In the sliver of time between the Great Wars, Hispano-Suiza experienced what would be known as its glory years. As the name implies, the company’s foundations are a bi-national partnership between Spanish entrepreneur Damián Mateu and Swiss engineer Marc Birkigt. Launched on June 14, 1904, only a year into its gestation the firm produced its first car, a relatively modest four-cylinder, and less than a year after that Hispano-Suiza gave birth to its debut six-cylinder vehicle. The first vehicle of its kind built in Spain, it generated a healthy 75 horsepower and gained international acclaim when the sixer sped across France, completing the route from Perpignan to Paris in a fleet 22 hours.
When the First World War crashed down across Europe, HispanoSuiza pivoted its engineering prowess to produce aeronautical engines and military equipment, supplying more than 50,000 engines to its motherland’s war efforts. But perhaps more important than the financial boost was an auspicious sign the war brought, when a French squadron painted a stork emblem on the side of a Hispano-Suizapowered fighter plane. That elegant stork, its long wings gliding through the air, would soon become the internationally recognized symbol for the luxury marque.
The first Hispano-Suiza to wear the silver stork ornament on its hood was the H6B, a vehicle that became a landmark for the brand. Not only because of its 90-plus mph, six-cylinder powerplant; but more so what was done with it in 1921 when French racecar driver and all-round renaissance man André Dubonnet endurance-raced it in Boulogne, France, winning the prestigious George Boillot Cup. A rising fan of the marque, His Majesty King Alfonso XIII would also race the gorgeous coupé outside Madrid in the “Cuesta de las Perdices” race.
These were the halcyon years for Hispano-Suiza flush with success, international respect, and boasting passionate fans from royalty (Sweden’s Gustavo V, Romania’s Carlos II, and Monaco’s Luis II) to high-wattage superstars (Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein), to fashion avatars (Coco Chanel and René Lacoste). All told, between the years of 1904 and 1946, Hispano-Suiza would produce some 12,000 cars — among the most bespoke and luxurious rides on the planet.
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