Halo projects are all the rage, whenever fresh opportunism rears its self-confident head, highlights Iain Robertson, and joining the growing ranks of electrified excess for the billionaire sector is the rebirth of hyper luxury Spanish carmaker, Hispano-Suiza.
The hypercar sector, which includes such renowned combatants as Bugatti and Ferrari, must have believed that all its Christmases had come at once, with the advent of modern vehicular electrification. All of a sudden, it could boast of moonshot potency levels to exceed the ‘standard’ offerings of 550 to 650bhp from average ICE rivals, with talk of attainable 2,000bhp targets. Regardless of Bugatti’s 8.0-litre W16 boast of 1,001bhp, capable of whisking its petrol-multi-turbo Veyron from 0-60mph in a sparrow’s fart more than 2.0s, on its way to a nerve-jangling 252mph, both Pininfarina and Lotus are productionising their electric dream cars to even more spirited levels.
Million Pound price tags mean that gaining sight of this new class of monster performer may revert to boys’ bedroom posters, because their intentionally brief production runs will make physical sightings all but impossible, even if you camped out on the lawn in front of Monte Carlo’s famed casino for a month in midsummer. Just harnessing all of that insta-torque, which could turn even the widest of tyres into dust within milliseconds of full-throttle application, surely presents engineering obstacles that demand exceptionally creative solutions. Still, being inaccessible even to Chris Harris, or Supercar Blondie, will make some owners mildly grateful.
Epitomised by its flying ‘Silver Stork’ radiator adornment, Hispano Suiza was founded on June 14th 1904 by Damián Mateu, with the support of engineer Marc Birkigt, a Swiss gentleman, who went to Spain with the sole intention of revolutionising its fledgling automobile industry. He had a head-start, having worked on the two predecessors of Hispano Suiza: La Cuadra and J.Castro. Since the beginning of the century, Birkigt’s experiences grew on the development of both 10 and 14hp vehicles, which formed the foundations of the company and were delivered at the end of that same year.
In 1905, Hispano Suiza produced its first vehicle, the armoured type Birkigt system, which was equipped with a four-cylinder engine and delivered 20cv, with a top speed of 87kph. It was followed, a year later, by what would be the first car with a six-cylinder engine built in Spain, which delivered 75bhp and completed the Perpignan-Paris driving route in 22 hours, a feat that received massive media attention.
Hispano Suiza’s reputation grew and it established a factory in France, also selling its manufacturing licence to other carmakers in the United Kingdom, Italy and the former Czechoslovakia (the Lauren & Klement Skoda connection), which contributed to its worldwide expansion. Simultaneously, HS became synonymous with luxury and high society, its cars captivating King Alfonso XIII, a motoring enthusiast. The monarch gave notable national and international visibility to Hispano Suiza and came to play an important role within the brand, which even named its T45 model after him.
Over the years, Hispano Suiza became available to only a selected few, with its cars belonging to aristocrats, intellectuals and the most renowned artists in the world. Its client list included: Alfonso XIII of Spain, Gustavo V of Sweden, Carlos II of Romania, Luis II of Monaco, Pablo Picasso, André Citroën, Coco Chanel, René Lacoste, Albert Einstein and more recently Paul McCartney, to name but a few. Between 1904 and 1946, the company produced only just over 12,000 cars in total.
Hispano Suiza has now returned to the automotive scene, with a project being led by Miguel Suqué Mateu, great-grandson of the founder, who keeps alive the brand legacy. Belonging to the Peralada Group, Hispano Suiza was relaunched in 2019 at the Geneva Motor Show, when it showcased a fully electric concept supercar: the Carmen. Designed, developed and built entirely in Spain, its exterior is inspired by the classic and race-winning Dubonnet Xenia and shares the values that converted Hispano Suiza into one of the greatest exponents of the luxury car industry. In its most radical form, the Carmen Boulogne, arrived last year, with an 1,114bhp EV drivetrain.
With state-of-the-art materials and meticulous attention to each buyer´s wishes, just 19 Carmen models, 5 of which will be the Boulogne enhanced version, will be built in a limited production run. Unsurprisingly, the Carmen will be blisteringly rapid and make a noise not dissimilar to a dentist’s drill on full chat, not that any one of them will ever reach such shriekingly raucous peaks, beyond the realms of computer simulation.
Possessing unusual lines is nothing unusual for Spanish motorcars, reflecting a national identity that is supported by flailing Flamencos, flapping Mantillas and high-rise footwear. Check out the Pegaso sportscar of the 1950s for evidential proof. The design of the Carmen is markedly different to the other hypercars already on the block and its connection with the original Dubonnet Xenia is abundantly obvious and ingenious.
Conclusion: In reality, there is not much else to write about. As an EV, apart from its looks, the new two-seat Hispano Suiza will be typical of the breed: quiet and quite refined, with its sledgehammer performance and electronically controlled chassis dynamics as adjuncts.