Behold the Art-Deco Glory of Hispano-Suiza


By: Keith Barry
Article Source:
Photo Source: Mullin Automotive Museum

Image Source: Lamborghini

You’re looking at one of the finest examples of automotive Art Deco: the 1938 Hispano-Suiza Dubonnet Xenia. Go ahead, stare. Now wipe that drool off your keyboard.

Currently on display at the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard, California, the Xenia was based on the Hispano-Suiza H6 heavily modified with independent suspension designed by driver, pilot and aperitif heir Andre Dubonnet. Each wheel was mounted on a single arm extending forward from kingpins at the end of the axle, while sealed, oil-lubricated coil springs and shock absorbers ensured a smooth ride.

The “Dubonnet suspension” was licensed to Alfa Romeo and Simca and sold to General Motors, which marketed it as “Knee-Action” suspension. The sealed coil springs were leak-prone and wildly expensive to repair, however, and the technology never made it into post-war cars.

Suspension aside, the Xenia’s hand-built coachwork by Jacques Saoutchik makes a Talbot Lago look like a Renault Fuego by comparison. It fits in the Mullin’s “French Curves” collection of pre-war French vehicles (Hispano-Suiza, though Spanish in heritage, built many of their cars in France through a French subsidiary), but park the Xenia next to any other car of the era and it looks like the Clampetts are in town.

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