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SNAPSHOT 45: Hispano-Suiza 1928

Pictures of motor vehicles where people are present offer a distinct advantage over those where there are none, because persons give an indication of the overall size of the conveyance. In this case the presence of its owner Henry Segrave standing nonchalantly beside this Hispano-Suiza indicates that it is a substantial motorcar.

Besides being a successful racing driver Segrave is probably best known for his Land Speed Record achievements, initially with the V12 Sunbeam in 1926, then becoming the first to take the speed above 200 mph with the Sunbeam ‘1000 hp’ in 1927. Two years later, on Daytona beach, he drove the Napier ‘Lion’-engined Golden Arrow, which is arguably the most attractive and dramatic-looking LSR car of all time, to set a new record at 231.44 mph and it was this achievement that brought him his knighthood.

When the Golden Arrow returned to Britain it was initially put on display at Selfridge’s Store in London and then sent to Spain to be exhibited in the British Pavilion at the Barcelona International Exposition. Segrave drove out there to see it and after dining with King Alfonso set off the following day for Paris, a distance of 736 miles away. This was covered in 16 hours, which works out at an average speed of 46 mph – some going in the pre-autoroute era.

In the book: The Life of Sir Henry Segrave, by Malcolm Campbell and Wentworth Day published soon after Segrave’s untimely death in 1930, in relation to this excursion they quote him as saying: “We had breakfast in Barcelona and supper in Paris. On the way we had two punctures, three stoppages for petrol and two for meals, and we used 86 gallons of petrol. We were travelling frequently at more than 100 miles and hour”. They also mention that for this outing he used “his fastest touring car”. It must surely have been the Hispano-Suiza shown here.

The speed quoted, plus the fuel consumption of 8½ miles per gallon, rather suggests that the car was a Type H6C, the engine of which was just a shade short of 8-litres. These Hispano-Suizas were noted for their good handling characteristics and ride, and in this case with its body by Weymann it was not overburdened with weighty coachwork. This one episode does rather confirm the view that Segrave was considered to be as enthusiastic about driving on ordinary roads as he was when actually competing.

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