Andre Dubonnet’s Saoutchik-bodied Hispano-Suiza H6B must have looked like a vision of the future as it negotiated the roads and highways of prewar France. Eight decades later, it’s no less remarkable, and on Sunday, June 17, the coachbuilt Dubonnet Xenia, now owned by the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard, California, earned Best of Show honors at the 25th annual Rodeo Drive Concours d’Elegance.
The fifth car designed and built by Dubonnet, the Xenia’s shape was penned with input from aerodynamicist Jean Andreau. Dubonnet’s innovative ideas factored heavily into its construction as well: Instead of opening on conventional hinges, its doors lifted out and then slid rearward, paralleling the body and allowing easier entry. The front roof panel could be removed and stowed in the trunk, allowing occupants to enjoy open-air motoring in good weather. Even the aircraft-inspired wraparound windshield would have been seen as innovative for its day.
Underneath, the Xenia was built upon a Hispano-Suiza H6B chassis, equipped with Dubonnet’s Hyperflex independent front and rear suspension (the latter with a live rear axle), which GM licensed and promoted as its “knee-action ride.” Instead of the 6.6-liter, overhead-camshaft, inline six-cylinder typically found in the H6B, the Xenia received the later 8.0-liter six normally associated with the H6C, rated at 160 horsepower. Using an aluminum block to save weight, the engine received steel cylinder liners, seven crankshaft bearings and enameled water passages for maximum durability. The Xenia relied upon conventional H6 brakes, which used alloy brake drums and were the first from any automaker to receive a power-assist.
Dubonnet’s Xenia survived the war years in hiding, emerging in June 1946 to lead a parade commemorating the opening of the Saint Cloud highway tunnel outside Paris, France. In the 1960s, the car was acquired by Alain Balleret, president of the French Hispano-Suiza owner’s club, who carried out its first restoration and maintained ownership until 1999. American owner Charles Morse was the first to display the Xenia at Pebble Beach, in 2000, where it earned an award for the Most Elegant Closed Car. Its first Best of Show came the following year, at the 2001 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.
Purchased by Peter Mullin in 2003, Sunday’s Best of Show win was the car’s second at the Rodeo Drive Concours d’Elegance, with its first occurring in 2008.
1957 Mercedes-Benz 300Sc Coupe, which collected the Mayor’s Award for the Most Elegant Car.
Other key award winners included a 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300Sc coupe owned by Vin Di Bona, which earned the Mayor’s Award: Most Elegant; a 1964 Porsche 904 owned by Sam Yagi, which earned the Chairman’s Award; a 1964 Pontiac GTO owned by Tenney Fairchild, which earned the Icon Award: Timeless Classic; a 1950 Ferrari 166 Inter Touring Berlinetta owned by Don Murray, which earned the Carroll Shelby Award: Most Sporting; a 1957 Chevrolet Corvette owned by Ken Cisek, which earned the Steve McQueen Award: Classic Sports Car; and a 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300SL coupe owned by Bruce Goldsmith, which earned the HVA Preservation Award.
Sam Yagi, owner of the Chairman’s Award-winning 1964 Porsche 904, poses with his trophy.
Don Murray’s 1950 Ferrari 166 Inter Touring Berlinetta, winner of the Carroll Shelby Award for the Most Sporting Car.
This 1964 Pontiac GTO, owned by Tenney Fairchild, earned the Icon Award for a Timeless Classic.
Ken Cisek’s 1957 Corvette took home the Steve McQueen Award.
The next Rodeo Drive Concours d’Elegance will take place on Fathers Day in 2019. Until then, enjoy the gallery below from this year’s silver anniversary celebration.