GREENE COUNTY — Glenn Gersch’s 1928 Hispano-Suiza will be spotlighted during Carillon Park’s 11th Annual Dayton Concours d’Elegance Sept. 17.
This relic is the only operable model in the United States.
“To restore it, we had to search all around the world for pieces,” said Gersch, a neurospace engineer at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and formerly lived in Beavercreek. “We had to measure some pieces to have them fabricated. Sometimes, we would have to wait a year for a needed part. I love historical technology, so I really enjoyed this project.”
This extremely rare car was bought by Gersch and co-owner Dan Geuder in Aurora, Ind. Together, they worked to research the vehicle’s history, model information and searched for replacement parts to build the core back to its original glory.
“One of the things that was really unique with this car at the time, was that it had power brakes,” Gersch said. “But, they are not the kind of power breaks that we have today. They had drum brakes and they have a drum brake that goes on the side of the transmission so if the car is moving the whole drum is rotating and gives additional power to the brakes. It’s something that Rolls Royce paid Hispano-Suiza up through the 1960s for using it on their cars.”
In the early 1900s, Swedish engineer Marc Birkigt designed a vehicle but couldn’t find funding. Soon after he was hired by Spaniard Emilo de la Cuadra, owner of LaCuadra who began producing vehicles in 1898. After hiring Birkigt, Hispano-Suiza automobiles were born. Part Swedish and part Spanish, the duo eventually shifted to airplane engines during early World War II for the French and British fighter pilots. Hispano-Suiza was classified as a luxury car and only owned by the most elite members of society. In 1920, Birkigt was nominated for an award for Car Engineer of the Century.
Through research into the original owners of this model, it is thought to be one of the many cars owned by previous Argentine President Hipolito Yrigoyen. He was president 1916-1922 and 1928-1930. President Yrigoyen owned many Hispano-Suiza models and sent them back to Spain for overhauls.
After that, owners research proved that the car was found in an Argentina barn in 1955 and sold to a Texaco Oil vice president. It was shipped from Argentina to the United States through a New Jersey port. It didn’t change hands again until 1968, when Richard Asken, a retired engineer from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, purchased it. He started working on the restoration of the vehicle but was not able to complete it.
Gersch heard about the vehicle in an advertisement in 1998. He was excited to see it and met with Asken. When he and Geuder purchased the Hispano-Suiza, many parts were missing and in order to transport it to his hometown they had to fashion wheels, in order to get it into the trailer. From 1998 until just this summer, they worked on getting it restored.
“The hood ornament is a stork,” Gersch said. “During World War II, the company started making engines for fighter planes for the allies. One of the Frenchmen that were one of their top aces, painted storks on the side of the planes. He also owned Hispano-Suizas. So, when he was shot down and killed, the company decided to dedicate part of the car to him by making the hood ornament a stork. That’s what got me interested in the car to begin with.”
The Concours event features 200 classic and antique vehicles and motorcycles, but this is the first Hispano-Suiza that has ever appeared at this event.
Visitors are also expected to see Orville Wright vehicles, classic Camaro models, MG sports cars, and much more. These are the finest models from all around the world, such as Japan, Sweden, Spain, England and more. Each car with a story from the past, just as rich as the next.
The 1928 Hispano-Suiza is stored in Indiana in a climate-controlled garage. Now that the refurbishment is complete, Gersch and Geuder can now sit back and allow others to join in their celebration.
“I feel really lucky that we were able to get it to this position,” Gersch said. “There are many people whom have never heard of the Hispano-Suiza, so it’s nice to be able to introduce them to it personally. It’s invaluable.”
Carillon Park’s 11th Annual Dayton Concours d’Elegance will take place 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Carillon Park, 1000 Carillon Blvd. Tickets range from $15 to $85, with a preview party offered.
For more information or to obtain tickets contact Carillon Park at 937-293-2841 or visit www.daytonconcours.com. This event is free to Dayton Historical members.
Danielle Coots is a freelance writer for Greene County News.