1933 Hispano Suiza J12 brings V-12 power to Leno’s garage

Hispano Suiza was one of the best car makers of the pre-war era, and this 1933 J12 is an example of why. Now part of the Nederkat collection in California, it was recently on display at J. Leno’s Garage, where J. Leno and Cameron Richards, vice president of the Nederkat Collection, discuss what makes this car special.

The name Hispano Suiza is Spanish for “Spanish Swiss”, which indicates the nationality of the two founders of the company. Located in Spain, Hispano Suiza began building cars in the early 20th century, but gained prominence with its arrow engines, which propelled World War I warplanes. J actually has in his collection a 1915 Hispano Sueza powered by one of those engines

1933 Hispano Suiza J12J in Leno's garage

1933 Hispano Suiza J12J in Leno’s garage

After the war, Hispano Sueza returned to car building, building a V-12 specifically for automotive applications. The 250-hp 9.4-liter V-12 is a fairly sophisticated engine for this period, sitting under the J12’s tall Louvre hood. It has two spark plugs, dual water pump and dual magneto in each cylinder to ensure adequate power supply without any distributor. It drives the rear wheels via a 3-speed manual transmission.

Hydraulic brakes were introduced by Dusenberg during this period, but the J12 was stuck with mechanical brakes assisted by a vacuum-driven servo. Despite having more primitive technology, they feel like modern power brakes, says Jay. Customers probably felt more confident with the new hydraulic brakes then.

While the Hispano Suiza remained in Spain, the car was built in France, where the company opened a satellite factory. It was sold locally to Suzanne Deutsch de la M মুrthe, a wealthy shale oil heir and one of the first French female pilots. The 120 J12 is built, one of nine with Henry Binder’s coachwork and the only one of nine with a “small” 146-inch wheelbase chassis, Richards noted.

Hispano Suiza gradually shut down its car division to focus on its aviation business, and was later bought by the French airline Snakema (now part of the Saffron Group). The dormant brand was revived in 2019 with the Carmen Electric Supercar. Hispano Suiza followed suit with the track-focused Bologna variant the following year, boasting 1,600 hp and 0-62 mph claimed for less than 2.6 seconds. Hispano Suiza will produce 14 Carmen and five Bolognese, starting at about $ 1.6 million.

Watch the full video to see J drive and learn more about one of the best luxury brands of early automobiles.

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