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This 1933 Hispano-Suiza J12 Cabriolet could fetch US$3.5 million at auction

By Robert Ross 24 April, 2024
1933 Hispano Suiza J12 Cabriolet

The Hispano-Suiza J12 Cabriolet will be sold through Gooding & Company’s auction at the now-closed Mullin Automotive Museum on April 26

Following the September passing of Peter Mullin, renowned car collector and founder of the Mullin Automotive Museum, auction house Gooding & Company will present a landmark sale of select vehicles and objects from his assemblage. On April 26, the auction will be held at the now-permanently-closed museum in Oxnard, Calif., and will feature a remarkable field of mostly French cars from the Art Deco era. One of these is a 1933 Hispano-Suiza J12 Cabriolet, a highly pedigreed example that expresses the dignified luxury, understated elegance, and enduring style for which Spain’s most esteemed marque is known for.

1933 Hispano Suiza
The Mullin Collection’s 1933 Hispano-Suiza J12 Cabriolet will soon cross the auction block through Gooding & Company. Photo by Gooding & Company

Hispano-Suiza (“Spanish-Swiss”) was founded in Barcelona in 1904 as an automobile manufacturer, eventually producing aircraft engines, trucks, and military armaments. It’s estimated that the company’s engines powered around half of the British and French aircraft in World War I. One of Hispano-Suiza’s first automobile customers was also its most important, the young Spanish king Alfonso XIII. During his reign, he bought about 30 cars from the marque. The 1912 Alfonso XIII, named in the king’s honour, was the first real luxury automobile to wear the Hispano-Suiza badge, followed in 1919 by the model H6.

1933 Hispano Suiza J12 Cabriolet
The pristine interior features a dashboard defined by an array of bygone-era gauges. Photo by Gooding & Company

Hispano-Suiza’s reputation as one of the most prestigious European marques was earned through advanced engineering, build quality, and performance equal to Rolls-Royce, Bugatti, or Duesenberg. The J12 model was introduced in 1931 and was made until Hispano-Suiza ceased production of cars in 1938. Designed by the automaker’s founder, Swiss engineer Marc Birkigt, the J12 was extremely advanced, with stunning performance and power matched by its ease of use. Notably, it was the most expensive car built by the company, and as costly as any automobile of its day.

Sitting behind the iconic tombstone-shaped grille, and under the long bonnet, is a 9.4-litre V-12 engine that develops a then-formidable 220 hp. Every J12 was delivered as a chassis only, with customers commissioning a body by the coachbuilder of their choice. Hispano-Suiza produced just 120 chassis, of which only eight were bodied as cabriolets.

engine of 1933 Hispano Suiza J12 Cabriolet
The car’s 220 hp, 9.4-liter V-12 engine. Photo by Gooding & Company

Parisian coachbuilder Carrosserie Vanvooren made one of the most elegant examples of J12 coachwork, and the shape is reserved and timeless in a way that more opulent and baroque designs are not. One could call it a car for connoisseurs who appreciate understated luxury. Equally impressive is the vehicle’s provenance within the collector community, having been owned by Dr. Sam Scher, Richard Paine, and John Mozart.

1933 Hispano Suiza J12 Cabriolet
The J12 Cabriolet was the most expensive car built by the marque, and as costly as any automobile of its day. Photo by Gooding & Company

It was acquired by the Mullin Collection in 1992 and enjoyed a prominent place in the gallery. This J12 has also been shown multiple times at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, receiving numerous class awards. Selling without reserve, it carries a high-end estimate of US$3.5 million.