Commissioned by aperitif heir and gentleman racer André Dubonnet, so he’d have a vehicle to race at the 1924 Targa Florio, this Hispano Suiza features an all-wooden body shaped like a torpedo, as the briefing called for something lightweight and fast. The coachwork is the work of aircraft manufacturer Nieuport and, as per The Robb Report, has seen minor modifications in later years (including the addition of matching fenders) that have turned it road legal.
The auction house notes that the unit has been part of several “famed private collections” through the years, which only adds to its appeal to other collectors. It is estimated to sell between $8 million and $12 million.
Powered by an enlarged 8.0-liter engine that developed 160 hp and is mated to a three-speed transmission, the Torpedo is 18 feet (5.5 meters) long and weighs under 3,500 pounds (1,587.5 kg) – of which only 160 pounds (72.5 kg) for the body, the media outlet reports. The body is built out of tulipwood, with the planks attached to an aluminum frame with brass rivets.
Designed for racing, the Torpedo enjoyed a rather short career of it: Dubonnet raced it at the 1924 Targa Florio, which he finished sixth, and at the Coppa Florio, where he secured the fifth overall position and the first in class. Modifications were made after that, including the fenders and the copper trim, to make it road legal. The Torpedo was last at the Blackhawk Museum in Danville, California.
The timing of the auction couldn’t have been better, as Hispano Suiza is back in the news with its (electric) comeback with the Carmen hypercar at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
Once the most exclusive and luxurious automaker, Hispano Suiza catered to royals and celebrities alike, with a roster of clients including the likes of King Alfonso XIII (who owned 8% shares in the company, because he liked the cars too much), King Gustavo V of Sweden, Louis II of Monaco, Carol II of Romania, or Pablo Picasso, Coco Chanel, Paul McCartney, and Albert Einstein. It faded into obscurity in the early ‘40s, after the H6B Xenia was introduced in 1938.