Here’s a little information about the beautiful 1938 Dubonnet Hispano-Suiza H6B Xenia which was on display at the 2022 Concours of Elegance. Just look at it. Wow. Beautiful. One of our favourite cars of all time. You can see more Concours of Elegance news, reviews, videos and galleries here.
André Dubonnet was heir to the Dubonnet apéritif fortune and the man responsible for this extraordinary automobile. He served in the Stork squadron of the French Air Force during World War One and is credited with five aerial victories. He was an accomplished sportsman too and was passionate about motor racing.
Dubonnet was also an inventor and working with engineer Antoine-Marie Chedru, patented a four-wheel independent ‘hyperflex’ suspension system in 1927 that he promoted as having the ‘suppleness of a cat’. It would be used in various forms by General Motors, Fiat, Delahaye and Alfa Romeo.
Dubonnet needed a rolling showcase for his ideas and purchased an extensively modified Hispano-Suiza chassis he’d seen at the 1932 Paris Salon. The car was designed by Jean Andreau, who’d made his name designing avant-garde streamlined aircraft and automobiles.
This Hispano-Suiza H6B was intended to have a V12 engine, something the firm had experience of having built 50,000 fighter planes that were so-equipped. However, the new engine was so powerful with only six cylinders that Hispano-Suiza proceeded without the other bank of cylinders. The engine block and cylinder head were constructed entirely from aluminium, with the valves-which stood vertically in the block – driven by a single overhead camshaft. Despite the potential for horrendous damage from this novel setup, Hispano-Suiza persisted because not one of its V12 aero engines had dropped a valve. The brakes, meanwhile, were power-assisted and employed a patented servo system that used the car’s momentum to decrease speed, with braking assistance taking power from the gearbox which drove a shaft at 1/64th of the engine’s speed.
In 1938 Dubonnet employed renowned coachbuilder Jacques Saoutchik to construct the revolutionary body you see here-Dubonnet’s fifth prototype attempt-that he named Xenia after his late wife. Xenia was hidden during World War Two and didn’t reappear until June 9,1946 at the opening of the Saint Cloud tunnel outside Paris. Alain Balleret, president of the French Hispano-Suiza Club, purchased Xenia in the 1960s and had it restored.
In 1999 an American, Charles Morse, bought the car at auction, and would keep it for just a few years before Peter Mullin purchased the Xenia in 2003. Today, this car is part of the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard, California.