1928 Hispano-Suiza 27 HP T49 short cabriolet chassis

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.

Descriptions & pictures by bonhams & flickr

Production Start 1928
Country of origin Spain