• Meet the Isdera Imperator 108i - A Car So Rare It Barely Exists

This car should appear under the definition of "rare" in every dictionary

Born out of a Mercedes-Benz concept car and a man’s reluctance to let the said concept go to waste, the Isdera Imperator 108i is one of the quirkiest, rarest supercars from the 1980s. And it all starts with the name.

Meet the Isdera Imperator 108i - A Car So Rare It Barely Exists Exterior
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Isdera, the company founded by Eberhard Schulz in 1981, got its name from "Ingenieurburo fur Styling, Design, und Racing", which in English translates as "engineering company for styling, design, and racing." Having built his own supercar - the Erator GT, Schulz was no stranger to the world of engineering and his time and Porsche only sharpened those skills. So when Mercedes-Benz decided to shelve the CW311 concept Schulz himself designed in 1978, he took action.

Meet the Isdera Imperator 108i - A Car So Rare It Barely Exists Drivetrain
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Based on the CW311 prototype, the Imperator got the 235-horsepower M117 5.0-liter V-8 (mid-mounted, of course) and made its debut at the 1984 Geneva Motor Show.

Later on, the original engine was replaced by other units, with the most potent being a 6.0-liter V-8 that according to Car and Driver, allowed the Imperator to zap from zero to 60 mph in five seconds flat on to a top speed of 176 mph (283 kph). Power went from the engine to the rear wheels through a five-speed manual transmission from ZF.

Isdera Imperator 108i specifications
Engine M117 0.0-liter V-8
Horsepower 235 HP
Transmission five-speed manual
Weight 1,250 kg (2,756 lbs)
0 to 60 mph 5.0 seconds
Top Speed 176 mph (283 kph)

It wasn’t all just about sheer grunt, though. Schulz designed the Imperator on a tubular steel spaceframe that supported the bonded fiberglass body. All for a weight of just 1,250 kilos (2,756 pounds), kept in check during deceleration by a set of ventilated disc brakes on all four corners.

Meet the Isdera Imperator 108i - A Car So Rare It Barely Exists Interior
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Looks-wise, the Imperator is as attractive as any mid-engine supercar of its era, although at first it might look like a mix breed of various design cues. That’s no small feat, not when back then, you had the likes of Lamborghini Countach, Ferrari F40, and Porsche 959 roaming the streets.

Despite remaining in production for about a decade, the Imperator was built in very low volumes, with some 30 units said to have left Isdera’s workshop. The Imperator is one rare bird, there’s no doubt about that, but one just popped up on Bonhams’ auction pool and it’s going under the hammer in Monaco at the "Les Grandes Marques a Monaco" event, where it is estimated to fetch as much as $830,000.

Meet the Isdera Imperator 108i - A Car So Rare It Barely Exists Exterior
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Source: Bonhams

Tudor Rus
Tudor Rus
Assistant Content Manager - Automotive Expert - tudor@topspeed.com
Tudor’s first encounter with cars took place when he was only a child. Back then, his father brought home a Trabant 601 Kombi and a few years later, a Wartburg 353. At that time, he was too young to know how they worked and way too young to drive them, but he could see one thing – each of them had a different ethos and their own unique personality. As time went on, he started seeing that in other cars as well, and his love for the automobile was born.  Read full bio
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