Cars People

Dubonnet the beautiful Automobile

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.

Photos Courtesy Kahn Media

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.

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‘British Ferrari’

The Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll is the Chairman of Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings and part-owner of Aston Martin FI Team. He made most of his money through investments in luxury brands such as Pierre Cardin, Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors and Tommy Hilfiger.

“My intention is to build a business that will have the strongest profile of any luxury automotive brand,” he said in an interview with BBC TV (2.3.2021) “Ferarri has a great Business model. Aston Martin has a 108 year old iconic heritage and there are many similarities with Ferrari. F1, for a luxury automotive company, is the greatest platform in the world for many initiatives. 80% of the people who watch F1, about 100 million, are luxury performance car buyers. So we will be taking the technology from our F1 cars and put those into our road cars.”

Lawrence Stroll is a collector of vintage Ferraris including a 275GTB/4 Spyder which he bought for $27.5 million. He owns the Canadian race car circuit Circuit Mont-Tremblant and has a Ferrari dealership in Quebec. His son Lance is a racing driver and is part of the F1 Aston Martin Team.

Cars People

A Love Letter to a Ferrari

extracted from Gstaad Insider’s Book 2nd edition 2021 copyrighted material © Farrol Kahn

A love letter to a car? You must be kidding but Beat Imwinkelried did just that. His 250 GT Lusso Ferrari is the sleekest, suavest of all Ferraris with those wide-rimmed, deeply dished, wire-spoke Borranis adding raciness to the smooth, unadorned curves. A beautiful work of art and the car of his soul. 

“When I was young man, I was unemotional about cars,”said Beat, an entrepeneur and one of the major figures in the Swiss motor industry. ”Then in 2015, I caught the Ferrari virus. Driving a high-tech sports car is an awesome experience because you can change gears at lighting speeds. This is due to integration of the F1 into super sports cars like Ferrari. One of the nicest trips I did was to introduce the car to my son Jan. We made a tour from Basel to Gstaad and over the Swiss Alps back to Basel. One of these father-son trips is something the Italians call emozioni famiglia. We left Basel early in the morning and this would be my first long distance drive in the 250 GT Lusso. The weather was marvellous and the engine sounded magnificent with the windows down. We left the highway in Thun and drove through the Simmental. The sounds of the V12 engine echoed off those trees. Despite its elegance, the Lusso seemed like a wild animal that had slipped its leash.This Lusso begs to be used because that is what keeps old Ferraris – indeed, all old cars – fit and healthy. “

Beat Imwinkelried is the king of classic and super sports cars in Switzerland. His domain stretches form Basel to Zurich and Gstaad. It includes B.I. Collection AG – an exclusive Ferrari dealership in Zurich and Pichler AG in Gstaad, an institution for storage for classic and super sports cars with 275 spaces as well as their maintenance and restoration. In addition, he is president of the board of 10 companies with fleet of 17,000 vehicles on leasing in Basel.

The headquarters of B.I. Collection at Urdorf, Zurich consists of three floors. At the top are the models for sale where the price is ascertained by advertised positions on Autoscout24, but also by the number of kilometres. At the mezzanine level is the fabulous exhibition of Ferraris from different eras. There is also a surprise in store. Three models are not in the traditional red but in a bright yellow – “Enzo”, “LaFerrari” and “F50!

“The lounge on the second floor is the meeting place for car lovers,”said Beat, an affable and stylish man.”It has leather armchairs and sofas so that like-minded people can exchange ideas, talk shop or even configure cars for hours together according to their own wishes, while the delivery service brings pizza. It’s a place where they can go from Ferrari fan to Ferrari owner.”

Beat’s father Josef grew up in a village of Ulrichen, Canton Valais and gained his matura at the gymnasium Spirito Sanctus in Brig. Beat grew up near Basel and studied mechanical engineering at the renowned research university ETH in Zurich. This was followed by an MBA at IMD (1996). His first job was at ABB Power Generation where he was Vice President of Sales (1997-2000). This was followed by several other positions including chairman of AIL Structured Finance AG (2002 to present).

“When I reflect on my  30-year career in the motor industry career, the proudest moment was when I bought Pichler,”he said.”Erich and Othmar have established a treasure house of classic and sports cars in Europe and I’m pleased to say that both are still working with my operating team in Feutersoey.”

When buying a Ferrari one should bear in mind Beat’s advice. “The car design and exterior colour need to be attractive as you want your new partner to be. You need to like the general appearance which is similar to going on a first date. When you start the engine with high expectations, this would be like the first time you have sex. Either it is exciting and you want more or it leaves you lukewarm and you try another car.  In the case of  250 GT Lusso, it was love at first sight.*

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Gstaad with its a catchy slogan: Come up, slow down is known worldwide. But underneath that quiet surface lies the roar of a multitude of engines from 20 hp with a top speed of 45 mph to 1,500 hp and a top speed of 261 mph.

The resort is also famous for the restoration and service of classic and sports cars as well as Europe’s largest storage centre with 275 spaces for these beautiful automobiles.

The garage is called Pichler and the man on the spot is Chris Schenk, the Executive Director. You wouldn’t be surprised if I told you that as a kid he and his dad would press their noses against the window of the local Ferrari dealership and admire the 288 GTO, the Testarossa and the 512 bb.