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La Hispano-Suiza, Fábrica de Automóviles, S.A.
File:Emblema hispano-suiza.jpg
Hispano-Suiza emblem
Company data
Year of foundation
14 June 1904, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
· Passenger cars, luxury automobiles and competition cars
· Aviation and marine engines
· Armoured war automobiles
· Trucks and buses
· Factory motors
Years of production of automobiles
Spain (14 June 1904 - end of 1936; 1939–1945)
France (1911–1938)
Initial capital
500,000 pesetas
Places of manufacture
Barcelona (from 1904 to 1907)
La Sagrera (Barcelona, from 1907 on)
Ripoll (from 1915 on)
Guadalajara (from 1920 on)
Paris,Levallois-Perret (from 1911 to 1914)
Bois-Colombes (from 1914 on)

Hispano-Suiza (literally: "Spanish-Swiss") was a Spanish automotive and engineering firm, best known for its luxury cars and aviation engines, in the pre-World War II period of the twentieth century. In 1923, its French subsidiary became a semi-autonomous partnership with the parent company and is now part of the French SAFRAN Group.[1] The Spanish parent sold all its automotive assets to Enasa, the maker of Pegaso trucks and buses, in 1946.


Early years

In 1898 a Spanish artillery captain, Emilio de la Cuadra, started electric automobile production in Barcelona under the name of La Cuadra. In Paris, De la Cuadra met the talented Swiss engineer Marc Birkigt (lived 1878–1953) and hired him to work for the company in Spain. La Cuadra built their first gas-powered engines from Birkigt designs. At some point in 1902, the ownership changed hands to J. Castro and became Fábrica Hispano-Suiza de Automóviles (Spanish-Swiss Car Factory) but this company went bankrupt in December 1903.

Yet another restructuring took place in 1904, creating La Hispano-Suiza Fábrica de Automóviles also under Castro' s direction. Four new engines were introduced in the next year and a half. 3.8 litre and 7.4 litre four-cylinder and a pair of big six-cylinder engines were produced. This company managed to avoid bankruptcy and in Spain remained in operation, as a car, truck and aviation engine producer, with its main plant located in Barcelona, until 1946. They mass-produced cars, trucks and buses and a number of hand-made racing and luxury cars, some owned by King Alfonso XIII of Spain.

France was soon proving to be a much larger market for their luxury cars than Spain. In 1911, a new factory, called Hispano France, was set up in the Paris suburb of Levallois-Perret. In 1914, production was moved to larger factories at Bois-Colombes, under the the name Hispano-Suiza.

World War I

File:Hispano-Suiza logo.JPG
Hispano-Suiza badge, the Spanish and Swiss national flags united by two wings

With the start of World War I, the company turned to the design and production of aircraft engines under the direction of Marc Birkigt. His chief engineer during this period was another Swiss, Louis Massuger. Birkigt's solution to building aero engines was unique: instead of machining separate steel cylinders and then bolting them to a crankcase, he used cast aluminium blocks into which thin steel liners were screwed. This made the engine overall much stiffer, easier to build and lighter. His design was a V-8 and was the first of what are today known as "cast block" engines and also sported overhead cams, propeller reduction gearing and a host of other features that did not appear on most other engines until the late 1920s. Another major design feature was the use of a hollow propeller shaft to allow a gun to be fired through the (reduction geared only) propeller spinner,[citation needed] avoiding the need for a synchronizer gear, a feature used in future Hispano-Suiza military engines.


After World War I Hispano-Suiza returned to automobile engine design and, in 1919, introduced the H6, earning them a reputation even greater than that of Rolls-Royce in England. Indeed, Rolls-Royce featured many Hispano-Suiza patented features, under licence. Most notably, Rolls-Royce used for many years the famed Hispano-Suiza power brakes, reputedly the best in the world, which used the torque generated by a drum brake mounted on the transmission shaft to power those on the wheels.

The H6 featured an inline 6 cylinder overhead camshaft engine based on the features of the V8 aluminium World War I aero engine and a body by Hibbard & Darrin.[2] Through the 1920s and into the 1930s, they built a series of luxury cars of increasing refinement. In fact, the 1930s V-12 car engine reverted to pushrod valve actuation to achieve even less engine noise.

During this time, Hispano-Suiza released the 37.2 Hispano-Suiza car built at the Hispano works in Paris.

In 1923 the French arm of Hispano-Suiza was incorporated as the Societé Française Hispano-Suiza, the Spanish parent company subscribing for 71% of the share capital. From then on, the French company gained an increased degree of financial independence, while the technical links were always kept strong. The mascot statuette atop the radiator used by this firm after World War I was the stork of the province of Alsace, taken from the squadron emblem painted on the side of the aircraft of the renowned World War I French ace (and Hispano-Suiza customer) Georges Guynemer, which was powered by a Hispano-Suiza engine. At the time, this was an emblem of revanchism.

In 1925, Carlos Ballester obtained permission to represent the Hispano-Suiza brand in Argentina. The agreement consisted of a phase in which the chassis were imported, followed by complete domestic production in Argentina. Thus “Hispano-Argentina, Fábrica de Automóviles S. A. (HAFDASA)" was born, destined to the production of Hispano-Suiza motors and automobiles, and also the production of spare parts for other car, truck, and bus manufacturers.

A fictional example of a Hispano-Suiza appears in the P.G. Wodehouse "Blandings Castle" stories; the family drove or rather were driven in a Hispano-Suiza (H6), rather than, say, a Rolls-Royce. Also in the Agatha Christie novel The Seven Dials Mystery the main character, Lady Eileen "Bundle" Brent, drives herself about in her "Hispano".

