Aged just 22 French Captain Georges Guynemer is reported as having downed 53 enemy planes before Hisano Suiza powered Spad XIII disappeared on the 11th of September 1917 for the final time somewhere north east of Ypres. The captain, who’s best known maxim was “Until one has given all, one has given nothing”, had already survived being shot down seven times, well before parachutes had become either reliable of issued to pilots. After the Great War of 1914/18 Hispano Suiza adopted the stork symbol of Alsace which Guynemer had painted on the side of his Spad as their radiator mascot.
In 1919 Hispano Suiza designer Marc Birkigt brought his Type 41 to fruition which became known as the H6. Having been amongst the pioneers to develop shaft driven overhead cam shafts and amongst the innovators of joined up motor and gearbox housings with earlier models the H6 featured a 135 hp light alloy mono block six cylinder overhead cam motor that, although noisier than the competition in the form of the Rolls Royce 40/50 with it’s push rod operated side valve cast iron twin block straight 6 cylinder motor, produced a full 50 hp more than it’s contemporary from Derby England.
The H6 was not only more powerful than it’s contemporaries but it the first to adopt power assisted four wheel brakes as standard, leaving Rolls Royce, Lanchester and Napier with their unassisted two wheel brakes well behind when in the safety stakes. Indeed Rolls Royce were quick to acquire a license to replicate Birkigt’s power assisted four wheel braking system on their own models. Rolls Royce would continue to use the Hispano Suiza braking system until the introduction of disc brakes on it’s Silver Shadow model in 1965.
Hispano Suiza counted not only Royalty, including the King of Spain, and the nouveaux riche of Hollywood amongst it’s H6 clientele but also French alcohol heir, Spad XIII flying ace, athlete, inventor and race car driver André Dubonnet who entered his H6 in the 1921 Coupé Boillot sports car race run in Boulogne which he promptly won.
The 6,597cc / 403cui H6 like this 1925 example, which resided in the UK until 2000, gained a larger 8 litre / 488 cui H6B sibling in 1922 with the H6C series in 1924 using only the larger motor. In all 2,350 H6s of all types, including a unique 6 wheel H6 built for feature length film pioneer and director D.W.Griffith, are thought to have been built between 1919 and 1933.
My thanks to Geoffrey Horton for sharing his photographs taken at this years Marin Sanoma Concours d’Elegance.
Thanks for joining me on this “All or Nothing” edition of “Gettin a li’l psycho on tyres”, I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !