Photo: 1938 Hispano-Suiza H6B Dubonnet Xenia courtesy of Michael Furman.
Dubonnet engaged renowned Parisian coachbuilder Jacques Saoutchik to produce a head-turning, avant-garde rolling showcase that included his hyper-complex “hyperflex” four-wheel suspension system that he claimed had “the suppleness of a cat.” General Motors, Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Delahaye agreed incorporating the Dubonnet hyperflex system into several of their cars.
His collaboration with Jean Andreau, the designer of streamlined cars and aircraft, created the Xenia’s shape that, eight decades later, still looks fresh and futuristic.
Advanced styling details such as aerodynamic full wheel covers, a wraparound windshield and the unconventional parallel doors that operated by sliding in line with the body on parallelogram hinges invested Xenia with an ultramodern look, even on the streets and boulevards of pre-war Paris. The Xenia was met with universal enthusiasm and acclaim.
Yet there was one notable exception.
Dubonnet, a WWI fighter ace and race driver – he raced a factory entered Duesenberg to fourth place in the 1921 French Grand Prix — named his aerodynamic Xenia coupe after his late wife Xenia who died just a few years into their marriage. The reigning Mrs. Dubonnet failed to appreciate Andre’s heartfelt memorial to his previous bride and the Xenia was banished to quarters well off the Dubonnet estate.