c.1925 Hispano-Suiza 20CV I6 Project  Chassis no. 20004

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Lot 433N
c.1925 Hispano-Suiza 20CV I6 Project
Chassis no. 20004

Sold for £ 59,740 (US$ 83,212) inc. premium
c.1925 Hispano-Suiza 20CV I6 Project
Chassis no. 20004

Footnotes

  • The choice of European royalty, Indian maharajahs, Hollywood film stars and industrial tycoons, the legendary Hispano-Suiza was superbly engineered and imitated unashamedly by some of the world's leading car manufacturers. Although the marque was of Spanish origin, it was Hispano-Suiza's French-built cars that established it in the front rank of luxury automobile manufacturers following the end of WWI. During that conflict, Hispano engines had powered some of the Allies' finest fighter aircraft and the first post-war Hispano drew heavily on this expertise, being powered by a Marc Birkigt-designed, 6,597cc, overhead-camshaft six derived from one half of a proposed V12 aero engine. A seven-bearing design enjoying the benefit of pressure-fed lubrication, the latter was built in unit with the three-speed gearbox and featured aluminium-alloy pistons running in steel cylinder liners screwed into the light-alloy block.

    Sensation of the 1919 Paris Show, the H6 featured a light yet rigid four-wheel-braked chassis that matched its state-of-the-art power unit for innovation. Indeed, so good were its servo-assisted brakes that Rolls-Royce acquired the rights to build the design under licence. The H6 combined performance with flexibility, comfort with good handling, and safety with reliability in a manner which enabled Hispano-Suiza to compete successfully with Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Bugatti, Isotta Fraschini and the United States' luxury marques.

    This success led to the introduction of two smaller but closely related Birkigt designs based on his H6, which were developed in France but earmarked for production at Hispano's factory in Barcelona. These were the four-cylinder 2.5-litre T48 and six-cylinder 3.7-litre T49. Chassis layout followed that of the Paris-built H6, featuring semi-elliptic springing all round and torque-tube drive, as did that of the overhead-camshaft engines, which delivered 60 and 90bhp respectively. These two 'T' series models were in production from 1924 until 1933. Motor Sport reported in June 1950, "up to, say, 50 mph, even the 45hp does not accelerate very much faster than the 27hp. The acceleration, braking and handling qualities of the car, however, combine to produce a vehicle which achieves averages which are somewhat astonishing in relation to it's maximum speed."

    This exceptionally rare, possibly unique I6 was purchased by the vendor's father from Stephen Langton in 1981 as a non-running rolling chassis in need of restoration. At the time its origins were unknown and the receipt merely describes it as a '1925 Hispano Suiza chassis no 20004'. The owner's investigations first determined that it was a French car and that it had a 20CV engine and short-wheelbase chassis (the engine and chassis numbers are consistent with the French factory). Further investigation revealed it was an I6, the French version of the Barcelona-built T49. This was confirmed by Mr Bernard Heurteux.

    It is understood that six cars were built but it is not known how many were sold as 
there was little demand for the I6 in France, whereas the T49 was successful in Spain. Early theories were that the I6 cars were built as prototypes for the T49 production model as this was common practice; however, there is no actual evidence for this.
    The 'find' was written about in Thoroughbred & Classic Cars (August 1982 edition) in their 'Unearthed' column under the title 'High Society'. This attracted the interest of the only remaining Hispano-Suiza club, the Hispano-Suiza Society in California. Initially they were sceptical as they had not heard of such a model and the books published by experts had not mentioned it before. However, as revealed 
in Issue 31 of their newsletter in January 1983, they had become convinced by a number of factors: the 'I' chassis prefix was missing from the known designations; 
chassis and engine numbers proved to be French; an expert, Bernard Heutreux came up with a contemporary French brochure advertising the I6 20CV chassis. In addition, the vendor's father discovered an advertisement placed by Hispano-Suiza in The Motor from 1927 for the I6 20CV chassis, which was priced at £1,150.

    Photocopies of the aforementioned T&CC article and related correspondence are on file together with the H-S Society newsletter and a quantity of other correspondence acquired during the investigations and search for parts needed to complete the chassis restoration. The latter was undertaken in the 1980s and '90s; however; its late owner never did get around to having a body made before he passed away. Recently re-commissioned, the car is now running and driving under its own power, ready to accept coachwork of the purchaser's choice.

    Sold strictly as viewed, '20004' represents a rare opportunity to acquire an almost certainly unique motor car from one of the world's most prestigious makes.
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c.1925 Hispano-Suiza 20CV I6 Project  Chassis no. 20004
c.1925 Hispano-Suiza 20CV I6 Project  Chassis no. 20004
c.1925 Hispano-Suiza 20CV I6 Project  Chassis no. 20004
c.1925 Hispano-Suiza 20CV I6 Project  Chassis no. 20004
c.1925 Hispano-Suiza 20CV I6 Project  Chassis no. 20004
c.1925 Hispano-Suiza 20CV I6 Project  Chassis no. 20004
c.1925 Hispano-Suiza 20CV I6 Project  Chassis no. 20004
c.1925 Hispano-Suiza 20CV I6 Project  Chassis no. 20004
c.1925 Hispano-Suiza 20CV I6 Project  Chassis no. 20004
c.1925 Hispano-Suiza 20CV I6 Project  Chassis no. 20004
c.1925 Hispano-Suiza 20CV I6 Project  Chassis no. 20004
c.1925 Hispano-Suiza 20CV I6 Project  Chassis no. 20004
c.1925 Hispano-Suiza 20CV I6 Project  Chassis no. 20004
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