As I told you not long ago, when MOTOR SPORT flew to Barcelona for the 1950 Spanish GP I was accompanied by an alleged member of the Spanish Embassy, to aid my report by translating the race bulletins; the gentleman never returned with us!
Flying out for the same task in ’51 was rather different. We survived the father-and-mother of an electrical storm over the Pyrenees. This time I had MOTOR SPORT’s valued contributor. E.K.H.K (Kent) Karslake to interpret for me.
He was delighted when, on the day before the GP, we were able to visit the factory in Barcelona where Hispano-Suizas had been made after the company had moved from its original plant. It no longer made Hispano-Suizas; since the demise of the Spanish branch of the company, it had been taken over by ENSA, makers of large Pegaso trucks.
Now we had a purpose in our visit, because at the Paris salon the new Pegaso cars had been impressive exhibits. As Karslake said, “Time was when we used to think of the Hispano-Suiza as the only Spanish car but of course the experts changed all that, reeling off Iberian names for our delectation, and if most have remained more sonorous in the halls of motoring fame than they sound to the car, the latest, Pegaso, does seem likely to prove an exception”.
Alas, it was to be otherwise. But of this we were unaware as we took an ancient Citroen taxi to the factory outside Barcelona. We were met by none other than Carlos Carreras, head of ENSA’s Production Department.
Karslake was intrigued to see a La Cundia, the very first Spanish car, designed by Birkigt, who was responsible for the great Hispano-Suiza from 1904 onwards. There were the fine Pegaso commercial vehicle chassis with 9.3-litre mid-mounted diesel engines, multi-speed gearboxes, and compressed air brakes. Among these we were shown the new 2 1/2-litre vee-eight Pegaso car, looking a bit like a DB4 Aston Martin and seemingly a challenge to Ferrari’s sales and racing. A polished, sectioned engine showed the potential of this new Spanish production. There was a spotless laboratory to serve the factory and Pegaso made most of their components themselves, relying only on Rudge wheels, Spanish Pirelli tyres, Lockheed brakes and Bosch ignition equipment. The new car had a de Dion back axle with the tube ahead of instead of behind the drive-shafts giving one in place of two transmission thrust points, and a five-speed gearbox. Torsion-bar suspension gave a high rear-end roll centre. The engine, was capable of development past the fast touring car stage, and the 24cwt weight was in keeping. Questioned about a racing programme, he was cautious, preferring to think first of making cars to sell…
It all seemed very promising. The engine had four camshafts and dry-sump lubrication and the first car, the Z102B, developed 180-210 bhp depending on whether two, four or eight Weber carburettors were fitted. Before the GP we saw two of them open the course, at a very respectable speed. It was intended to introduce the 2.8-litre 210bhp Z102B, the 3.2-litre Z102SS developing 210-230 bhp and the Z103 in push-rod ohv 4-litre to 4.7-litre versions. Various axle-ratios would give different standards of performances and Rootes supercharging was in prospect. All to the designs of Wilfredo Ricart.
There was a racing appearance, in 1955 when Fernandez and Ray were second and third to a Ferrari at Pedralbes in the sportscar race for the Montjuich Cup. But in 1958 Ricart retired and it seems that Pegaso, like Guy, Maudsley and Leyland a long time earlier, thought that making complicated private cars was too much of a gamble, and that it was better to concentrate on commercials. Only about 125 Pegaso sportscars were sold, mainly to private orders.