For most people, Hispano-Suiza hasn’t really been a relevant brand since we last went shopping for a new car just before the Great Depression. The Spanish company is a legendary marque, though, creating some of the most opulent and elegant cars of the era. Now, though, Hispano-Suiza is rising from the grave with an all-new supercar. Again. Twice. This may get weird.
So, just for some background, Hispano-Suiza (the name just means Spanish-Swiss, like a tapas watch) was founded in 1904, and spawned a sort-of independent subsidiary in France in 1923. The Spanish side of the company sold its assets to Enasa (a Spanish maker of commercial vehicles) in 1946 and the French side was bought by an aerospace company called Snecma in 1968
I’m telling you all this so you can get a sense of how possible it is that there may be more than one organization that feels it has the rights to the Hispano-Suiza name.
The reason that Hispano-Suiza name is so coveted is that, back in the day, they built some really staggering cars. Hispano-Suiza built cars that competed with Rolls-Royce, very often favorably, and there’s many who feel that cars like the Hispano-Suiza H6 was “the best car in the world” at that time.
These were cars that were elegant and beautiful, with some very advanced engineering to match. The H6, for example, employed an early version of a power brake booster, the first of its kind, that took momentum from a shaft on the transmission and used it to assist braking. These were supercars of their era.
Back in 2010 an attempt was made for Hispano-Suiza to re-enter the market with a reworked and re-bodied Audi R8-based car. That car was expected to be around $950,000 and nobody was really all that interested.
That Hispano-Suiza name still carries enough historical mojo to be too good to just keep down, which is why we’re seeing a comeback in two independently-developed and owned concept supercars.
The first is one we’ve written about before, an all-electric GT car named Carmen, that’s just been teased in silhouette, but is reputed to be inspired by the 1938 streamlined beauty Dubonnet Xenia:
This car was built by Barcelona-based Hispano-Suiza, owned by the Mateu family. The Mateu family is related to Don Damián Mateu, the financier who originally founded Hispano-Suiza with engineer Marc Birkigt. It’s the Spanish nationality of Mateu and the Swiss heritage of Birkigt that gives the company its name.
The car was built in collaboration with QEV Technologies, which is Mahindra Formula E-Racing’s technology development arm.
Now we have another reborn Hispano-Suiza supercar concept, the Hispano-Suiza Maguari HS1 GTC. This Hispano-Suiza is a Swiss company called Hispano Suiza Automobilmanufaktur AG, and is the same company that built the Audi-based 2010 concept car.
This new car was designed by former VW/Audi Chief Designer Erwin Himmel, and once again leverages VW Group mechanicals, this time the V10 drivetrain from Lamborghini.
That V10 has been a pair of electric compressors/turbochargers and now allegedly makes a reasonably adequate for modern highway travel 1070 horsepower, and can get to 62 mph from rest in 2.8 seconds, and tops out at a leisurely 236 mph.
In case you’re wondering what the name means or what that pointy-looking bird is doing in between the grille areas there, there’s one answer for both: stork. The word “magauri” refers to a kind of South American stork, and a stork in flight was Hispano-Suiza’s traditional mascot and hood ornament back in their glory days.
The design of the car is bold and striking, certainly, with a little more attention to detailing and ornamentation than one normally sees in a modern supercar. It makes a hell of an impression.
Now let’s get to the drama. With both cars expected to show at Geneva, there’s going to be some conflict, of course.
Himmel, the Austrian designer of the Switzerland-based Hispano-Suiza, had this to say about the other Hispano-Suiza:
“I’m quite surprised that they are advertising the car under our brand name. I got the European rights for Hispano Suiza back in 2010. Meanwhile I also own the rights in our global key markets. Miguel Suqué Mateu, the great-grandson of Birkigt’s finance partner Damian Mateu, promotes the car displayed in Geneva. But until [recently] they had no or little interest in the automotive industry at all.”
The Mateu family—the ones who own the Spanish Hispano-Suiza, retorted:
“Since it was founded, four generations of the Suqué Mateu family have preserved the family brand, injecting impetus and dynamism to maintain the significant heritage. On taking control of the company, Miguel Mateu – the son of the founder – continued the production of prestigious, top-of-the-range cars.”
While it’s not 100 percent certain both cars will be at Geneva, I think we can all hope that they will be, parked right next to each other, and that everything will devolve into an expensive tapas and crudités fight.
I guess we’ll have to see.