We all know Hispano Suiza from the Carmen electric grand tourer and the Carmen Boulogne hyper EV. But before the Spanish automaker’s electric renaissance in 2019, it built upwards of 12,000 luxury cars between 1904 and 1946.
The story of Hispano Suiza began on June 14, 1904. Swiss founders Damián Mateu and engineer Marc Birkigt moved to Spain and began building their first car in 1905, an armored type Birkigt system with a four-cylinder engine with a top speed of 54 mph.
A year later, Hispano Suiza built the first car in Spain with a six-cylinder engine. It came with 75 horsepower and completed the Perpignan-Paris route in 22 hours, which was a magnanimous feat. The company began setting up a factory in France and sold manufacturing licenses to other carmakers in Italy, the United Kingdom, and former Czechoslovakia.
As the brand became synonymous with exclusivity and luxury, Hispano Suiza automobiles caught the attention of the world’s elite, including King Alfonso XIII of Spain, who ruled from 1886 to 1931. As it turns out, King Alfonso XIII is a genuine car enthusiast and played an essential role in expanding the national and international visibility of Hispano Suiza. In return, the automaker named its T45 convertible roadster the Alfonso XIII.
The stork emblem of Hispano Suiza dated back to 1919 and first appeared in the H6B luxury car. The H6 debut at the 1919 Paris Motor Show and came with either a 6.6-liter or 8.0-liter straight-six engine. The stork pays homage to the French squadron emblem painted on the side of a Hispano-Suiza fighter aircraft during World War I, while the Spanish and Swiss flags are a tribute to its founders.
Hispano Suiza is now under the direction of Miguel Suqué Mateu, the great-grandson of the founder. The brand relaunched in 2019 at the Geneva Motor Show with the fully-electric Carmen grand tourer. With a body style inspired by the luscious H6B Dubonnet Xenia of 1938, Carmen has twin rear-mounted electric motors producing 1,019 horsepower.
The following year, Hispano Suiza debuted Carmen Boulogne with twin electric motors and 1,114 horsepower. No two Hispano Suiza vehicles are alike since personalization is an integral part of the brand’s DNA. The brand is only building 19 examples of Carmen, five of which are allocated for Carmen Boulogne.