THE HISPANO-SUIZA H6B
The name Hispano-Suiza translates from French to “Spanish-Swiss,” which is appropriate. This superb French automobile was born from the genius of a Swiss engineer, Marc Birkigt, and was originally produced in Barcelona, Spain.
- Sold For $445,000
- Location: Sotheby’s – ARIZONA
- Date: 16 – 17 JANUARY 2020
- Chassis No. : 11093
- Engine No. :301111
- Body No. :9899
Cover Photo: Formerly owned by Arturo Keller and Jules “J” Heumann
Fantastically detailed, elaborate, and well-crafted coachwork
A veteran of the Pebble Beach Motoring Classic
Classic Car Club of America (CCCA) Full ClassicHowever, the Hispano-Suizas built in France became most legendary. In particular, the H6B sported an aircraft-derived six-cylinder engine, employing machined steel cylinders with integral combustion chambers in a cast aluminum block, with two valves per cylinder driven by a single overhead camshaft and a pressure-lubricated crankshaft turning on seven main bearings. The engine produced 135 hp with truly impressive torque and smoothness, matched by a chassis with advanced servo-assisted four-wheel brakes and custom coachwork offered by the world’s finest craftsmen.
Le Roi de le Route, or “the King of the Road,” was the favored toy of aristocrats the world over. Edsel Ford, son of Henry, owned one, as did “Bentley Boy” Woolf Barnato, Pablo Picasso, and various kings and maharajas.
CHASSIS NUMBER 11093
H6B chassis number 11093 was ordered by the agent or dealer Saint Didier for delivery on 21 January 1925 to a M. de Surville and is believed to have been originally registered in the Rouen/Versailles region. It was fitted with coachwork by Belvallette, a Parisian firm highly regarded for the intricate design and superb quality of their bodies on a variety of chassis, in particular Hispano-Suiza.
The body mounted on this car is known in the French parlance as a transformable cabriolet for its three-position top that allows it to serve as a fully open convertible sedan, closed limousine, or “open-drive” town car. However, in Belvallette’s skilled hands, the body really was “transformable,” fitted with an elaborate system of folding and self-latching windows concealed within ingenious pockets in the inner door panels.
The car is believed to have remained with the same family for much of its life. Finally, after nearly sixty years, the previously unknown H6B appeared for sale in 1984 in solid unrestored condition and carrying the initials “JS” on its rear doors and registration plates 30Y69. It was noted at the time as having had only one previous owner. In 1990 the H6B passed to Claude Decoster of Neuilly, who commissioned a complete restoration by the noted Parisian craftsman Andre Le Coq.
Upon completion, the car received the Breitling Grand Prix de l’Innovation at the Louis Vuitton Classic at the Bagatelle in 1992. Soon thereafter, it moved stateside, joining the exhaustive and selective collection of Arturo Keller in California, widely considered one of the world’s finest. There it would remain for the next 15 years in the company of other outstanding examples of the world’s most prized automobiles.
In 2007 the car returned to Europe in German hands, only to move to the United States in 2015 with its purchase by Jules “J” Heumann. To even the casual Classic enthusiast, the name “J” Heumann requires little introduction as the longtime, highly influential co-chairman of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Moreover, as the foremost Hispano-Suiza historian in the U.S. Over the years, Mr. Heumann owned and meticulously maintained several of the superb examples of the marque, including all variants of the H6.
While the Hispano-Suiza’s Le Coq restoration had largely held up well, Mr. Heumann installed new high-compression 7:1 pistons and rings, valves, valve springs, tappets, and keepers, as well as grinding and hard-chroming the camshaft, during a full engine rebuild. The original transmission was outfitted with a Laycock-type overdrive unit for easy highway and touring use. Electronic ignition was fitted, the brakes and suspension properly tuned and adjusted, and proper 23-inch wheels sourced. Mr. Heumann went to great efforts to make the car both beautiful and functional.
Following completion of the work, the H6B did indeed complete the Pebble Beach Motoring Classic between Seattle and Pebble Beach, a 1,500-mile journey that included climbing to 7,000 feet of altitude, providing a fitting coda to J’s decades of Hispano-Suiza enjoyment on the Monterey Peninsula.
Today this exceptional Hispano-Suiza, having benefitted from care in two of the finest collections of the marque, remains a worthy entrant to further tours and CCCA CARavans, as well as an attractive example of Belvallette’s innovative coachwork design. Handsomely outfitted and looked after, it remains Le Roi de le Route.