Hispano-Suiza stands proudly among the greatest classic-era marques in the world. Like Bugatti, Delahaye, and Isotta-Fraschini, Hispano-Suiza represented some of the finest motorcars to come out of mainland Europe from the teens through the thirties. Based in Barcelona, Spain, the “Suiza” part of the name comes from Marc Brikigt, a Swiss-born engineer who served as technical director from the company’s founding in 1904 through the end of car production in the late 1930s. The firm took on many forms in its nearly 50-year history, including the addition of a production line in France, and an aero-engine division with an American branch. Early on, Hispano-Suiza built a wide range of vehicles, from a 10hp four-cylinder to a mighty 60/75 horsepower six-cylinder tourer named for King Alphonso XIII. Hispano-Suiza was a car reserved for royalty, entertainers, and elite socialites. Europe’s most prestigious coachbuilders vied for the chance to put their name on Hispano-Suiza chassis, resulting in some of the most stunning and memorable motorcars of the pre-war period.
Throughout the firm’s existence, buyers revered Hispano-Suiza automobile for their power and performance. In the 1930s, the line consisted of the mighty J12 (twelve cylinders up to 11.3 liters) and the smaller, yet equally sophisticated six-cylinder K6. The K6 featured overhead valves, and upwards of 120 horsepower. It was the mainstay of the line up through the end of French Hispano-Suiza production at the end of 1937. Like any Hispano-Suiza, today’s collectors covet the K6 for its exceptional performance, long-distance touring ability, and beautiful coachwork.
This 1936 Hispano-Suiza K6 is one of 204 such models built and is among the last of the classic six-cylinder Hispanos, fitted with graceful Berline coachwork by Vanvooren of Paris. In the care of the same family since 1981, this Hisso is a well-known and respected car in the Classic Car Club of America, and a veteran of numerous tours in the USA and Europe. Sitting atop the optional extended 148-inch wheelbase chassis, this K6 Berline is a very handsome example, with formal yet flowing lines in the best Vanvooren tradition. The known history of this K6 picks up in the early 1970s when in the care of Bob Marceca of New York. He sold the car in 1976 to Richard B. Wilder, who enjoyed the K6 in the rolling hills surrounding his home in Kent, Connecticut. Wilder advertised the car for sale a few years later, and the original ad (included in the file) described it as a “fast road car,” finished in black and tan, with a rebuilt engine and removable wheel discs. The ad caught the attention of another noted enthusiast and collector, Mr. Javier “Jay” Leon. A resident of Texas and a native of Spain, Leon had a natural attraction to the Hispano-Suiza. He purchased the car form Wilder in 1981, and he would care for and enjoy this Hisso for the rest of his life. Javier and his wife Berta took their Hisso on numerous CARavan tours with the CCCA around America, and a lengthy tour of Europe with the Hispano-Suiza Society. They gradually restored the car, commissioning a complete engine rebuild by the experts at The Vintage Garage in North Brookfield, Massachusetts (now in Stowe, VT). Photographs and an article in the Hispano-Suiza Society magazine document the extensive engine overhaul.
Later in the 1980s, the Leons restored the car cosmetically, finishing it in a period two-tone blue livery. They also restored the interior to match, with blue leather in the driver’s compartment and complementing blue broadcloth in the rear. As Jay’s health was failing, Berta often did much of the driving, so they had the car adapted with power assisted steering. The Leons and their K6 were invited to the 1990 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, where it won the Alec Ulman Trophy for the Most Elegant Hispano-Suiza. It appears in Beverly Rae Kimes’ book The Classic Car (1990) along with comments by Jay. After Javier’s passing, Berta held on to the K6, continuing to care for the car she and her first husband enjoyed for so many years. She later remarried, and along with her new husband, they carried on enjoying the car in CCCA events across the Southwest.
Thanks to so many years of care and attention, the K6 remains in excellent condition, with a mellow and charming character to the restoration. The body remains in fine order, with good panel fit and detail. The paintwork is glossy and consistent, with some aging is visible on close inspection, yet quite appealing with a careworn charm. Chrome and brightwork remain in excellent condition, including the grille and Marchal Aerolux bullet headlamps. While it is a division window limousine, the long wheelbase allows for a roomy driver’s compartment, ideal for long-distance touring. The interior features stunning rosewood trim, an Art Moderne floor heater and blue leather and broadcloth upholstery, all presented in very good condition with a light and attractive patina.
The K6 was a powerful car for its day, making 125 horsepower from its 5,184 cc overhead valve inline six. Since this car’s comprehensive and well-documented rebuild, it remains in good running condition thanks to regular care and maintenance. The engine presentation is honest and tidy and would need little to return it to show-worthy state. Accompanying the sale is an extensive history file containing Spanish and English owner’s manuals and extensive receipts, photos, and correspondence that paint the picture of a car that was cherished by Jay and Berta. This elegant Hispano-Suiza remains well-suited for continued enjoyment in tours and road events, and with minimal effort could be returned to duty on the show field. One of the best known, and best-loved K6s extant, this marvelous Vanvooren saloon is ready for the next owner to continue its remarkable legacy.