What Had The Hispano ?
IN his masterful survey of sports-car evolution in the -June Mifroa SPORT Cecil Clutton pointed to the 6-cylinder Hispano-Suiza as the outstanding car of the early nineteen-twenties. This leads to the query : “What had the Ilispano that others did not possess ? ” remembering that this was an age of large, luxurious cars having, in quite a few instances, quite decent performance. In an endeavour to supply the answers we travelled to the village Of Godstone, situated in pleasant Surrey country not far from Caterhatn Valley, some 19 miles south of the metropolis, to inspect a 1923 37.2-11.p. Hispano-Suiza, now preserved as a breakdown ambulance at a garage recently taken over by the .genial brother of Leslie Ballamy. This Hispano is something of an heirloom, and is neither for sale nor destined to be broken up. We were able not only to examine it carefully, but to borrow a book of instructions appertaining to these cars made under the Birkigt Patents—a beautifully written and produced work, incidentally. From it we learn in a picturesquely= worded, if technically vague, introduction that the Societd Hispano-Suiza, makers of Motor cars, marine sets, aviation engines and commercial vehicles, with French offices in the Rue du CapitaineGuynemer, Bois-Colombes, made an engine, the design of which “is evolved from our aircraft engine, and it embodies its most distinctive and best features, based on the experience gained by us in the course of manufacturing nearly 50,000 models in a period of four years, and of intensive service on all fronts ; such distinctive features are : the set of cylinders, the valve gear, the vertical overhead drive of the latter, the lubrication system, etc. Let us delve into the specification of a grand car evolved from last-war service. The cylinders (100 x
140 nun.) were steel forgings screwed into an aluminium-alloy water jacket made corrosion-proof by enamelling under pressure. The valve gear was especially laid out for silent operation, whereas, the book reminds us, “hitherto all solutions of the problem of fitting engines with o.h. valve gear and drive by means of tappets or tumblers were noisy in working, and could not be fitted to cars de luxe.” Birkigt let his camshaft operate tangentially on the valve discs, and clearance was altered by screwing up or down the disc on the end of the valve stem with a special key. The crankshaft had fully circular webs with the flywheel bolted to the rearmost disc, and ran in seven white-metal-lined gun-metal bearings. It was drilled for lubrication purposes. The lubrication system was straightforward, and employed an immersed pump with rotary valves. A double carburetter on. the off side fed a set of three cylinders independently and was fed by autovac from a 24-gallon rear tank, an injection device to the inlet manifold being incorporated to facilitate starting. The cooling system held approximately seven gallons, and the pump fed-about 12 gallons per 1,200 r.p.m., a belt-driven fan being set close behind the handsome honeycomb radiator. Each cylinder had a plug on both sides, fired by dual Delco distributors and coils, the vertical shaft driving the o.h. camshaft also driving a cross-shaft from which these vertical distributors were driven, the near-side extremity of this cross-shaft driving the water-pump. Ignition timing was automatic with hand over-ride, and the dynamo, driven from the nose of the crankshaft, commenced charging at 400 r.p.m. and had an output • of 18 amps at 12 volts. Early cars had one 75 amp.-hour accumulator and an auxiliary 25 amp.-hour accumulator, arranged so that this latter accumulator could not be employed to light the headlamps ; later cars had two 75 amp.-hour
accumulators. There was compensated voltage control. The lamps each had a separate Fuse and were specially waterproofed, and wiring was by Monofil cables, each bearing an ebonite identity ring, a special distribution box providing for the klaxons, ceiling lamps, etc., and, on late chassis, for external battery charging. Up to chassis No. 10,810 the clutch was an inverted cone type, but from chassis No. 10,311 a single dry plate was used, the drive going via a 3-speed gearbox and two-piece propeller shaft, to a Gleason spiral-bevel rear axle having wrought-iron casing and tubes and a 4pinion differential. The chassis had four cross-members and relied on the engine for further bracing. The brakes were, of course, in large ribbed drums on all four wheels, operated via the famous Hispano-Suiza gearbox driven mechanical servo and steel cables. Worm and nut steering was used, and the tyres were Michelin cords of 895 x 135 or 895 x 150, run at from 52 to 70 lb./sq. in. pressure according to section and load. The engine could be fitted with a mechanical tyre pump which was driven from the starting handle clutch at from 4-500 r.p.m., inflating a tyre in four minutes. Examination of Ballamy’s car revealed the very clean design of the engine, the components grouped at the front and driven from the timing gears by the crossshaft, and the beautiful linkage from the minor controls. On the near side is an immense trap-door in the crankcase flange, which acts as the oil filler, with a float oil-level indicator adjacent. The six-branch tapered exhaust manifold is on this side, and on the opposite side the low-set carburetter feeds via a single
circular-section external manifold -with hexagonal inspection plugs in the ends. The aircraft practice is evident in the camshaft drive, and the very shapely, narrow, black-stoved valve cover. The
leads to the plugs run in long metal conduits. The dashboard contains a fine array of Hispano-Suiza instruments, including ft rev.-counter reading to 3,600 r.p.m. driven from the rear of the camshaft., and a 115 k.p.h. speedometer and a 115-litre Nivex fuel gauge. This car was an open 4-seater, and the body has not been much spoilt in accommodating the crane. The disc-shod wheels carry 895 x 130 covers, and most of its heavy towing work calls only for top gear. Somehow its lines, the radiator graced by the famous stork mascot, seem superior to those of contemporary British highperformance cars of similar dimensions.
Incidentally, fast as these cars undoubtedly were, the makers advised a cruising speed of 50-55 m.p.h., which “allows one to enjoy the scenery, and works out at an average of 38 m.p.h.” The ” 37.2 ” Hispano was followed by the 110 x 140-mm., 7,983-c.c., 45-h.p. snorts chassis, which Glen Kidstone and Zborowski favoured, amongst others. Actually, in 1927, a 27-h.p. 6-cylinder Continued on page 202
—continued from page 205 kept the bigger car company, and the truly magnificent ” 45 ” did not come out until 1929. In 1932 a 4i-litre six and the ” square ” 9i-litre V12 joined the range— but that is another story. Those who have motored for any distance behind the famous Hispano stork mascot know well the charm of the earlier models. It would be extremely interesting to know how many ” 37.2 ” and ” 45 ” cars are still among us. With this query in mind we called on Gaston Chevrollier, the London concessionaire, but he was not able to help us very much, although we did see his own ” 37.2 ” saloon, another car to which Lancia ” Dilarnbda ” or similar suspension was being fitted, and a beautiful V12 that he was servicing.