Auctions and Brokerage
Coachwork by Carrosserie Alin & Leautard
The Hispano-Suiza Alfonso
While specializing in expensive luxury automobiles, Hispano-Suiza’s head engineer Marc Birkigt appreciated the many benefits a racing program would confer on the marque. Indeed, a number of privateer Hispano-Suiza owners raced their cars to good effect, and Birkigt developed a formal “works” campaign, consistently improving the performance of his team cars and becoming highly successful in international competition.
The Type 15T was designed to contest the 1910 Coupe des Voiturettes, which it won in fine style with Hispano-Suizas finishing 1st, 3rd, and 6th. Predictably, customer demand led to the release of the Type 15T chassis for road use, with its impressive 3.6-liter “four” developing a stout 64 hp output. Alfonso XIII, the young king of Spain, was a pioneering early motorist and appreciated the Hispano-Suiza marque early on. From his first Hispano-Suiza purchase in 1905, he would ultimately own more than 30 examples over the following years. In 1912, his wife’s purchase of a Type 15T begat the “King Alfonso XIII” appellation, generally applied to the model thereafter.
This Hispano-Suiza Alfonso XIII Berline from 1911, chassis 718, is believed to be an extremely rare “Colonial” chassis, and believed one of as few as four such examples with larger-diameter wheels and a longer wheelbase. Its striking Double Berline coachwork was the product of little-known French carrosserie, Alin & Liautard of Courbevoie on the outskirts of Paris that possessed considerable expertise with formal bodywork, including an impressive Triple Berline on an extended-wheelbase Grégoire chassis. The Berline coachwork successfully brought the style and luxury of the horse-drawn coach into the early motoring era.
The Type 15T on offer was discovered during the mid-1980s by Patricio Chadwick and Emilio Polo while in Seville, Spain. Searching for any Hispano-Suiza cars that might be in the area, the pair was directed by an antique dealer to the Marquis de Sanlúcar de Barrameda, who lived in Sanlúcar Andalucia in Southern Spain. A deal was struck for a Type 15T chassis that had once been owned by the grandfather of the marquis. When Chadwick and Polo returned to pick up a complete rolling chassis, they found it mounted with a touring body; yet it was complete with another seasonal body; the Alin & Liautard Double Berline it now wears, which had been sitting in storage for some 40 years!
Over the following years, the chassis and suspension were sympathetically restored and rebuilt as necessary. The body received the same careful treatment, with the remaining original interior appointments left largely undisturbed. In their current state, the seat backs need completing and should be matched in a cloth similar to the original door panels. Fascinating details include the original Blériot two-bulb headlamps, Lucifer cowl lamps, a large luggage rack atop the roof, and a fold-out windscreen. On the ceiling, one can observe a series of small wooden squares where the headliner has separated, which has provided a beautifully textured effect. The dash remains very fine in presentation with impressive instruments. Many other intricate details continue to delight onlookers upon closer inspection. Among them are the uniquely marked locking trunk fittings and the trunk manufacturer’s tag with Barcelona address, as well as “star” stampings on the rear leaf springs, the original chassis plate, and coachbuilder’s sill plate, the “Radiadores Vintro Barcelona” plate affixed to the upper radiator tank, the brass locks on the original Hispano-Suiza hubcaps, and the intricate wire-spoke wheels.
Stylistically, the highly unusual and ornate Double Berline body is simply captivating with its compound-curved roof sections, large architectural-style wood-framed windows, and distinctive forward-sweeping doors and body-side panels recalling the ornate horse-drawn carriages of years past. It is accompanied at auction with a selection of photographic images of its preservation and a period image, possibly taken at the Alin & Liautard works. As of fered, it provides a distinctive and fascinating example of a little-known French coachbuilder’s artistry on a highly regarded and majestic long-wheelbase Hispano-Suiza Type 15T chassis, providing an excellent objective in the many benefits of sympathetic vintage-automobile preservation over complete restoration.