Jul 24, 2009

Louie's Hispano...

A 1927 Hispano-Suiza Coupé Chauffeur identical to Louie's sold for $304,000 at the 2006 Bonhams & Butterfields Quail Creek auction in Carmel, California

As a young boy, I pumped gas and worked on cars at Louis Brzoza's College Garage in Schenectady. I learned a lot there under the tutelage of Louie, who had served in the infantry in World War II. We worked on a great variety of cars, from Model A Fords to sports cars of the early fifties. The boys at Union College, only a block away, and an all-male school at that time, often showed up with fascinating cars. Specifically, I recall a 1927 Rolls Royce coupe with cane trim that one boy's mother had bought at an estate sale and given to him. I also recall a 1939 Mercury convertible sedan that I'd love to have today. But then they were just cars that some kid brought to college and we tried to keep running.

One day a uniformed chauffeur came into the station looking for help. It seems that he was driving a 1939 Packard Twelve town car (limousine) and it had died a short distance from our service station. Louie went to the scene, determined that a dead battery was the culprit, sold and installed a replacement battery, and the gentleman was able to continue his trip.

The lady owner of the car was impressed at Louie's courtesy and helpfulness. She thenceforth called the shop any time she needed help with one of her cars. The unusual fact surrounding this was that she lived in Amsterdam, some 20 miles away! The lady's name was Mrs. Clark. Her late husband had been a senior executive with Mohawk Carpets, one of the leading industries in Amsterdam at that time.

On one of Louie's trips to Amsterdam, he spotted another car in Mrs. Clark's garage. It was a 1927 or 1928 Hispano-Suiza Model H6B town car (or, as the Hispano-Suiza catalog described it, a Coupé Chauffeur) that had not been used in many years. Hispano-Suiza was a company that was known for crafting superb and extremely expensive cars. They had built aircraft engines in World War I and built products of exceptional quality. There were very few in the United States.

The story that was related to me was that the car, with Parisian coachwork, had been purchased by George Kissel, a member of the family that manufactured a highly regarded American car, the Kisselcar, in Hartford, Wisconsin. Many personalities, including movie star Fatty Arbuckle and aviatrix Amelia Earheart, drove Kissels. Kissel's intention was purportedly to reverse engineer the car to determine how such a high-quality car was manufactured and then to attempt to duplicate its quality in an American car. That never happened, and the car ended up in Mr. Clark's possession. Once Louie Brzoza expressed an interest in the car, Mrs. Clark sold it to him.

The Hispano-Suiza ended up in a storage building that was located behind the shop. It languished there gathering dust until I left for college. Years later, when I was in the Navy, Louie contacted me and offered to sell me the car for $5,000. Much as I would love to have acquired the car, there was no way I could have come up with that kind of money. The car was sold to someone else.

In the late '70's, I was at the Antique Automobile Club of America's Fall meet at Hershey, Pennsylvania -- the largest of all car meets. I saw a Hispano Suiza and talked to the owner. He was knowledgeable about all things Hispano-related. He knew of the car that I had been so familiar with and said it had gone through a very meticulous restoration and was then in the possession of the President of the Hispano-Suiza Society. The car was at that time located in San Francisco.

It would be interesting to see the car once again after all these years.

1 comment:

Duane said...

excellent post Bob. And it makes me wish that these classic cars could speak