Rumblings, January 1953

Hispano history

During the year 1950 Kent Karslake wrote up the marque Hispano-Suiza in Motor Sport, and subsequently we had quite a discussion in these pages about the valve gear of certain pre-I914 models and the exact engine size of the post-1914 Monza model. Now further information and fresh doubts about the marque arise as a result of a very interesting article by Peter Dale, which appeared in the October issue of Australian Motor Sports.

Peter Dale has imported to Australia a truly delectable example of Hispano-Suiza.

It is one of three racing “Boulogne” cars built by the French factory, purchased from Pierre Coty, son of the perfume king, and rebuilt by Cattaneo, who, according to Dale, is to Hispano in Europe what McKenzie is to Bentley in England, Cattaneo being described as “a retired racing driver.”

Dale’s “Boulogne” Hispano-Suiza, we are told, was spotted by Briggs Cunningham during its rebuild and he promptly offered any sum required for it, hoping to deflect it to America.

This is not surprising, for Dale has had the car entirely rebuilt, to that it can be claimed to be better than new.  Many chassis parts are brand new, from Cattaneo’s stock, while modern developments such as lead-bronze bearings and h.c. pistons are incorporated. Three d.d. Zeniths replace the original single carburetter and on a 6.5 to 1 compression-ratio this 45-h.p., 8-litre engine gives something like 250 b.h.p. On 20-in. tyres the car is geared 35 m.p.h. per 1,000 r.p.m. in the 3 to 1 top gear. Second gear of the three-speed box produces 25 m.p.h. per 1,000 r.p.m. Such gearing equals 105 m.p.h. at 3,000 r.p.m. in top and a maximum of 90 in second, although normally one changes up at 30 m.p.h. in the middle ratio. There is great charm in a car which cruises at 60 m.p.h. at 1,800 r.p.m on a whiff of throttle, giving 15 m.p.g., yet goes rapidly to another 700 r.p.m., or 85 m.p.h., with no effort at all.

Dale has yet to put a body on the car, but this will be reminiscent of that on a S.S.K. Mercedes-Benz, but with rather more luggage accommodation. This Hispano-Suiza has a fuel range of over 350 miles (24 gallons) and from the tip of the beak of the famous stork mascot to the screen is not far short of 7 ft.

Certainly a magnificent car!  Where confusion arises is in Dale’s history of his car. He claims it to be one of three racing “Boulogne” models. The distinguishing features are quoted as a bonnet-line 88 in. lower than that of normal “Boulogne” cars and a wheelbase of 11 ft. 5 in. One such car was driven in a Targo Florio by Dubonnet, Dale has another and the third, he says, was supplied to Weymann for his successful onslaught against Stutz at Indianapolis. Now other authorities are convinced that Wernann’s car was a 37.2-h.p. “Monza” model, yet Dale appears to possess some data on the Hispano in question, remarking that Weymann’s car had a higher compression-ratio than the other two racing “Boulogne” models and the valve lift increased to 11 mm. Does this data apply to a “Monza” or was Stutz defeated by a special 45-h.p. “Boulogne” car?

Dale gives the output of a normal “Boulogne” as 194 b.h.p. on a 5 to 1 compression-ratio and says the factory spoke of over 200 b.h.p. at 2,600 r.p.m. from the racing version. Incidentally, he remarks that the H-S stork mascot was designed by F. Gazin.

Whether his rebuilt Hispano-Suiza really is the “Gallic answer to the 8-litre Bentley of Mr. Lycett” only a test will tell. But it is an uncommonly fine car and one which should be of great interest to Les Hommes a l’Hispano.


Magnesium bodywork

Sydney Allard was obviously interested when Essex Aero, Ltd., revealed a coupé which they had built on a J2X Allard chassis. This car, they pointed out, weighs 2,683 lb.complete with radio, Clayton heater, etc.,  whereas the normal J2X in open form, on a  shorter chassis, and without any such luxury equipment, scales 6 lb. more.

The Essex Aero coupé is of one-piece construction, easily removable from the chassis, when the mechanism is immediately laid bare and accessible. There are, indeed, only, six fixing points. The facia panel is of stained and polished mahogany and remains with the chassis after the body has been lifted off.

The materials used for this lightweight body are 16 s.w.g. D.T.D.118A magnesium alloy for the shell and structure generally, 12 s.w.g. for screen pillars and reinforcements. Magnesium alloy containing 7 per cent. aluminium is employed for most of the minor fittings; the radiator grilles, for example, and the boot-lid hinges being of 10 s.w.g.

An example of the weight-saving of magnesium-alloy construction is that the fuel tank, which holds 20 gallons and on a normal Allard weighs 39-1/2 lb.,  on the Essex Aero coupé weighs only 15-1/2 lb. The entire coupé shell weighs but 132 lb., or 140 lb. with its doors; and even when windows, window winders, grille, headlamps, top facia panel, wiper, motor and rear seats have been added, this goes up to only 395 lb.

The J2X Allard was adopted as a useful chassis to effectively portray the benefits of weight-saving as effected by Essex Aero construction. The 3,917-c.c, Mercury V8 engine is used, with pushrod o.h.v. conversion heads giving an 8 to 1 compression-ratio. The transmission incorporates a four-speed Cotal electric gearbox, while the handsome lines of the car are shown in the accompanying photograph. Details can be supplied by Essex Aero, Ltd., The Airport, Gravesend, Kent.