Jay Leno checks out a 1923 Hispano Suiza

By automotive-mag.com 2 Min Read

Spain and Switzerland aren’t known as automotive powerhouses, but citizens of those countries came together to create one of the greatest automakers of the prewar era: Hispano Suiza.

Recently featured on an episode of “Jay Leno’s Garage,” this 1923 Hispano Suiza H6B exemplified the work of the automaker, the name of which means “Spanish Swiss” in reference to the nationalities of its two founders.

Like the 1933 Hispano Suiza J12 featured on another Jay Leno’s Garage episode, this car is part of California’s Nethercutt Collection. Adding to the international flavor, both cars were built not in Spain or Switzerland, but France.

While the J12 is powered by a V-12 engine, this car makes do with an inline-6—set in a neatly arranged engine bay. Power is sent to the rear wheels through a 3-speed manual transmission, which was more desirable because it meant less shifting in that pre-automatic era.

Like most luxury cars of the period, this Hispano Suiza left the factory as a bare chassis, leaving a coach builder responsible for the bodywork. In this case Saoutchik applied its patented Cabriolet de Ville body style, making this car a four-door convertible. The tradeoff for all of that sunshine is flimsy doors with difficult-to-use windows.

This car would have been priced close to a Rolls-Royce when new, but engineering was also comparable. The Hispano Suiza’s bare 145-inch-wheelbase chassis weighs a relatively svelte 2,600 pounds, and it was one of the first cars of the period with front brakes. This car and others of the period used cable-operated brakes, which required special hardware to be able to work on a steered axle.

The original Hispano Suiza ceased building cars in 1946. The company shifted focus to its aviation business (it was later absorbed into a larger conglomerate), but the car brand was revived in 2019 with the Carmen electric supercar. An evolution of that car, the Carmen Sagrera, is scheduled to debut in June.

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