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PIONEER AVIATOR and coachbuilder for the finest classic cars, Charles Weymann had other adventures too. In 1928, a brandy-related adventure earned him $25,000 at Indy and later not a little controversy among automotive historians. Not long afterward was his Le Mans podium. And, years later, Weymann’s aviation activities were still puzzling internet aircraft buffs. This item is a continuation of yesterday’s Weymann celebration.
During the 1927 Olympia Motor Show, car guys Charles F. Kettering of GM, Fred Moskovics of Stutz and Charles Weymann were dining at London’s Kit Kat Club. Several versions of the tale exist, likely clouded by the Kit Kat Club’s rich cigar smoke and the best brandy fumes.
Kettering had already boasted that the latest Cadillac could outrun a Roll-Royce Phantom. Moskovics responded that a Stutz could beat any Rolls-Royce, any day and for all day. Weymann was Haitian born, with dual American-French citizenship. However, being a Chevalier de Legion d’Honneur and perhaps influenced by French brandy, he displayed Gallic sentiments. Weymann proposed superiority of the Hispano-Suiza, originally a Spanish automaker of Swiss engineering pedigree, but, established in 1923, also a semi-autonomous French offshoot producing luxury cars.
Moskovics proposed the challenge: a match race among his Stutz, a Hispano-Suiza provided by Weymann and anything Roll-Royce might come up with. Subsequently, Rolls-Royce sniffed it didn’t do that sort of thing. However, a Moskovics wager of $25,000 ($347,000 in today’s dollars) was accepted by Weymann.
The match race was to run for 24 hours, starting at 1 p.m. on April 18, 1928. The venue was the Motor Speedway in Stutz’s native Indianapolis. Each car would have two drivers taking three-hour stints. Repairs could be made, but replacement of components was prohibited.
Weymann co-drove the Hispano with 1926 Le Mans winner Robert Bloch. Moskovics nominated two drivers, Gil Anderson and Tom Rooney, both familiar with the Indy oval.
On paper, the Hispano had the Stutz beat: 7980 cc versus 4950 cc; 144 hp versus 125 hp. The Stutz weighed 3600 lb.; the Hispano, a bit larger car, perhaps 800 lb. more.
And, in fact, cubic inches and horsepower dominated the race, with the Hispano out-accelerating the Stutz into the distance. Attempting to keep up, the Stutz drivers likely had to over-rev. At around 4:00 p.m., their car came into the pits for more than an hour of valvetrain repair. At 8:20 p.m., it was back in for another three hours. The Stutz struggled in and out of the pits until 7:56 a.m. when it swallowed a valve and snapped a connecting rod.
The Hispano ran perfectly and, at 8:20 a.m., April 19, it was flagged the winner. The Hispano covered 1357.5 miles at an average 70.14 mph; the Stutz, 732.5 miles.
Expecting a crowd at the end of the 24 hours, Moskovics suggested a mini-rematch to 1 p.m.—with another Stutz brought over from the factory. Weymann, evidently a sportsman, agreed to this oddity.
Given that Stutz was a major customer for Weymann coachwork, perhaps it’s no surprise that the Hispano finished arrears to this fresh Stutz in the abbreviated restaging.
Plenty of jingoistic apologists have dined out on the Stutz-Hispano match races. Yes, the Hispano cost five times as much. Yes, the Hispano engine had 61 percent more displacement and only 15 percent more power. And, yes, less than two months later when Weymann entered a car in the 1928 Le Mans, he chose a Stutz, not a Hispano-Suiza.
In any event, on April 19, 1928, there were backslaps, handshakes and congratulations all around. And the $25,000 was Weymann’s.
On June 16 and 17, 1928, at Le Mans, the chief rival of the Weymann Stutz was Bentley; this, during the latter’s domination at La Sarthe (the British marque won four in a row, 1927 – 1930). Weymann’s team acquitted itself admirably by finishing 2nd, only a lap behind the Bentley after 24 hours.
The Stutz seemed capable of lapping faster than the Bentleys. However, gearbox troubles in the last four hours called for one-handed driving to keep top gear engaged.
Weymann continued spending most of his time in France. In the Thirties, he returned to aviation by establishing Societé des Avions C T Weymann. In 1963, he obtained a patent for an automotive automatic clutch which never met with commercial success. Charles Terres Weymann died in France in 1976.
A photo, which proved to be reversed, appeared in a 2010 internet forum dedicated to aircraft. The query: What is this biplane? An unknown French plane confiscated by Nazis?
Multiple responses followed. Several suggested it resembled a Caudron PV-200. A Dewotine? A Volland 10? A glider with retrofit lower wing, struts and pusher engine? A home-built?
The mystery was solved on a French forum: It’s a Weymann CTW 231 Tourisme, circa 1933, registered F-ALQY. The aircraft had undergone three iterations of design, the last two most appropriately Hispano-Suiza-powered.
I like matters coming full circle with Hispano-Suiza. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2015