Rare Rides: The Eccentric Isdera Spyder 036i, From 1991

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides the eccentric isdera spyder 036i from 1991

The name Isdera meant absolutely nothing to your author prior to today’s Rare Ride. A company originally headquartered in West Germany, it seems Isdera’s offerings were intentionally obscure and hard to purchase.

Let’s check out an 036i, whatever that means.

Isdera is an anagram of the German words “Engineering Company for Styling.” It was originally founded in 1982 by one Eberhard Schulz, who was formerly an engineer at Mercedes-Benz. Schulz envisioned his company as a specialty automaker of hand-built quality, with an exclusive customer base. The cars were not advertised to the general public, and customers had to reach out to Schulz directly to order their bespoke sports car.

The company’s first car was the Spyder 033, which debuted in 1982. Isdera followed up with the Imperator 108i in 1984, the Spider 033-16 in 1985, and today’s Rare Ride the Spyder 036i in 1987. There was also a later model in the Nineties, the 1993 Commendatore 112i. Isdera revealed all its cars at the respective Geneva Motor Show each time.

The Imperator in particular was an idea Schulz created to bring a car similar in design and scope to the Mercedes CW311 study. Mercedes had no intention of building the car, but Schulz thought its concept was too good to pass up. After he received approval from Mercedes to build his own version, Isdera introduced the Imperator, a coupe with gullwing doors. Shortly thereafter, the Imeperator was reworked into the open-top Spyder.

While the Imperator used a Mercedes V8 engine, the lighter Spyder employed a 3.0-liter inline-six from the E-Class. Constructed from fiberglass, the frame underneath was tubular steel. There was no roof available, which meant 036i buyers needed garage in which to store their Isdera. With no roof, the gullwing doors were swapped for front-hinged scissor doors. The engine was in the middle where you’d expect, and the only transmission on offer was a five-speed manual – probably from the E-Class as well. Beyond that, each 036i was built to its customer’s specification, and so no two were exactly alike.

The Spyder 036i was built from roughly 1987 through 1993, at which point the Commendatore ushered in a new style of Isdera performance cars. A total of 17 Spyders were produced during that time. Isdera is still in business, and has sold approximately 70 vehicles since 1993. Their most recent news was in 2006 when the Autobahnkurier AK116i was introduced. An almost Neoclassical 1930s-style coupe, it used two V8 engines from the W126 S-Class, for V16 rapid motoring.

Today’s Rare Ride is painted Riviera Blau, and is for sale in Germany. Yours for $182,000.

[Image: Isdera]

Join the conversation
3 of 9 comments
  • JMII JMII on Feb 19, 2021

    I've often wondered who buys such things. You can't drive it because if anything breaks you'll never be able to replace or repair it. Thus I assume this just sits in someone's collection and occasionally shows up at car shows for the LOLs. Viewing the photos the interior is below kit car level. It looks like a project car that was hand-build in a shed.

    • Corey Lewis Corey Lewis on Feb 19, 2021

      As far as parts, the mechanicals are just standard Mercedes so I'm sure that part wouldn't be a problem. But with the exciting body making promises of driving thrills, I'm not sure the straight-six from a midsize sedan is able to back it up.

  • Craiger Craiger on Feb 20, 2021

    Isdera's web site looks almost fake. Nearly everything that should be a clickable link, isn't.

  • MaintenanceCosts Amazing that it has managed to stay upright for nearly 40 years!
  • EBFlex Big mistake. The Cherokee was unique in the segment. Premium features (like full LED lighting), best infotainment in the industry, actual capability (towing up to 4500 pounds) and great fuel economy (over 30 with the V6). And it was priced very competitively. Another huge mistake by Stellantis.
  • Rna65689660 Late last September US 2 from St. Ignace, MI to Everett, WA.
  • Tassos I find it ridiculous to call any of these later, less luxurious, less substsantial (compared to their 1940s-1960s glorious ancestors) Lincolns "rare rides".There was absolutely nothing rare about them. the roads were full of them then.
  • Tassos Highway 1 in CA, both ways (LA to SF)Rheinstrasse in Germany, with spectacular views of the castles distracting the driverAlmost all German Autobahns, over 2 3-day weekends, for a total of 6,000 KMMany European scenic coastal roads, some of them many many times every year (those near my summer home)