hispanic switzerland alfonso xiii

Hispano-Suiza Alfonso XIII of 1911: Innovative and performance


You can't go to the Prado Museum in a hurry. It takes time, patience and a comfortable shoe to slowly weave one room into another. In that sense, you have to plan the visit focusing on this or that painter since, pretending to see everything, is simply a chimera. Therefore, on a first visit, the most sensible thing would be to go to the most emblematic works by Velázquez. However, it is impossible not to stop at the Goya or Titian. Something like that happens with the Mullin Automotive Museum.

A museum that, like El Prado, has an interesting video channel where motor historians slowly explain the history of the vehicles on display. In just two months, they have produced material on pieces like the Hispano-Suiza H6B "Xenia" or Voisin Type C27 Grand Sport Roadster. Cars that tell us about the height of this collection, in which the old vehicles defined by their technological innovations stand out. Character shared by this Hispano-Suiza sports; a Type 45CR Alfonso XIII from 1911.

Lightweight and with a focused engine, this Spanish sports car - although assembled in France after the transfer of most of the production due to political problems - was a breakthrough at the time. So much so that many consider this Hispanic-Suiza one of the first sports cars in history. Or at least one of the first truly effective thanks to its great top speed not contested with good handling on twisting trails. A gem for engineering lovers that we can now see in detail thanks to this illustrative video.


Hispano-Suiza is known, essentially, for their luxurious cars able to deal with Rolls-Royce on an equal footing. However, the truth is that there is more than one sports Hispano-Suiza. In the end, the great automobile houses of the time sold the chassis and mechanicsThe car can be personalized so much that, finally, each serial number ended up being a unique piece. Something very common in the history of the approximately half a thousand of Hispano-Suiza "Alfonso XIII".

Manufactured between 1911 and 1914, this is the name by which the Type45 is popularly known. A designation not at all accidental, since the monarch himself was one of the greatest fans of this Spanish sports car, to which he granted the use of his name. A Hispano-Suiza that, although it knew versions of extended chassis designed for four-seater bodies, went down in the history of the brand as its main and most famous racing vehicle. And be careful, because although it has more than a century its benefits still attract attention. And it is that, although its engine gives a moderate 60CV, its weight is only 660 kilos. And speeds of more than 120 km were common in their transit ... Take courage on those roads full of dirt full of sinkholes!

In addition, its 3.616cc in-line four-cylinder powerplant was positioned longitudinally well behind the front axle. Outcome? Saving the distances, a mass distribution similar to what a car with a central engine could have. Something that was a breakthrough at the time, in which the vehicles dangerously understeer due to the excessive weight pointing to the nose and the excessive displacement.


Although Hispano-Suiza is undoubtedly a Spanish brand, the truth is that the debate already comes from the name itself. Something that got complicated after 1910 when, after political problems related to growing labor unrest, the production of the Alfonso XIIIs moved to the French plant in Levallois-Perret. Of this Spanish sports car, only the fifteen units of its first series were assembled in national territory, belonging to the French factory the following. In fact, this Hispano-Suiza sports car from the Mullin Automotive Museum is the first of the second series.

Commissioned by pilot Albert Roulinat on September 4, 1911, it has a documented racing pedigree until at least 1914. At which point its first owner sold it due to financial problems. Since then, our sports Hispano-Suiza enters an unclear biography until in 1960 Francisco de la Rocha bought his remains. The old distributor of the brand in Galicia kept it until his death, at which point it passed into the hands of the recently deceased historian of Hispano-Suiza Emilio Polo.

From there it apparently passed to the classics specialist Patricio Chadwick, who restored it in his own workshop after selling it to a well-known collector in 2001. The owner only had it for three years, well In July 2004 Peter Mullin purchased the car for his Californian museum. A perfect place to value this Hispano-Suiza but yes, very far from the country where it was designed. After all, there are also not a few Velázquez in the hands of North American collectors instead of hanging on the walls of the Prado Museum.

Full of secrets

But, beyond the trajectory of this Hispanic Alfonso XIII, what really matters is the quality of your engineering. It is a beautiful completely handmade two-seater, forged in noble materials. Details such as its pointed radiator or its natural air deflector where the front window should go allows us to get an idea of ​​the subtlety of its sophistication.

The four-cylinder, although it is difficult to work due to the cylinder head, is a small work of art equipped, of course, with magneto ignition or cameras and pushers in sight, in addition to other great things such as the Weber carburettor (already then! ) that fuels his fury destined to unleash in hill races. Actually, there are reasons to consider the father of the Hispano Suiza, Mark Birkigt, as one of the best engineers of the last century.

As a curiosity, remind you that these machines required that a mechanic accompany the driver, since, while he hugged the back of the adjoining seat to avoid being thrown (he did not have a steering wheel to hold on to), he had to do things like pump gasoline and oil to the engine at the right times. In addition to changing wheels every few kilometers and performing the required multiple greases, which were usually spit back in his face. On the other hand, the belief that it was better to be thrown out of the car in the event of an accident made him, like the driver, dispense with a seat belt.

True heroes, whose deeds we can imagine thanks to this video about one of the only 3 copies of Spanish-Swiss Alfonso XIII of races that are preserved.

What do you think?

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Written by Miguel Sánchez

Through the news from La Escudería, we will travel the winding roads of Maranello listening to the roar of the Italian V12; We will travel Route66 in search of the power of the great American engines; we will get lost in the narrow English lanes tracking the elegance of their sports cars; We will speed up the braking in the curves of the Monte Carlo Rally and we will even get dusty in a garage while rescuing lost jewels.

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