André Dubonnet was a doyen of the drinks industry. Many a tippler has had him to thank. His finest hour, however – at least so far as Dubonnet was concerned – was the Hispano-Suiza H6B Xenia. From a wealthy background, Dubonnet was a car-crazed kid. It was a gimme, then, that he had plenty of toy automobiles to play with. The toy he craved most, though, was a one-of-a-kind supercar … a real one. Finally – in ’45 – he got it!
For all his wealth, Dubonnet was a worker … well, of sorts. After a lot of graft, he had made himself a respected fabricator. Hispano-Suiza was his marque of choice. Using their style-soaked creations as source material, Dubonnet fashioned several racing prototypes. They graced grand European events and circuits – Monza, the Targa Florio, Le Mans and Boulogne among them. Not only did Dubonnet build his cars – he drove them, too. And did so well enough to be asked to join the Bugatti race équipe – by boss Ettore, no less.
Over time, Dubonnet assembled an impressive portfolio of clients. Indeed, GM acquired some of his research work – into hydro-pneumatic suspension and pumpless oil delivery. Even Dubonnet, though, needed help. To that end, he recruited Jacques Saoutchik to the Xenia cause. The fabled Russian coachbuilder was tasked with sorting the aerodynamic aspects of the car. After all, Dubonnet had land speed record attempts in mind. So, Saoutchik’s sought-after streamlining skills would be vital. Saoutchik also knew how to design a stunning-looking motor car. Sadly, the Xenia never broke any speed records. It did, however, play a prominent rôle in the opening of the Saint-Cloud tunnel – situated near Paris. The publicity must have been some consolation to Dubonnet for the Xenia’s lack of sporting success. Not that the Xenia lacked all of the attributes of an LSR car. For starters, it was 5.7m in length – aiding straight-line stability. Partly as a result of that, it could clock up 200km/h. So, for all its shortcomings – at least in LSR attempt terms – Dubonnet’s Hispano-Suiza H6B Xenia was an innovative and spectacular autocar. Motoring had never been so à la mode. Cheers, André!