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Hemmings Motor News Blog

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Magnificent 1924 Hispano-Suiza H6C "Tulipwood Torpedo" Could Fetch $12 Million in Monterey

Posted July 06, 2022 5:00 AM by dstrohl
Pathfinder Tags: classic cars Hispano-Suiza

Andre Dubonnet, like many a dogfighter who survived the Great War, turned to auto racing after the war to provide that rush he'd only previously experienced up in the air trying to outfly his opponent. Like many of those pilots-turned-racers he brought many an innovation with him. One in particular led to a car that has since been described as the most famous Hispano-Suiza in the world, one that many consider one of the high-water marks of interwar automobile design, a car that is estimated to sell for as much as $12 million when it crosses the block later this summer.

In both automobile racing and dogfighting, weight often proves a greater foe than the driver or pilot one squares up against. By the time Dubonnet — the wealthy grandson of the creator of the Dubonnet aperitif, as every biography of him apparently must state — started driving Hispano-Suiza in 1921, automakers and coach builders had tried to trim weight as much as possible with cast-aluminum and even fabric bodies. Reflecting on his wartime experience, Dubonnet decided to try something else entirely when preparing a car for the 1924 Targa Florio.

He started by ordering a Hispano-Suiza H6C chassis. Dubonnet preferred Hispano-Suiza, perhaps because the same company provided thousands of V-8 aircraft engines to the French and British air forces. He was thus plenty familiar with the overhead-camshaft all-aluminum straight-six that Hispano-Suiza's Marc Birkigt developed from that V-8. Initially displacing 6.6 liters (403 cu.in.), the six-cylinder increased to 8.0 liters (487 cu.in.) and 200 horsepower for the H6C chassis. Dubonnet specified both a 175-liter (46-gallon) fuel tank and a shorter radiator, the latter for aerodynamics and the former for fewer refueling stops, before he had the resulting chassis — number 11012, with engine number 320001 — sent to French fighter plane manufacturer Nieuport to have a body installed.

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