by Rosemarijn Atalante Veenenbos

As the development of the successful Hispano-Suiza automobile engines has a direct and strong link with the aircraft sector, it must be clear that Hispano car engines are not just some cute machines. As often as we speak about the master pieces of Ettore Bugatti, I don’t hear many people saying that they admire the master pieces of Marc Birkigt. By showing you plenty of his wonderful technical genius, I hope to gain more respect for his amazing automobiles with their beautifully designed engines. Where others developed their cars often thru trial and error, Birkigt was capable of developing successful products right on the drawing board.

The beauty of Hispano engines is that they are made with only what it really takes to build a great engine, although this is not making the restoration process easy at all. Every Hispano is unique, which means that you cannot simply swap parts between one chassis and another from the same model. Each part was made to fit in the factory, and this means that you cannot simply build a chassis from parts scrounged from other cars. You will often need to ‘adjust’ the part to make it fit on another Hispano. The mechanic who works on all those wonderful marvels knows exactly how to, and has all the documentation that he needs to do his job. So to walk around his shop is like a dream, and I am sharing this with you!

Have a good look at the slide show, because you will see two different J12 engines. The J12s have a 60° V12 engine with pushrod-operated overhead valves and a seven-bearing crankshaft. To the mechanics this must sound like music in their ears, and for me it is great to learn more about high-end technique. The most used engine in the J12 Hispano is the 9.4 liters T68, with bore and stroke both being 100 mm and a compression ratio of 5.0:1, delivering 220 hp at 3000 rpm! Not to mess with a J12… its aircraft roots are obvious.

The 11.3 liter T68bis J12 engine, as I wrote before, is a rare piece which was also used in trains. Originally only two J12 chassis had this long-stroke 100×120 mm 11.3 liter T68bis engine, which is good for 250 hp. Really, an Amilcar CGS with its tiny 1.074 liter engine, is a very sweet toy compared to these monsters.

Today you will be able to find more then just these two types T68bis J12, because some J12s were later – up until quite recently – upgraded to this larger engine. And for the record, here is a nice fact: each crankshaft was machined from a single 318 kg heavy billet!

If you look carefully you will see a black Vanvooren J12 saloon. It looks very chic and classy, but under the hood this is a monster. This is what makes a Hispano so attractive. Please let me know that you will from now on mention the master pieces of Marc Birkigt more often, now that you have enjoyed another slideshow capturing the art of Hispano-Suiza.

I have my BMW key USB stick loaded with more… The great Hispano man gave me ‘some’ more footage to educate CHB’s readers, so this was not the last time that you could admire Hispanos on CHB. If you look well you will see, each time you visit CHB, a Hispano adorning the top of the page.


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