How a novelist bought a 1926 Hispano-Suiza at auction after three martinis

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After several years in advertising, Clive cussler publishes his first maritime adventure novel, Mediterranean caper, in 1973. In 1977, he found gold with Raise the Titanic and was riding a wave of success when he attended his premiere vintage car auction. Cussler says he wasn’t planning on buying a car but ended up at the bar ordering martinis. After three drinks he began to raise his hand on a beautifully restored 1926 Hispano-Suiza Convertible H6B.

Andy Griffith of Mayberry (see also: Matlock) was the famous auctioneer for this particular event. When Griffith hit the hammer on the final prize at $ 50,000, he pointed at Cussler and yelled “Sold!”

“I almost had cardiac arrest,” Cussler recalls in his book Built for adventure. Good God, I thought. What did I do? Then I thought: for the first time in my life, I could afford to pay full price for a vintage car.

This article is part of our ongoing Museum Series, which was created to bring the stories of museums around the world to The Drive readers. Check out our previous articles in the series on a 1921 Duesenberg model A restored, a 1937 drag racing Willys, and James Hetfield’s Art Deco hot rod.

Hispano Suiza Fábrica de Automóvil SA was founded in Barcelona in 1904. During World War I, the company was known for its aircraft engines that powered Allied SPAD and other models, and it used this expertise to manufacture cars. . The H6B was introduced in 1919 with a giant, aircraft-inspired 402 cubic inch inline-six that developed 135 horsepower and the top speed it could achieve was 84 miles per hour. The strengths of Hispano-Suiza were sold many years ago, but the name survives through electric racing vehicles.

“The chassis had remarkable qualities that enabled the best bodybuilders of the day to create some of the most unique and elegant bodies built in the twenties and thirties,” Cussler said in his book. “Hispanic buyers were demanding and forward thinking, and wrote checks without batting an eyelid. Checks could fetch over $ 15,000, a small fortune at the time.

After bringing his H6B home, Cussler contacted Roland D’leteren, the grandson of the original bodybuilder in Brussels, Belgium. D’leteren told the author that the chassis of this particular car was transported from the Barcelona factory to his grandfather’s facilities, where he fitted it with his distinctive bodywork. The Belgian mentioned that he had a photo of the Hispano-Suiza which was taken before it was delivered to Brussels and promised to send it.

Meanwhile, Cussler chrome-plated the wire wheels and was happy with it until the photo finally arrived, showing the original H6B with hubcaps. In the spirit of keeping the car as original as possible, Cussler said he ordered a set of custom covers and covered his newly chrome wire wheels.

“If only I had known a month earlier I could have saved $ 3,000,” he said to himself.

Cussler Hispano-Suiza 1926 Convertible now in the Denver Area Museum he built with the rest of his incredible collection. Two years ago a similar H6B (but with a different bodybuilder) was sold for $ 1.3 million by Sotheby’s at the Amelia Island Contest. With his gorgeous hood ornament and a wonderful grille, I think Cussler’s car has its own value as well.

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