Within its great industrial and entrepreneurial past, an emblematic car brand, Hispano-Suiza, was founded in Barcelona in 1904. Two entrepreneurs, Damián Mateu Bisa and Francisco Seix Zaya, together with the Swiss engineer Marc Birkigt, began to develop luxury and racing cars. They also had a division specialising in the design and manufacture of aircraft engines, boat engines and land transport vehicles.
The origin of the company comes from the “Compañía General Española de Coches Automóviles Emilio de la Cuadra, Sociedad en Comandita” which had been founded in Barcelona in September 1898. Due to financial problems, when they had only manufactured 5 of the 6 vehicles they had planned, the company had to close down in 1901. One year later, in November 1902, José María Castro Fernández, one of La Cuadra’s main creditors, set up the company “J. Castro, Sociedad en Comandita, Fábrica Hispano-Suiza de Automóviles”, after obtaining financial support, taking over the technical staff and specialised workers of the previous company.
In March 1904, the company closed down and Hispano-Suiza was born. In the same premises of J. Castro in Floridablanca Street, work began on the new company, which in principle was to finish the cars that had been left over from the previous company.
Hispano-Suiza cars were soon considered to be luxury cars and symbols of social prestige thanks to their reliability, quality and performance. Furthermore, they were fast enough to make their way into the fledgling car races and to triumph in multiple competitions.
The automobile assets of the Spanish Hispano-Suiza (the Barcelona factory and the range of products, projects and patents; but not the company or the Hispano-Suiza brand) were acquired by the National Institute of Industry (INI) in 1946. After this nationalisation, ENASA was created and began to manufacture lorries and buses and, for a short period of time, sports cars, under the Pegaso brand.
This is another story that we will tell you in a future article. With Zolty App, we will get to know the origin of the automotive world and its relationship with Barcelona.