This is the way Hispano-Suiza sold all of its top-of-the-line models: as chassis only. With twoseater roadster coachwork, a chassis like this one raced at Indy in 1928 – not in the 500 but in an amusingly conceived match race.
The bet – made during the London Motor Show the previous fall – followed an argument that a Cadillac was faster than a Rolls-Royce. Willing to carry the banner for the New World was Stutz president Fred Moskovics, who said he’d be delighted to take on a Rolls. Frenchman Charles Terres Weymann asked if Hispano-Suiza would do instead. Fred suggested 24 hours for the race and Indianapolis (where the Stutz was manufactured) for the place. Weymann agreed. It was all very friendly, but a $25,000 wager on the outcome guaranteed that both sides would really be trying.
The two cars were widely regarded as the fastest on their respective continents. When introduced, the H6 series Hispano had been arguably the world’s most advanced car. Nearly a decade later, technology had moved on – and nowhere more admirably than in Stutz’s brand-new under-slung straight-eight Black Hawk. Though giving away 182 cubic inches, Moskovics was convinced that technology would carry the day. Moreover, he figured the cornering strain on the Hispano’s tires would be much greater because of that car’s higher center of gravity. What the Hispano had that the Stutz did not, however, was blinding acceleration. And what Fred did not count on was factory driver Tom Rooney, aware of his boss’s $25,000 wager, trying to win the race in the first laps. Under merciless over-revving, the Stutz broke a valve keeper; at the 20th hour the valve finally dropped into the engine.
His $25,000 won, Weymann cheerfully agreed to Moskovics’ entreaty for another race for the remaining four hours. A fresh Black Hawk was produced and, more prudently driven at the outset, easily beat the Hispano this time. Whether Weymann owned up to Moskovics that he had specially tweaked his Hispano for the match race is not known. But the following year, for the 24 hours of Le Mans, Weymann’s entry was a team of Stutz Black Hawks.
Photos – Peter Harholdt
Briggs Cunningham imported the first Ferrari to race in the US and you can see it in the museum. Learn more