1935 Hispano Suiza T60 by Capella
Fabulous "Preservation Class" entry in any major Concours d'Elegance!
HISTORY OF THE MARQUE
Founded in 1904 this Spanish/Swiss company began its life making large capacity automobile and aircraft engines in Barcelona under the direction of Swiss engineer Marc Birkigt. The emphasis was on engineering excellence and high quality of materials employed as well as clever design techniques.
Recognizing that there was a demand for their cars from wealthy European industrialists as well as from the likes of Indian Maharajahs and Hollywood glitterati, the Hispano-Suiza operations in Paris offered their discerning clients a choice of coachwork to fit over the running chassis, and in 1919 the company announced their H6 model with a six cylinder engine and a capacity of 6.6 litres. This was to become their mainstay power unit up until the early 1930s, and as is well known, they are also responsible for creating the massive J12 engine with its nine litres of cylinder capacity.
The T60 was the first Hispano-Suiza not to be designed by Swiss engineer Birkigt. However, it incorporated a range of innovations, including lateral camshafts and cylinder head valves operated by tappets and rockers. It was also the first with built in LHD. The first version of this model hit the market in 1932, as a more rational saloon compared to the brand’s luxury models.
Nevertheless, the model we drive here was the T60 RL, an updated version of the original, characterised by a more streamlined body.
The car was originally bought by a family from Manresa, Barcelona, who barely had time to enjoy their new automobile. When Civil War broke out after a savage military uprising, the car was requisitioned by Republican militias. The Hispano-Suiza quickly became tragically famous among the local population, as the Republicans—many uneducated anarchists—began a brutal witch hunt against businessmen and clergy. It is one of the few Hispano Suiza to retain the flag of the Spanish Republic on its badge.
However, the car soon acquired an even more important role in the war. It ended up with the followers of Buenaventura Durruti, one of the leading figures of the Spanish anarchist movement and its trade union organisation, the CNT. The celebrated Durruti Column requisitioned several top-end cars during the war, including a Packard and our Hispano Suiza. In November 1936, Durruti was hit by a bullet during fighting at the Complutense University campus in Madrid. Some historians say that he died in the back seat of the Hispano Suiza. Durruti did not reach the Republicans' field hospital alive. The car was not recovered by its owners until the end of the war.
Nowadays, this Hispano retains an interesting sheen and is very much in demand for audio-visual productions about the Civil War. This year it featured in a film about the life of Catalonian president Lluis Companys.
In spite of its age and all that it has been through, its 6-cylinder engine is still full of pep, and driving it spirits you back to the days of the fratricidal war that tore Spain apart in the 1930s. An exceptional car with an exceptional history at a very reasonable price!