1922 Hispano-Suiza BoulogneSOLD
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Estimate: 400,000£-600,000£
Estimate: €581,000 - €871,000
Estimate: $800,000 - $1,200,000

AUCTION RESULTS: Lot was Sold at a price of £335.250

Engine No. 320047
Registartion No. SV6111

From the Brazilian Collector Mr. Abraham Kogan

160bhp 7,983cc inline six-cylinder alloy block engine with Solex-Hispano carburettor, 3-speed manual transmission, solid front axle, live rear axle, and semi-elliptical longitudinal rear springs and lever-arm friction dampers all around, with servo-assisted four-wheel brakes. Wheelbase: 133.5in. (3,390 mm).

In 1901, Swiss engineer Marc Birkigt, who had emigrated from Geneva to Barcelona in 1899 at the age of 21, persuaded his employer to produce a car. Emilio La Cuadra, who manufactured batteries and electric buses, agreed, and Birkigt designed the two-cylinder La Cuadra of which only six were built before the company suffered financial difficulties and production ceased.

Nonetheless, Birkigt’s talent was recognized and Javier Castro invested some money. Castro cars lasted until 1904, but that didn’t deter Birkigt. A wealthy Spanish banker, Don Damien Mateu, stepped in to resurrect Birkigt’s career, creating a new company – Fabrica La Hispano-Suiza de Automovils – the name literally meaning ‘Spanish-Swiss’. Hispano-Suiza quickly established itself as a ‘Grande Marque’, Marc Birkigt joining Henry Royce and Ettore Bugatti in the great triumvirate of acknowledged automotive geniuses.

Endorsed by the young King of Spain, His Most Catholic Majesty Alfonso XIII, who would eventually own up to 30 Hispanos, the company took off. When the King’s English Queen gave him a T-15 for his birthday, the model was named the Alfonso XIII in his honour. Other distinguished owners included textile magnate Marcel Boussac, racing driver Count Carlo Felice Trossi, Anthony G. Rothschild, King Carol of Romania, racing driver and businessman Whitney Straight, the Shah of Persia, General Franco of Spain, and the artist Pablo Picasso.

Hispano-Suiza became extremely popular, especially in France, and an assembly plant was opened at Levallois-Perret, Paris, in 1911. Demand was so extensive that a move to a larger factory in nearby Bois-Colombes was made in 1914, and it was the French facility that introduced the fabulous 32cv H6 series in 1919.

The light alloy engine was inspired by the V-8 Hispano-Suiza aero engine that had powered over 50 per cent of Allied biplanes in World War I. The French air ace Georges Guynemer scored his most famous victories, 53 in all, in a Hispano-powered SPAD aircraft of the famous Escadrille N3, ‘Ace of Aces’ squadron. Their good luck emblem was a stork. Guynemer became part of French wartime mythology, and he was a friend of Marc Birkigt. When Birkigt came to choose a suitable radiator mascot for the new car, he commissioned a sculpture of the stork that had adorned the fuselage of his friend’s SPAD.

The new 32cv Hispano-Suiza H6 had a six-cylinder engine that incorporated many of the features developed on the V-8 aero engine. It had an alloy block with single overhead camshaft, producing 135 bhp at 3,000 rpm. Its powerful four-wheel servo-assisted brakes, along with the car’s performance, reliability, comfort, and style, made it the most advanced car of its day.

Although a super-luxury car, the Hispano-Suiza offered sports-car performance. André Dubonnet, son of the drinks magnate, entered his tulip-wood bodied car, a 46cv, 8-litre ‘Boulogne’ model in the Targa Florio. A sister car, owned by Captain Woolf Barnato, one of the original Bentley Boys, covered 300 miles at Brooklands, averaging over 92 mph.

Dubonnet established a new record from Paris to Nice in an H6 and in July 1921 he won the Coupe Georges Boillot outright at the Boulogne Circuit at an average speed of 105 kph.

