6,597cc SOHC Inline 6-Cylinder Engine
Single Dual-throat Carburetor
80bhp at 3,500rpm
3-Speed Manual Transmission
Front and Rear Leaf Spring Suspension
4-Wheel Mechanical Drum Brakes
*Owned new by Chicago socialite Lolita Armour and later Brooks Stevens
*Comprehensive 1999-2001 restoration carried out by specialist Richard Grenon
*Multiple Concours d'Elegance prizes awarded
*Among the most luxurious, high-quality automobiles of the era
THE HISPANO-SUIZA H6
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 the conflict, Hispano engines had powered some of the Allies' finest fighter aircraft, and post-war the marque would adopt the stork emblem of French 'ace' Georges Guynemer's Escadrille des Cicognes, whose SPAD biplanes had used Hispano's V8 aero engine.
Not surprisingly, 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 aluminum pistons running in steel cylinder liners screwed into the light-alloy block. Maximum power was a heady 135bhp produced at just 2,400rpm, and the almost flat torque curve afforded walking-pace-to-85mph performance in top gear. A handful of prototype H6s was made at the company's Barcelona factory - King Alfonso XIII taking delivery of an early example in April 1918 - before production proper commenced at Bois-Colombes, Paris.
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 license. 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. Large enough to accommodate formal coachwork, it was also fast enough to appeal to the more sportingly inclined: aperitif king André Dubonnet won the Coupe Boillot at Boulgone in 1921, while Europe's coachbuilders vied to build their finest coachwork on this genuinely thoroughbred chassis. The finish of the Hispano-Suiza was superlative and the car's inherent glamour was such that it was featured in two popular novels of the early 1920s, l'Homme de l'Hispano and The Green Hat. The world's most advanced automobile at the time of its introduction and for many years thereafter, the H6 was catalogued until 1933, by which time 2,158 chassis of all types had been completed.
THE MOTORCAR OFFERED
This quite superb Hispano-Suiza H6B was delivered new in 1927 at Hispano-Suiza's Paris showroom to first owner Lolita Mitchell (née Armour) of Chicago, a member of the Armour Meat Packing Co family. Lolita Armour had married John J Mitchell Jnr, son of a Chicago banking family and later a director of American Airlines, in 1922. The couple split their time between several properties including a Chicago penthouse, a 12,000-acre ranch in the Santa Inez Valley and the Armour family estate of 'El Mirador' in Montecito, Santa Barbara. El Mirador remained Lolita Mitchell's home until her death in 1976. The Hispano remained in her possession until 1951 when it was acquired by the famous industrial designer, Brooks Stevens, inventor of the pre-selector gearshift and dash-mounted pullout handbrake among a host of other innovations. '11767' stayed in the Stevens private museum until it was acquired by the previous owner in 1999.
Chassis number '11767' features Coupé Chauffeur coachwork by the Brussels-based carrossier D'Ieteren. The family firm of D'Ieteren can trace its origins back to the early 19th Century when Jean-Joseph D'Ieteren set up shop as a wheelright and coachbuilder in the center of Brussels. Its first powered vehicle, a four-seat electric 'dog cart', was constructed in 1897 and by the start of WWI the company had expanded its coachbuilding activities and relocated to larger premises in Rue du Mail, Brussels, its headquarters today. An indication of D'Ieteren's reputation for outstanding quality may be gained from the fact that by 1928 some two thirds of body production was for export, customers coming from as far afield as Egypt, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the USA. Nevertheless, D'Ieteren wound down its coachbuilding activities during the 1930s, turning to the importation of American makes and assembling Studebakers under license from 1935.
Between 1999 and 2001 this car - still largely complete and original - underwent a comprehensive, 'nut and bolt', body-off restoration carried out by Richard Grenon at Au Temps Tic Auto of Montreal, Canada, a company with a reputation for quality restorations and countless awards at the most prestigious concours events to its credit. The good condition of the transmission appeared to confirm only limited use during the car's early years (and virtually none at all while in the Stevens museum) leading to the conclusion that the recorded mileage of 19,803 at the time of cataloging may well be correct.
One of this car's many outstanding features is its fabulous interior, which is upholstered in dark blue Connolly leather to the front compartment and a pale blue cloth to the rear. There is a speaking tube for front/rear communication, while the passenger compartment boasts two jump seats and a beautiful rear vanity cabinet containing a mirror, card case, cigarette case and pair of crystal/silver perfume bottles, and an abundance of beautifully polished woodwork. A Pebble Beach invitee in 2001, this car won the 'Most Outstanding Interior in Show' award at the Meadowbrook Concours in 2002; was judged 'Best European Touring Car' at the Greenwich Concours in 2003; and gained an 'Award of Excellence' at the Cranbrook, Michigan Concours, also in 2003.
Offered from a Texas-based collection where the car has been stored in climate-controlled warehouse for the past 16 years, the elegant Hispano-Suiza presents the high-quality of Mr. Grenon's restoration, while it has seen little use in the past decade and a half. This most elegant and imposing vintage Grand Routier is ready to return to the Concours fields in the hands of a fortunate new owner.