Amelia Island

10 March 2012

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Lot 197

1911 Hispano-Suiza “King Alfonso XIII” Double Berline by Carrosserie Alin & Liautard

  • Chassis no. 718

$750,000 - $1,000,000


64 bhp, 3,620 cc inline four-cylinder engine, four-speed manual transmission, semi-elliptic leaf springs front and rear, rear mechanical drum brakes.



• One of only four built

• An extremely original and authentic example

• Fascinating history



Almost from the outset, individual owners of the Hispano-Suiza entered their cars into the various road races taking place around the world. Engineer Mark Birkigt formally entered the factory into these forays and consistently improved the performance of his team cars until they achieved an impressive string of racing successes, which translated into sales. Buyers clamored for a production version and Birkigt complied, introducing the 45-Cr “race” version, so named because it was officially rated at 45 horsepower. The new engine was the Type 15T, but to the public the model was officially marketed as the Type Alfonso XIII.



Young Alfonso XIII, King of Spain, took a great liking to the Hispano-Suiza marque early on; a pioneering and enthusiastic motorist, he bought the first of many Hispano-Suizas that he would own in 1905 and would ultimately have over 30 examples in his fleet, which led to the naming of the model after the marque’s biggest patron. The Birkigt-designed massive cast-iron Type 15T four-cylinder engine placed in the chassis produced a respectable 64 horsepower from a little over 3.6 liters of displacement, which was very respectable for the time period. With a top speed of 80 miles per hour, the Alfonso is also recognized as one of the first true sports cars and rivals even the hallowed Mercer that was built in the Americas. Consistent performance in those days was no accident, and the Alfonso achieved such feats due to the quality of machine parts, with even rough castings that were finer than what most other manufacturers were producing at the time.



With the introduction of the Alfonso XIII, the Hispano-Suiza had truly made its mark in the automotive world and began to find appeal far away from its home turf. In Great Britain, there was no advertising for the marque in The Autocar, but there were several pages dedicated to following the travels of an Alfonso within the Welsh borders; the car simply sold itself. Large early automobiles fall into a precious class; many were scrapped during war drives or lost to the ravages of time, and those that did survive were either forgotten, salted away or built from components which originated from various cars. Fortunately for historians and collectors, the example offered here has a relatively straightforward story. This example, chassis 718, is a very rare Colonial chassis. Only four examples were ever built, and it features larger diameter wheels and a lengthened chassis.



In the mid-1980s Patricio Chadwick and Emilio Polo were in Seville, Spain. They met an antique dealer and asked him if he knew of any Hispano-Suiza cars that might be in the area, and he pointed them in the direction of his client, the Marquis de Sanlucar de Barrameda. After a few phone calls, they arrived at Sanlucar Andalucia, an area famous for a very dry white wine called Fino. After tasting several, the Marquis agreed to sell his grandfather’s Alfonso XIII. The next day Chadwick and Polo arrived with a truck to collect the car, and the winery manager helped them load their prize; what they believed they had purchased was a complete rolling chassis with the remains of a touring body. The pair were surprised when the winery manager asked if they intended to take the other body! Chassis 718 was one of those special examples of an elite chassis that was ordered with seasonal bodies. Among the huge wine casks was this amazing Double Berline body by Carrosserie Alin & Liautard. According to the manager the body had not been moved in 40 years, which resulted in its exceptional state of preservation; to call this motor car a time-warp example is a massive understatement.



In the intervening years the chassis and suspension were sympathetically restored and rebuilt as necessary, but the craftsmen were careful to make the finish of the chassis match the wonderful patina of the body. The same treatment was likewise given to the engine and transmission, which has resulted in a consistent appearance. There is no shortage of charming details to behold on this car. Among them are the original Bleriot two-bulb headlamps, possibly an early hi-beam/low-beam setup, with Ducellier cowl lamps, a large roof rack and a fold-out windshield. The original interior is amazingly preserved for being almost a century old, while the fabric is so intricately woven that it could be compared more to the celebrated Flemish tapestries than automobile upholstery. Where the headliner has come away from the ceiling can be observed a series of small thin squares of wood, which would have given texture to the ceiling with the headliner attached. The dash is very nicely finished as well and still contains all of its original instruments.



The styling and curves of this gorgeous baroque winter body is amazing, with two separate compound curves making up the roof sections, which almost resemble ceiling vaults. The wood-framed windows are of such proportion that they appear to have come out of a home. When a car is restored to concours specifications, the high standards demanded today require complete recreation of otherwise serviceable parts. What is lost are fine details and markings that give an automobile character and authenticity. Among the myriad items found on chassis 718 are the markings on the trunk hardware and leaf springs, the original dash chassis plate and the plate that reads Radiadores Vintro Barcelona on the upper radiator tank. There are other pieces like the intricate brass locks on the original Hispano-Suiza center caps complemented by the nicely aged black wire spoke wheels.



Chassis 718 is a perfect example of sympathetic preservation. Any early example of the Hispano-Suiza marque is something special that should garner extra attention, but as a special long-wheelbase example of the revered Alfonso XIII, it is likely that there are no other direct comparisons to be had. Like the casks of wine which surrounded it for so much of its life, this 1913 Hispano-Suiza “Alfonso XIII” Double Berline has gotten better with age. It is, truly, one of the greatest antiques in existence.

Addendum

Please note this car is actually model year 1911. Please note the title for this vehicle is in transit.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

aweaver@rmsothebys.com

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

asabatie-garat@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

bruprecht@rmsothebys.com

+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

Cameron Smyth

csmyth@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Cameron Smyth joined RM Sotheby’s as a Car Specialist in 2015, working out of our corporate office and providing assistance on c... read more

David Swig

dswig@rmsothebys.com

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

drose@rmsothebys.com

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

dgould@rmsothebys.com

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

gduff@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

jauerbach@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

kforry@rmsothebys.com

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

mmalamut@rmsothebys.com

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

msquire@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

mfairbairn@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

ocamelin@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

pdarvill@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

pfisher@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

smyers@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

tvandervelden@rmsothebys.com

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more