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The resurrection of Hispano Suiza

Pablo Picasso drove one, and the company once rivalled the likes of Rolls-Royce. Now, more than seven decades after its dissolution, the Spanish automotive manufacturer returns with a stunning hypercar

Our aim is to define luxury and lifestyle with a sporty but gentleman driver culture. We offer a hypercar that combines comfort with performance. — Erwin Leo Himmel

In the early 20th century, the luxury car industry was led by manufacturers that remain familiar to just about all of us to this day: Bentley, Bugatti, Maybach, Rolls-Royce. But back then, competing alongside those now household names was another storied marque — Hispano Suiza.

Originally founded 115 years ago in Barcelona, Hispano Suiza was, in its heyday, celebrated by celebrities and royalty, as well as providing patented technologies for the likes of Rolls-Royce. But while the Spirit of Ecstasy went on to be one of the motoring world’s most recognisable bonnet ornaments, Hispano Suiza’s iconic stork motif faded into memory.

The company’s four-wheeled pursuits ended circa the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War — and that could have been that for the grand old Spanish pioneer.

Our aim is to define luxury and lifestyle with a sporty but gentleman driver culture. We offer a hypercar that combines comfort with performance. — Erwin Leo Himmel

Spanish King Alfonso XIII in his 6-cylinder 60/75hp Hispano-Suiza car on the grounds of the royal palacec1907. The car was claimed to be able to reach speeds of 120km/h. 

Seven decades on from its dissolution, however, one man wasn’t willing to let the Hispano name be consigned to history’s parts bin. Experienced Austrian automotive designer Erwin Leo Himmel, who founded the new Hispano Suiza Automobilmanufaktur AG in Switzerland in 2010, takes up the tale: “During the time I was running the Volkswagen Group’s design studio in Barcelona — especially to serve Audi, Volkswagen, Bentley, Lamborghini and Bugatti — I realised that it is the birthplace of one of top five historic brands, Hispano Suiza.

“At this time, the brand was not active any more. I saw a huge potential and wanted to bring this famous brand with a huge history back to life. I decided to take over the brand activities by securing the naming rights and to start with a new model, and continue the DNA and philosophy of this brand.”

The first fruit of those replanted roots was the Gran Turismo Coupé, a futuristic concept car that was presented at the Geneva Motor Show in 2010. Those brave new beginnings have now been cemented into production status with the Maguari HS1 GTC, a hypercar with lines that are quite frankly as attention-grabbing as its splendidly speedy vital statistics. It’s a full-fat beast, make no mistake, powered by a 5.2-litre twin-turbo V10 engine developed from the Audi R8 that produces 1,085hp, 1,050Nm of torque, a 0-to-100km/h split of 2.8 seconds and an electronically limited top speed of 380km/h.

Its name? Maguari is, fittingly, a large, powerful species of South American stork, nodding to the bird immortalised in Hispano Suiza’s resurrected, reimagined logo — and, indeed, in a new incarnation of the bonnet ornament that protrudes in angry, angular fashion from the Maguari’s gaping, aggressive grille.

Its genesis has been aided by Himmel teaming up with another seasoned name in the industry — French car designer Olivier Boulay, who had enjoyed success with Mercedes-Benz and Porsche. Their combined ethos can be boiled down to four words: “Luxe, Comfort, Endurance, Vitesse.”

“Our aim is to define luxury and lifestyle with a sporty but gentleman driver culture. We offer a hypercar that combines comfort with performance.”

— Erwin Leo Himmel

“For us, it is not only about horsepower,” Himmel explains. “With our car, we go in a different direction. Our aim is to define luxury and lifestyle with a sporty but gentleman driver culture. We offer a hypercar that combines comfort with performance. The modern and timeless design adds to the unique masterpiece.

“The Maguari HS1 GTC will continue the Hispano Suiza legacy. It is one of the most luxurious hypercars on the market. It will feature different new technologies, including special high-end and lightweight, long-lasting materials for the engine, the braking system and other technical components,” he says.

“We developed a unique formula for the exterior paint, made of a special carbon type comparable to the components used in Formula One. And we use interior materials of the highest quality.”

Olivier Boulay and Erwin Leo Himmel. 

The new Hispano Suiza brand has also maintained crucial personal links with the original company.

“In the last years of our brand’s development, we met many people owning classic Hispano Suiza cars and also people who worked for Hispano Suiza in the past,” Himmel says.

“The most prominent visitor we had at the Motor Show in Geneva in 2010 was the grandson of Marc Birkigt, the founder and technical genius of Hispano Suiza. And we are in touch with the Picasso family, who still own their grandfather’s classic Hispano Suiza.”

Customers who are lucky enough to own the limited-edition Maguari HS1 GTC will come from a similarly elite clientele base. The hypercar will cost from €2.2 million (Dhs9 million), with the first deliveries arriving in late 2019. It is the first of several planned models, as well as additional mooted ultra-luxury products such as perfumes, watches and yachts.

Hispano Suiza, then, is once again going head-to-head with the likes of Bugatti, as well as spiritual peers Bentley and Rolls-Royce. “But we don’t see them as rivals or competitors, as our car is rather a collector’s item than an everyday drive,” Himmel asserts. “In this league there is enough room for all these brands.”

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