What finer car could there be for the personal transport of a French diplomat than this supremely elegant example of one of Frances finest cars, which between 1934 and the outbreak of war in 1939 was the personal vehicle of His Excellency S.E.M.Corbin, the French Ambassador to the Court of St Jamess?
To enhance the perfect proportions of its pillarless saloon coachwork by the celebrated Parisian carrossier Vanvooren, the narrow rear doors of this magnificent 9.4-litre V12 automobile have no external handles, giving the appearance of a close-coupled two-door coupé.
As a measure of the special nature of this car, a similarly-bodied Vanvooren Type 68 was the chosen transportation of the Hispano-Suizas guiding genius, the brilliant Swiss engineer Marc Birkigt. The Ambassadors Hispano stayed in England throughout the war and was then sold by dealer George Newman of the Euston Road to the father of a college friend of the well-known former historic car dealer Dan Margulies, who recalled, Driving to Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb in Worcestershire in 1946, I vividly remember exceeding 100 mph in this vehicle. Even in 1946, that kind of performance was far above the normal
In 1955 the Hispano was offered for sale by the well-known specialist sports car dealers Halfway Garages of Padworth, near Reading, for the then-high price of £585 and was bought by a Mr Stephenson, a well-established accountant in the Soke of Peterborough. When Mr Stephenson had to give up driving on medical grounds, the Hispano was acquired by that great Bugatti enthusiast Jack Lemon Burton, who had the engine completely rebuilt by Arctic Autos, official Hispano-Suiza repairers in Paris, during the six years that he owned the car.
In June 1966 the Hispano was offered for sale at auction in the Royal Horticultural Hall in London in Bonhams first sale of Vintage Cars.
George Milligen wanted to buy it, but felt that the expected price was above his means and did not attend the sale. The Hispano-Suiza was acquired by a Mr Tommy Thomas, who sold it to an American collector. For over 30 years, Milligen was to regret not having bought this wonderful car.
In 1968 the Type 68 was acquired by George McKay Schieffelin of Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, in whose ownership it was road-tested by Stan Grayson for Automobile Quarterly: The big Hispano loafed along in high gear at 50 mph, the steering quick quicker than youd ever expect - its leaf spring suspension firm without being harsh, he wrote. Hard on the throttle now and the Vanvooren-bodied pillarless saloon begins to irresistibly accelerate
the Hispano-Suiza Type 68 stands alone to some degree, even when considered as part of the genre which taken as a whole includes some of the finest cars ever made.
In 1988 the big Hispano came on the market for the first time in two decades, and this time George Milligen didnt let the opportunity of acquiring it pass him by, even though it meant parting with some of his treasured cars to finance the deal. At the age of 78 he was as keen as ever, and the following year he drove the Type 68 which in the meantime he had restored to his exacting standards of taste several hundreds of miles through Spain on a rally to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Madrid Ritz Hotel. He declared, Marc Birkigts engine is superb - when I was in Spain with the Rally, I could come down to 4 or 5 miles an hour on a steep hill on top gear
Its rather nice when you go to a rally in the Hispano to see Duesenbergs left standing
Ever the enthusiast, the irrepressible Milligen had the magnetos overhauled as recently as 1999, ready for further rallying adventures