If You Buy This Isdera Commendatore 112i I Will Be Watching You

Illustration for article titled If You Buy This Isdera Commendatore 112i I Will Be Watching You
Photo: RM Sotheby’s

There is exactly one Isdera Commendatore 112i in existence, and RM Sotheby’s will auction it directly from the manufacturer, without a reserve, this coming February in Paris. Whoever the lucky soul buying it is, I implore you: Look after the Commendatore, for it’s had a tough life and deserved so much better than to end up in your hands in this way.

The Commendatore 112i should have put Isdera, a boutique German brand founded by Eberhard Schulz, a former Porsche engineer, on the world stage. After heading up the Mercedes-adjacent CW 311 project, then refining that design into the limited-production Spider and Imperator models of the ’80s bearing the Isdera name, Schulz set his sights on a flagship supercar with an unforgettable design.

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Photo: RM Sotheby’s
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The Commendatore 112i — this Commendatore 112i — debuted at the 1993 Frankfurt Motor Show. Powered by a 6.0-liter Mercedes M120 V12 developing 408 horsepower attached to a RUF-modified Getrag six-speed manual transmission, the pebble-shaped Commendatore was slippery enough to reach an estimated top speed of about 212 mph.

In true Isdera fashion, the Commendatore 112i employed a wealth of Porsche and Mercedes-derived parts. The car’s headlights were pulled from a Porsche 968, its active suspension was an evolution of the Porsche 928's design and even the instrument cluster came from a Mercedes SL.

Illustration for article titled If You Buy This Isdera Commendatore 112i I Will Be Watching You
Photo: RM Sotheby’s

It’s said that Schulz hoped the roadgoing Commendatore 112i could serve as a homologation special for a motorsport program that would’ve seen Isdera compete at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. But right around the time the car debuted, Isdera lost funding from its Japanese backers, hit hard by the collapse of the country’s bubble economy. With no resources, the project was shelved, and no more Commendatores were ever built.

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What happened next added insult to injury. The lone Commendatore was sold to a Swiss investor in 1999, who proceeded to both ruin it and give it a new name: the C112i Silver Arrow. The car’s magnificent two-piece gold BBS wheels were replaced with Mercedes-branded alloys that most closely resemble aftermarket hubcaps you’d find at AutoZone.

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Photo: RM Sotheby’s
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One of the Commendatore’s most notable quirks — its periscope rearview mirror mounted above the roof of the car and visible through a small window — was cowardly ditched for conventional side mirrors in the Silver Arrow transformation. And while I’m struggling to confirm this, it seems like the car might have been repainted with a more neutral silver, as opposed to the blue-tinged Porsche Arctic Silver that Isdera originally finished it in.

I suppose one positive change might have been the Silver Arrow’s replacement of the Commendatore’s original 6.0-liter V12 with a 6.9-liter unit developing 611 HP. Personally, though, the Commendatore’s lack of power compared with modern supercars was never a particularly glaring shortcoming to me; the bigger issue was the whole thing about the car barely existing in the first place.

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Photo: RM Sotheby’s

Anyway, the Commendatore 112i was eventually rescued by Isdera, which actually still operates today, though in a different capacity since engaging in a vague partnership with WM Motors, a Chinese EV startup. Isdera retrieved the car in 2016, mercifully returned it to its original spec and will soon offer it to interested buyers with just about 6,500 miles on the odometer. The company also may have scanned it for inclusion in racing games earlier this year, which is important, since the only reason a certain generation of nerds likely knows about the Commendatore 112i at all is thanks to its inclusion in Need For Speed II.

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Again, to whomever winds up with this car in their collection, all I ask is that you keep it safe and don’t change it. I’d save it myself, but apparently intense obsession and hundreds of lifetime hours logged in Need For Speed II is not a sufficient basis for purchase.

Staff Writer at Jalopnik. 2017 Fiesta ST. Wishes NASCAR was more like Daytona USA.

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DISCUSSION

I’m no designer, but to me the Commendatore was always the absolute perfect shape for a hypercar. Smooth and sensuous, but also completely, brutally functional. I feel like Koenigsegg is the only one that’s come close nowadays to the aesthetic with the smooth shape of the Regera with its retractable wing.

The Commendatore has such a violently cab-forward design, though, that isn’t super obvious on any other car. The engine is so big and it’s clearly meant to be in the middle which pushes the cabin really far forward while giving it this elegant, tapering tail. It’s such a pretty shape, and such a shame only one exists. I guess that’s a marker of proper art, though.