Isdera Commendatore 112i

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The supercar story is often the same: a talented designer or engineer develops a quick vehicle that appeals to himself, a few are built, and eventually the whole endeavour goes bust.

To establish yourself in the automotive business takes someone like Horacio Pagani at the helm. He's so talented and fastidious in matters of design and engineering that his vehicles have been highly sought-after since the first Zonda made its debut.

There is only one Horacio Pagani, Ferdinand Porsche, André Lefebvre, Colin Chapman, Soichiro Honda…you get the idea.

When Eberhard Schulz, an artist and self-taught engineer, decided to built his first car, the Erator GT, maybe he wasn't aware that the odds were against him. 

Of course not—he drove the Erator GT to the offices of Mercedes-Benz and then, when they didn't pay much attention, to Porsche. It worked: the sports car maker hired him in 1971. 

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Schulz left in 1978 to work for German tuning company  b&b and, after developing a few models decided to found his own company, Isdera.

Isdera stands for Ingenieurbüro (Engineering company) für Styling, DEsign und RAcing. All models were hand built and, after a supremely ambitious first project in 1982 called the Spyder 033, Isdera spend the next few years completing a few orders as it gradually faded from the public eye.

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Nearly 10 years after their first model, Isdera launched the Commendatore 112i. "Knight Commander" in Italian, the title used when one is awarded knighthood in Italy. Interestingly, Enzo Ferrari's nickname was "Il Commendatore."

After six years in development, the car was among the world's fastest when introduced to the public. With its stunning looks—long, low, and lean—and gullwing doors, it blended crisp teutonic styling with the latest technology.

Standing just 39 inches tall, the Commendatore 112i was smartly-packaged to fit its active suspension and mammoth engine.

Standing just 39 inches tall, the Commendatore 112i was smartly-packaged to fit its active suspension and mammoth engine.

An active air brake and an active suspension were the headline features, but the low drag body—and flat underfloor—showed the world that Isdera was capable of producing a cutting-edge design. 

Powered by a mid-mounted Mercedes-Benz V12 with more than 400 horsepower, the initial version could hit 342 km/h (213 mph). A few years later, with 611 horsepower, top speed was pegged at an incredible 370 km/h (230 mph)—a number that holds up, even today.

The Commendatore 112i is one of my all-time favourite super cars, simply because it could run neck and neck with any of the fastest "conventional"—non-hybrid—supercars. It's not even much slower than a Bugatti Veyron! A shame, then, that the car is largely unknown today.

Two were made, but after difficulties in selling it to customers, Isdera again stepped out of the limelight until its next car was revealed.

But that's a story for another day.

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