Hispano Suiza of Spain was one of the great European marques. Marc Birkigt, a Swiss engineer, and Spanish businessman Damià Mateu i Bisa started the company in 1904. Birkigt’s first designs resembled race-abouts powered by 3.0 and 4.5 liter, inline-4 engines. The sporting nature of Hispano Suiza attracted King Alfonso who bought more than 30 cars during production.
During the war, Hispano-Suiza manufactured V8 aircraft engines for planes such as the Spad VIII. Enduring success from this engine meant that Hispano Suiza would never leave the aircraft industry. Eventually aircraft production took over automobile production, which ceased in 1936.
The first car to benefit from Hispano-Suiza’s aeronautical experience was the H6. It was manufactured in three different Factories, most being built in a France. All versions of the H6 featured a light-alloy, inline-6 housed in a simple ladder chassis. Since no H6s were completed in France, all received bodies from some of the finest carrossiers in the area.
The Dubonnet Xenia Coupe
This striking car, sometimes called the Dubonnet Xenia, was made to showoff Andre Dubonnet’s independent suspension. He used a Hispano Suiza H6C chassis and modified it to include his enclosed coil spring suspension. This suspension was quite successful and Andre sold the patent to Alfa Romeo, GM, Fiat, and Delahaye.
Dubonnet had his Xenia Chassis bodied by Jaques Saoutchik. The result, an avante-garde interpretation of the teardrop, was different from any other motorcar. Highlights of the design include a parallel door system and an aviation-themed interior.
Recently the Xenia Coupe has been touring the auto shows and museums thanks to owner Charles Morse. He won the Most Elegant Closed Car award at the 2000 Pebble Beach Concours.