1998-1999, or “settling” for the AMG-sourced V-12 in either the Pagani Zonda or Huayra.
Or you could simply be the high-bidder on the one-of-one 1993 Isdera Commendatore 112i going up for grabs at RM Sotheby’s Paris sale next year, complete with a mid-mounted 6.0-liter Mercedes V-12. Never heard of Isdera? We’re not surprised, though the enigmatic boutique German automaker has remained someone paradoxically one of the more well-known obscure supercar marques of the 1980s and the 1990s with high-profile inclusions into Need for Speed II from 1997 and consistently making appearances on various “Forgotten Supercars” lists that populate the internet.
The story of Isdera starts sometime in 1971 with founder Eberhard Schulz and his home-brewed Erator GTE supercar. After showcasing this mid-engined concoction to managers at Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, the latter hired him into its design department. Little is known as to what Schulz worked on while at Porsche, but during his free time he remained busy developing another mid-engine prototype sports car he envisioned as the successor to the mighty Mercedes-Benz 300SL.
Schulz left Porsche for the “bb” tuning company headed by Rainer Buchmann, where he completed the so-named CW311 prototype that later became the Isdera 108i after he left bb to start the Isdera firm. The Isdera 108i is best considered a roadworthy and semi-production evolution of the CW311, incorporating a downsized version of the prototype’s AMG-fettled 6.8-liter V-8 and smoothing out some of the CW311’s wackier tech and user-unfriendly features, though the 108i retained the periscope-style rearview mirror and gullwing doors from the CW311.
Between 1984 and 1993, allegedly less than 20 108is were produced, making it one of the lowest-volume supercars of its era. That’s not for a lack of performance or desirability; the Mercedes V-8—starting at 5.0 liters and gradually ballooning to 6.0 liters in the final evolution—returned contemporaneously strong numbers, starting at 300 hp and topping out at 390 hp. It propelled the car to a top speed just shy of 200 mph.
In 1993, Isdera revealed the stupendously sleek and streamlined 112i Commendatore as the 108i’s successor. Named in honor of Enzo Ferrari himself, the 112i was a significant improvement on the outgoing 108i, particularly in the engine bay; where the 108i housed a V-8, the 112i packed a M120 6.0-liter naturally aspirated Mercedes-Benz V-12. Though the M120 is most commonly found in the contemporary Mercedes W140 S- and CL-Class cars, evolutions of the M120 were used in the iconic Pagani Zonda and the aforementioned CLK GTR. Mercedes never adapted the M120 for use with a manual transmission, so Isdera worked with RUF to develop a custom flywheel to match a rejiggered RUF six-speed manual transmission.
The M120 was also used in the stillborn Mercedes C112 concept from 1991, a gullwinged super-coupe that likely provided both stylistic and spiritual inspiration for the 112i, as evidenced by the parallels in powertrain, name, and longtail silhouette. Beyond aesthetics, there’s a good reason for the 112i’s rather elongated profile; Schulz planned on running the car at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where the 112i’s super slippery design allowed for a 211-mph top speed perfect for charging down the famous Mulsanne Straight.
Weight was kept to a minimum with fiberglass bodywork laid over a spaceframe, hiding active suspension from a Porsche 928 augmented by BBS and Bilstein that lowered the car three inches to reduce drag during high-speed runs. Like the preceding 108i, the 112i made use of a roof-mounted periscope rearview mirror in lieu of side mirrors, alongside bespoke windshield wipers and pop-up headlights from a Porsche 968 that sit flush when not in use.
As was the unfortunate case for so many prototypes and planned supercars, the financial troubles of Japan’s post-bubble economy—where much of Isdera’s funding was sourced—caused the 112i to forgo its plans as Isdera’s homologation prototype for the FIA and Le Mans. Funding was subsequently picked up by a “Swiss consortium,” according to RM Sothebys, which re-debuted the 112i as the “Silver Arrow” at the 1999 Frankfurt auto show with new wheels and a traditional set of wing mirrors in place of the original’s two-piece BBS wheels and periscope unit.
Following the public debut, the Silver Arrow was sold to a Swiss businessman and collector for a reported $2.6 million (adjusted for inflation), where it remained in his care until 2010, when Isdera re-purchased the car and restored it back to original Commendadore 112i specification with BBS wheels, a blue and black-trimmed interior, and the periscope mirror. Wearing 6,500 miles as of the auction, the 112i is in perfect mechanical condition and is ready for drives, shows, and events.
If you plan to keep it in Europe or the U.K., however, you might want to keep an eye on the event attendee list, as you might not be the only 112i on the docket. Officially, the silver Commendatore 112i is the lone 112i built and finished by Isdera, but the automaker did complete an additional 112i subframe in the early 1990s before funding fell through. The frame was purchased by an Isdera enthusiast from the automaker with the intention of making another 112i, and the original body molds and tooling were used to complete a second 112i over the course of six years. However, following a dispute between the builder and Isdera over proposed upgrades to the design, both Schulz and Isdera withdrew support and acknowledgement of the project, making the silver 112i the only official Commendatore in existence.
Price? Well, let’s just say it won’t come cheap, but don’t expect this to set any market records. If we had to guess, we expect the final hammer to fall between $1,000,000 and $3,000,000. Head over to RM Sothebys to register as a bidder and check out even more on the 112i.