At the 1993 IAA Frankfurt Motor Show, Isdera showed the all new Commendatore 112i, a car that had been six years in the making. Isdera founder Eberhard Schulz was once again the man behind both engineering and design, as with the predecessor, the Imperator 108i, and the Commendatore’s long, sleek design was obviously inspired by Le Mans racers, and returned a 0.306 Cd readout in the wind tunnel. The mechanics and drivetrain were comprised of components from Mercedes-Benz and some even found at Porsche. To call the massive Mercedes-Benz V12 a component is quite an understatement, as this 6-litre powerhouse delivered 408 hp and would propel the nearly 1.5-tonne car from zero to 100 km/h in 4.6 seconds and onto a top speed of 342 km/h, which in 1993 was top-of-the-game performance. Sadly, shortly after the launch, Isdera went bankrupt, and the Commendatore remained a one-off. However, they had made a spare chassis…
Fast forward to the early 2010’s, when an Isdera enthusiast inquired about the spare chassis, which was hanging from the roof as decoration. This man’s intention was to build the second Commendatore, a formidable challenge, seeing as the first one was essentially a prototype and that he would have to build the car at home in his garage. Undeterred by the obstacles ahead, he got underway, sourcing the components, even having a special gearbox made to fit within the chassis. You’re probably thinking by now; how would one go about recreating that striking outer bodywork? Thankfully, the answer came in the use of the original molds, in which fibre glass created those elegant curves and lines. As with the original launch car, this second Commendatore took six years to reach completion, and I was lucky enough to pay this talented man and his Commendatore a visit.
Finished in a classic Hellelfenbein (light ivory) colour, the Commendatore was an impressive view, radiating presence and that 90’s coolness. Seeing the garage in which it was built only added to the feat, as it could have passed for any other ordinary garage. The gullwing doors were opened, and I was invited to try out the driver seat, and by means of human origami, I eventually found myself seated behind the wheel. This car wasn’t made for people taller than 1.80 metres, and my 1.90 and a bit even struggled to fit in the passenger seat when we prepared to head out on the road. The quietness in the rumble from the V12 behind the seats was somewhat surprising, but then I remembered that the Commendatore was made to be a fast GT, your weapon of choice for long drives on the Autobahn, not for throwing it into corner after corner on the track.
The lazy Saturday morning presented us with mostly clear, empty roads, and we headed uphill to find a photo location. I tried taking in all the impressions; the low view, the engine running behind one sheet of plexi glass, the instruments reading out parametres and of course that fantastic periscope mirror on the roof. And the strongest one: That this fully operating V12 sports car had been built by one man in his garage! “I still have some adjustments and tuning left to sort out”, he smiled after having buried the throttle for a quick taste of what the V12 had to offer, which can summed up as power, grunt and push, and loads of it. It’s safe to say that he wasn’t the only one smiling.
The grey sky had no intentions of clearing up, but they kept it civil by not sending rain our way. We parked the Commendatore on what appeared to be a withdrawn farm road and opened the doors to prepare for the photo session. The sheep and other farm animals showed very little interest in what was happening, as did most of the people who passed by on what now revealed itself to be a popular walking path. I could trace the occasional smile of curiosity and recognition of a unique design, and I found myself enjoying the various aspects of the moment. I was myself a teenager when the Commendatore hit the stage in 1993, and Isdera has always been a household name in my petrolhead world. Seeing, hearing and riding in one of only two Commendatore in the world will stay with me for a long time.
On the way back, we sat in silence, letting the Commendatore provide the soundtrack. Dropping a couple of gears, the owner decided it was time for one final V12 roar as he once again floored it and made that straight bit of local road into a dragstrip. Nevermind the limited space – I found myself wanting more after arriving back in the garage. I hadn’t known what to expect from this brand new old car, but I left with more than I had imagined. Studying the classic lines of the body, hearing and feeling the V12 do its thing and to see how everything worked in apparent perfection. Oh, and seeing the world shrinking through that periscope will never, ever get old.