London | Lot 137

1935 Hispano-Suiza K6 Sedanca de Ville by Franay

£112,000 GBP | Sold

United Kingdom | London, United Kingdom

8 September 2014

Chassis No.
Engine No.
  • Marc Birkigt’s pièce de résistance
  • Handsome Franay coachwork

125 bhp, 5,184 cc overhead-valve six-cylinder engine, three-speed manual gearbox, solid front axle and live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel servo-assisted mechanical drum brakes. Wheelbase: 3,710 mm

As the name implies, Hispano-Suiza was a cosmopolitan marque, with Swiss and Spanish roots and a parallel manufacturing base in France. Swiss engineer Marc Birkigt had designed the Barcelona-built Castro, which became the basis for the first Hispano-Suiza of 1904. Birkigt then embarked on a range of well-built T-head fours, of which Spain’s King Alfonso XIII became enamoured. By 1913, overhead-cam engines were introduced, but with the outbreak of World War I, Hispano-Suiza turned to aero engines, under the direction of Birkigt, with hands-on engineering by Louis Massuger, who was also of Swiss descent.

After the war, Spanish automobile developments were overshadowed by those of a new factory in France, which had opened in 1911. Most significant of these was the H6 of 1919, which remained in production for a decade. It was described by British historian T.R. Nicholson as “the last word in advanced transport for the rich”, and it was powered by an overhead-cam six of 6.6 litres.

The Hispano-Suiza K6 was a successor to the short-lived 1931–1932 “Junior” HS26, and it went into production in 1933. Its six-cylinder engine was derived from that of the flagship 12-cylinder J12 from 1931 to 1938. It had a pushrod overhead valve and was designed by Rodolphe Herrmann, who had recently been recruited by Birkigt. The chassis was similar to the J12 but lighter. Total K6 production is believed to be 204 cars. As with earlier cars, bodies were supplied by the customer’s choice of coachbuilder, which in the case of this car was Franay.

Carrosserie Franay was established by Jean-Baptiste Franay and his wife in Levallois-Perret, Seine, Paris, in 1903. Franay, a saddle maker by training, had worked for Henri Binder and was schooled by him. His early efforts were well made yet heavy, but he eventually found greater creativity. The late historian Jan Norbye wrote that Franay “reach[ed] full bloom only about 1927–1937”. By the later part of that period, he built mostly on Packard, Duesenberg, or Hispano-Suiza chassis. This car is an excellent example of the latter.

It was delivered new to a Mr Arthur Vail on 20 April 1935, and Hispano historians report that engine 333046 is original to the car. By 1972, it had been acquired by Paul P. Hoffman, of Raleigh, North Carolina, who kept it for almost a decade. In the 1990s, it was owned by Agnes Hamilton Hill, of Malvern, Pennsylvania.

Although it features an older restoration, it has seen responsible stewardship and still presents well. Its roof, upper bonnet, and wings are black, and it features cream body sides and light ochre belt moulding. Its dual side-mount spares are topped with mirrors, and the car has wire wheels all around. The instrument panel is set in a varnished wood surround, whilst the engine compartment is clean and well detailed but not overdone. It should be noted that as this car has been on museum display, it will require further sorting prior to any extensive use.

Hispano-Suizas were the favourites of British writers P.G. Wodehouse, Agatha Christie, and Evelyn Waugh, and the new owner of this car can justifiably identify with Bertie Wooster, Lady Eileen Brent, or Margot Beste-Chetwynde.

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