Hispano-Suiza King Alfonso XIII Double Berline
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.
This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in March of 2012 at the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, Florida.
64 bhp, 3,620 cc inline four-cylinder engine, four-speed manual transmission, semi-elliptic leaf springs front and rear, rear mechanical drum brakes.
Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Dave Teel