World War II

In 1936, Hispano-Suiza was told to stop production of cars and turn solely to aircraft engines once again. At the time they had just introduced a new series of water-cooled V-12 engines and the Hispano-Suiza 12Y was in huge demand for practically every French aircraft. However Hispano was never able to deliver enough of these engines, and many French fighters sat on the ground complete but for the engine.

Another development of the era was a series of 20 mm autocannon, first the Hispano-Suiza HS.9 and then the more famous Hispano-Suiza HS.404. The 404 was licensed for production in Britain and equipped almost all RAF fighter aircraft during the war. Production was also set up in the US, but these versions never matured even though the USAAC and US Navy both wanted to use it in place of their existing .50 weapons. A lesser-known success was the Hispano-Suiza HS.820, a higher performance 20 mm design that was also used in the US as the M139. In 1970 Hispano-Suiza sold their armaments division to Oerlikon, the HS.820 becoming the KAD.

In 1940, Hispano-Suiza together with the private Spanish bank Banco Urquijo and a group of Spanish industries founded SEAT's predecessor company, the 'Sociedad Ibérica de Automóviles de Turismo' (S.I.A.T.) with the vision to establish Spain's national mass-producing car maker.


After the Second World War Hispano-Suiza was primarily an aerospace firm. Between 1945 and 1955, they built the Rolls-Royce Nene under licence, began designing landing gear in 1950 and Martin-Baker ejection seats in 1955. Their attention turned increasingly to turbine manufacturing and, in 1968, they became a division of SNECMA. In 1999 they moved their turbine operations to a new factory in Bezons, outside Paris, using the original factories for power transmissions and accessory systems for jet engines. In 2005 SNECMA merged with SAGEM to form SAFRAN.

The brand may be seeing a revival, however, with the showing of a model at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show priced at €700,000 with an Audi R8 V10 engine tuned to 750 horsepower.[3]

Models (passenger cars)

Model Year N° of cylinders Horsepower (CV)[clarification needed] Engine displacement (cc) Brakes Gearbox Maximum speed
10 HP 1904 6 10 ~ ~ ~ ~
14–16 HP 1904 6 From 14 to 16 ~ ~ ~ ~
Armoured type Birkigt 1905 4 20 ~ ~ ~ Script error: No such module "convert".
20-30 HP 1906 ~ From 20 to 24 ~ ~ ~ Script error: No such module "convert".
40 HP 1906 ~ 40 ~ ~ ~ Script error: No such module "convert".
60–75 HP 1907 6 From 60 to 75 ~ ~ ~ ~
12–15 HP 1907 ~ From 12 to 15 ~ ~ ~ ~
20–30 HP 1908 4 From 20 to 30 ~ ~ ~ ~
24–30 HP 1908 4 From 24 to 30 ~ ~ ~ ~
30–40 HP 1908 4 From 30 to 40 ~ ~ ~ ~
Alfonso XIII 1912 4 64 3620 Drum brake in back wheels (front wheels without brakes) Manual transmission, 3 gears and reverse Script error: No such module "convert".
15–20 HP 1909 4 From 15 to 20 ~ ~ ~ ~
20–30 HP 1909 4 From 20 to 30 ~ ~ ~ ~
T21 1913–14 ~ From 15 to 30 ~ ~ ~ ~
T22 1913–14 ~ From 18 to 60 ~ ~ ~ ~
T23 1913–14 ~ From 30 to 90 ~ ~ ~ ~
T26 1914–15 ~ 20 ~ ~ ~ ~
T30 1915–24 ~ 16 ~ ~ ~ ~
32 HP 1916 ~ 32 ~ ~ ~ ~
H6B 1919 6 135 6600 4 wheel drum brakes with Hispano Suiza power-assisted brakes Manual transmission, 3 gears and reverse Script error: No such module "convert".
T48 1924 4 90 3746 ~ ~ ~
T49 1924–36 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
T64 1929–33 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
T60/T60 RL/T60 1932–43 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
H6C 1924 6 160 8000 4 wheel drum brakes with Hispano Suiza power-assisted brakes Manual transmission, 3 gears and reverse Script error: No such module "convert".
T56 1928–1936 6 46 ~ ~ ~ ~
J12 1931 12 220 9500 ~ ~ Script error: No such module "convert".
K6 1934–37 6 120 5200 4 wheel drum brakes with Hispano Suiza power-asssisted brakes Manual transmission, 3 gears and reverse Script error: No such module "convert".

The models H6B (1919–29), H6C (1924–29), Hispano Suiza Junior or HS26 (1931–32), J12 (1931–38) and K6 (1934–37) were made by the French division, the rest were all manufactured in Spain.


List of Hispano-Suiza aircraft

List of Hispano-Suiza aircraft engines


  1. "La Hispano-Suiza - Anciennes Oldies - FORUM Anciennes - FORUM auto mythiques et d'exception". Forum-auto.com. Retrieved 2010-03-09. 
  2. Georgano, G. N. Cars: Early and Vintage, 1886–1930. London: Grange-Universal, 1985. Dutch Darrin would later design the 1942 Packard Victoria, as driven by Banacek.
  3. Lieberman, Jonny (2010-03-02). "Geneva 2010: Hispano Suiza debuts the... Hispano Suiza — Autoblog". Autoblog.com. Retrieved 2010-03-09. 

See also

External links

Template:Hispano-Suiza aeroengines Template:Aviation listsca:Hispano Suiza cs:Hispano-Suiza de:Hispano-Suiza es:Hispano-Suiza fr:Hispano-Suiza gl:Hispano-Suiza it:Hispano-Suiza nl:Hispano Suiza ja:イスパノ・スイザ no:Hispano-Suiza pl:Hispano-Suiza ru:Hispano-Suiza fi:Hispano-Suiza sv:Hispano-Suiza tr:Hispano-Suiza