1913 Hispano-Suiza Alfonso XIII

1913 Hispano-Suiza Alfonso XIII

One of the most famous marques of all time, Hispano-Suiza was founded in Barcelona, Spain in 1904, its name (literally, Spanish-Swiss) recognising both its place of origin and the contribution made by its chief designer, the Swiss engineer Marc Birkigt. The latter had designed the La Cuadra car in Barcelona in 1900 and then the Castro. When Castro went out of business, a new company - Fabrica De Automoviles, La Hispano-Suiza - was formed, headed by wealthy investor Damien Mateu. Two four-cylinder models were shown at the Paris Auto Show in 1906, and in 1908 the range expanded with the addition of two sixes. Spain's young King Alfonso XIII was an early devotee of the marque. One of Hispano's first customers, he purchased a trio of four-cylinder models at the Madrid Show in 1907 and would own some 30-or-so examples during his reign.

An Hispano-Suiza won France's prestigious Coupe de l'Auto race in 1910 and this racing voiturette would form the basis of the Alfonso XIII model introduced in 1912. The Spanish king had been so impressed when he drove this new Hispano that he bought one and gave permission for the new model to carry his name. Its successful exposure in France led to Hispano-Suiza setting up a factory in Paris in 1911, the better to exploit the potential of the large French market. Indeed, although the marque was of Spanish origin it was Hispano-Suiza's French-built cars, in particular the magnificent H6 and its derivatives, which established it in the front rank of luxury automobile manufacturers following the end of WWI.

Lightweight, narrow and with a centrally positioned engine, the Alfonso XIII can be considered the archetypal sports car. In 1911 the four-cylinder engine was enlarged from 2.6 to 3.6 litres, gaining a four-bearing crankshaft in the process, and in 1913 a four-speed gearbox adopted. The maximum power output of 64bhp was delivered at a lowly 2,300rpm, and with a top speed of around 120km/h (75mph), the Alfonso XIII one of the fastest road vehicles of its day. Progress was arrested by means of a handbrake operating two drums on the rear axle, and a foot-operated transmission brake. Production continued until 1918 by which time around 600 Alfonsos had been built, only about 25 of which are known to have survived (incomplete cars included).

This Alfonso XIII, chassis no. 2192, is a later, long-chassis example (118-inch wheelbase) fitted with a desirable four-speed gearbox.

Descriptions & pictures by bonhams & rmsothebys & classicdriver

Production Start 1913
Country of origin Spain