I have read with great interest, not unmixed with nostalgia, the really excellent article on l’Automobile Hispano-Suiza by Mr. Kent Karslake.
My first introduction to this unique motor car was in 1933 when, as an engineering student in Paris, I had the privilege of working for one year at the Hispano-Suiza factory at Bois Colombes.
In a corner of the yard there rested five or six elderly Hispanos and I coveted a 37.2-h.p. coupé-de-ville by Kellner dated about 1920 which would be an open car for me (in front) and a closed one for less hardy passengers (in the back). More or less as a joke I asked one of the senior salesman (Prince Poniatowski) what they wanted for it. H.R.H. shrugged his shoulders and said how about 2,500 francs, at that time, about £25! Within five minutes I thus became an Hispano-Suiza owner.
Oil was changed, carburetter cleaned, fuel replenished, radiator filled and I drove off for nine months of motoring that was quite out of this world. Apart from petrol and oil I literally never spent a penny on this car and never had to change a wheel. Petrol was rather expensive–12 m.p.g.–so I teamed up with some friends as fare-paying passengers for long trips. We went to Montlèry, Rheims, Dieppe, Le Mans, Chateau Thiery hill-climb—how lucky I was then; every moment at the wheel of that car was an active and real pleasure. Only two cars have I subsequently found that were as handy as the Hispano in traffic–F.I.A.T. Topolino and Lancia Lambda. I could ramble on for pages about this grand motor car but must stop.
One final story: a year or two after I re-sold my Hispano to the Company (dropping about £5) I was connected with the concessionaires in Great Britain for the marque and frequently handled the push-rod six and twelve-cylinder models. They were magnificent cars but not that indefinable something associated with the earlier 45, 37.2 and 27-h.p. The servo brakes on the 12-cylinder certainly were fantastic arid the first time at the wheel of this car I made a fool or myself by exerting normal pressure on the brake pedal, throwing my passenger forward and producing two black marks on the road. The secret was this: exactly the same pressure on brake and throttle pedals produced the same effects in reverse, in other words hard down on either banged you in the back or flung you forward and delicacy was called for.
Perhaps one day I shall be able to drive a real motor car again, though never for £25.
I am, Yours, etc.
Peel Common. ANTONY DUNHILL.
Lieut.-Commander (L), Royal Navy.