1927 Hispano-Suiza T49
Year of manufacture1927
Number of seats2
1927 Hispano-Suiza 27hp T49 Weymann Saloon
Coachwork by H J Mulliner
Registration no. YF 554
Chassis no. 7874
Engine no. 7874
The choice of European Royalty, Indian Maharajahs, Hollywood film stars and industrial tycoons, the legendary Hispano-Suiza was superbly engineered and imitated unashamedly by some of the world's leading car manufacturers. Although the marque was of Spanish origin, it was Hispano-Suiza's French-built cars that established it in the front rank of luxury automobile manufacturers following the end of WWI. During the conflict, Hispano engines had powered some of the Allies' finest fighter aircraft, and post-war the marque would adopt the stork emblem of French 'ace' Georges Guynemer's Escadrille des Cicognes, whose SPAD biplanes had used Hispano's V8 aero engine.
Not surprisingly, the first post-war Hispano drew heavily on this expertise, being powered by a Marc Birkigt-designed, 6,597cc, overhead-camshaft six derived from one half of a proposed V12 aero engine. A seven-bearing design enjoying the benefit of pressure-fed lubrication, the latter was built in unit with the three-speed gearbox and featured aluminium-alloy pistons running in steel cylinder liners screwed into the light-alloy block. Maximum power was a heady 135bhp produced at just 2,400rpm, and the almost flat torque curve afforded walking-pace-to-85mph performance in top gear. A handful of prototype H6s was made at the company's Barcelona factory - King Alfonso XIII taking delivery of an early example in April 1918 - before production proper commenced at Bois-Colombes, Paris.
Sensation of the 1919 Paris Show, the H6 featured a light yet rigid four-wheel-braked chassis that matched its state-of-the-art power unit for innovation. Indeed, so good were its servo-assisted brakes that Rolls-Royce acquired the rights to build the design under licence. The H6 combined performance with flexibility, comfort with good handling, and safety with reliability in a manner which enabled Hispano-Suiza to compete successfully with Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Bugatti, Isotta Fraschini and the United States' luxury marques.
This success led to the introduction of two smaller but closely related Birkigt designs based on his H6, which were earmarked for production at Hispano's factory in Barcelona. These were the four-cylinder 2.5-litre T48 and six-cylinder 3.8-litre T49. Chassis layout followed that of the Paris-built H6, featuring semi-elliptic springing all round and torque-tube drive, as did that of the overhead-camshaft engines, which delivered 60 and 90bhp respectively. These two 'T' series models were in production from 1924 until 1933.
Barcelona chassis number '7874' carries Weymann-type saloon coachwork. This type of body construction took its name from its inventor - Charles Terres Weymann a Frenchman whose background in aviation led to him using a lightweight wooden framework for motor bodies, which was held together by steel plates and covered with fabric. The principal advantage of the Weymann system was its inherent flexibility, which meant that it was free of the squeaks, creaks and rattles that hitherto had affected all traditional coachbuilt bodies. It was an immediate success; as well as making bodies at its factories in France and (later) England, Weymann licensed production to numerous independent coachbuilders, the saloon body of this car being the work of H J Mulliner, one of this country's finest. The Barker-patented dipping Marchal headlights are another particularly noteworthy feature.
The car's first owner was a Colonel Guy Geddes, who purchased it from Albemarle Motors, London in 1927. On his death in 1958 it passed via the trade to one Mike Slay, who acquired the car in 1959 and after initial use placed it in storage. While in Mike Slay's ownership, '7874' was inspected by Hispano-Suiza authority George Briand, who wrote: 'I have examined the car and found it in very good condition... my records show also that throughout its life this car has been thoroughly serviced.'
Its next owner, Clive Sherriff, recalled the circumstances of his acquisition for The Hispano Society's newsletter in April 1991 (copy article on file). Slay told him that the T49 had been laid up after the Autovac failed, but although he never got around to fixing it had employed someone to turn the engine over once a week and polish the car. It took Clive Sheriff a few months to get it running again, much of his time being consumed by a painstaking reconstruction of the complicated silencer to original pattern. As part of the re-commissioning, the chassis, engine and brakes were carefully stripped and found to be in remarkably good order, confirming George Brand's observations. New tyres were fitted, the wheels repainted and some of the brightwork re-plated.
Rarely do cars of the quality of this remarkably original 'time warp' Hispano Suiza come to market. Marque specialist Derek Brown recalls seeing this car in the 1980s in Reading and has remarked on its exceptionally original and unmolested condition: matching chassis, engine and body numbers, and even the original interior - carefully re-Connollised - and the factory tool kit. It is doubtful whether any of the other surviving T49s, believed to number a dozen or so, are as original as '7874'.
Serviced regularly by the Sondes Fields Collection's mechanic, whose records are on file, the Hispano was last MoT'd in 2006 and still runs very well. The Autovac was rebuilt in 2010 and the car should require only minimal re-commissioning before returning to active use. Accompanying documentation consists of an expired MoT (2006) and a V5 registration document. Sold strictly as viewed, '7874' represents a rare opportunity to acquire an imposing motor car from one of the world's most prestigious makes, preserved in quite remarkable condition.