With pressure on to market a racing version of the H6, sales manager Jean Lacoste agreed to build some special cars to order for private drivers. André and his brother Paul Dubonnet ordered two cars, a third was made for Robert Masse, and a fourth for Maurice Becquet. These cars, bearing chassis numbers 10461, 10462, 10463, 10464, and 10465, were prepared for the 1922 Coupe Georges Boillet race, and had their wheelbase reduced from 3,690mm to 3,390mm. The steering ratio was quickened and the engine was bored out to 7 litres and given a special camshaft and a higher compression ratio – producing more than 150 hp. Combined with special lightweight four-seat bodies, their power-to-weight ratio was outstanding.

Only two cars appeared at the race on 30 July 1922 because, although the factory only managed to prepare three cars in time, one was crashed by Paul Dubonnet prior to the race. André Dubonnet would start and at the last minute Hispano-Suiza decided to put experienced driver Paul Bablot in the second car, 10463. In practice for the race Bablot reached 170 kph (110 mph) on the straight to Desvres and touched 200 kph at full speed down to l’Eclaterie.

Heavy rain and thick fog made conditions atrocious. Dubonnet took the lead initially but crashed, leaving Bablot to win the race in 11441/10463 at an average speed of 103.79 kph. The Hispano-Suiza presented here is that race-winning car, and the factory register has the notation, ‘lent to Bablot to race at Boulogne’. This historically significant car was subsequently sold to the famous aviator and air speed record holder Sadi Lecointe in August 1922, having had a standard fuel tank, electric horn, and Bleriot headlamps fitted.

In 1925, the car was returned to the factory and fitted with a new 8-litre H6C 46 cv engine and in the process was given a new type 46 chassis number of 11441. The car then spent decades in Portugal until it was discovered by Charles Howard in the seventies. In extraordinarily original condition the car was then sold to well-known French collector Michel Seydoux, who had 11441/10463 restored by Carrosserie Lecoq in Paris.

It should be noted that 11441/10463 is featured in two of the acknowledged reference works on the marque: The Legendary Hispano-Suiza by Johnnie Green and Hispano-Suiza by Ernest Schmid d’Andrès.

The car was acquired by Abba Kogan in 1996, where it joined his growing collection of historically significant and sporting classics and competition cars. Finished in Bordeaux red with black wings and a brown interior, all instruments are Hispano marked, except for the Jaeger clock – and the speedometer, obviously the original, is marked to 200 kph. The wire wheels have been refurbished and car is in the process of having an overdrive unit designed for it. The car’s condition today is described as a highly presentable older restoration, UK road registered, and mechanically fit and ready to use.

The car presented here is the sole survivor of the five Hispano-Suiza competition chassis built, and after the 1922 Boulogne race, which this car won, the Hispano-Suiza factory never competed again. A French historian and FIVA/FFVE accredited expert describes this car as being unquestionably the most important car in Hispano-Suiza history.

With its exceptional provenance and undeniable importance in the history of the legendary marque, this represents a singular opportunity to acquire what is, in many ways, the ultimate Hispano-Suiza. As noted historian Paul Badre said, ‘If one Hispano had to be kept in a sealed container or a safe to be shown by our progeny in a distant future just to let them know what was an Hispano, it should be this one.’

Please note that since the auction catalog went to press, additional historical information concerning this lot has come to light. Based on Hispano-Suiza records, it now seems possible that the lot on offer is not the car driven by Bablot. Historians disagree on this point, and it may never be possible to prove or disprove.

In any event, as can be seen in the "as found" photos in Johnny Green’s seminal work on Hispano-Suiza, s/n 11411 is clearly a factory race car, and is virtually identical in appearance to Bablot’s car, and probably or that reason, it has been known as the Bablot car for many years. These photographs also attest to the highly detailed and accurate restoration undertaken.

Very few such works racing cars exist, and it is highly unlikely such a car would have been ordered and not used. In the limited time available, RM has not been able to determine when and where s/n 11411 raced, or who drove it, leaving that research for the new owner to discover.

Reference Number 13205

as of 9/14/2007

Car 1922 Hispano-Suiza Boulogne
VIN 11441 
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