Most people will associate the name Dubonnet with the aperitif but few know it’s a beautiful classic automobile.
André Dubonnet was the scion of the Dubonnet drinks family as well as a flying ace and racing driver who competed for Bugatti and Hispano-Suiza. In 1921, he won the Boillot Cup at Boulogne in a Hispano-Suiza H6 and in the autumn after he had bored its engine out to 6.9 litres, he took that year’s Autumn Cup at Monza.
He commissioned several unique cars to be built such as the 1924 Hispano-Suiza H6, with a power of 145kW, but requested a maximum body weight of 45kg. Nieuport-Astra complied with a body made of strips of tulipwood, held together by thousands of aluminum rivets. ( Exhibit Blackhawk Museum, Danville, California).
Another automobile was the 1938 Hispano-Suiza H6B Dubonnet Xenia.
The one-off car was built on the chassis of the Hispano-Suiza H6B. However it uses the larger, more powerful engine from the H6C and an entirely new dynamic body design by the luxury coachbuilder Jacques Saoutchik.
Eight decades later the Dubonnet Xenia, now owned by the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard, California, earned Best of Show honours at the 25th annual Rodeo Drive Concours d’Elegance in 2018. “He was brilliant engineer,” said Peter Mullin who was interviewed about the car at Jay Leno’s garage. He related how Dubonnet worked on an independent suspension system which was way ahead of its time. Another feature was the curved front window right out airplane technology.
In December 1922, Dubonnet married Claude Sampieri, daughter of Count Charles Sampieri and of Irène Cahen d’Anvers who was painted by Renoir as a girl. His second wife, Xenia Howard-Johnston who died four years after their marriage was commemorated by naming the 1938 Hispano-Suiza after her.