As one of the earliest automakers, Delahaye became one of the most admired of all French cars. Today we look back on the amazing Delahaye cars from the 30s and 40s as some of the best and most iconic of the French luxury cars of the era. At the 2016 Pebble Beach Concours d”Elegance we were delighted to see 10 of the most elegant Delahayes still in existence, on the esteemed lawn.
1. 1937 Delahaye 135M Figoni et Falaschi Cabriolet
One of 11 cars built in the Paris Auto Salon series between 1936 and 1939, this is one of the three surviving built on the standard 135 chassis. Originally built for a friend of Joseph Figoni, the car is the embodiment of the use of a French curve for streamlined design. The car was shipped to Bombay and later sold to Prince de Berae Mukarran Jah who had it for many years. Also called the Star Of India where it was found in disrepair sitting on blocks in a shed. Owners Peter and Merle Mullin purchased the car in 2006 and had it restored back to original condition, minus the red paint. The two tone blue sets off the shapes of the design spectacularly.
2. 1936 Delahaye 135 Competition Court Figoni et Falaschi Coupe
Another rare beast, one of three surviving examples of the short chassis coupes by Figoni & Falaschi, this is one their first aerodynamic coupe designs. The 8-foot, 8-inch “Competition Court” chases were sold only to Delahaye’s favorite customers as they were about what today we might call street legal race cars, though in stealthy art deco bodies.
3. 1938 Delahaye 165 Figoni et Falaschi Cabriolet – Best In Class Winner
Built on a type 145 racing chassis sporting a rare v12 engine this car was said to be the most beautiful car of the 1938 Paris Auto Salon. It is one of two built by Figoni & Falaschi, the other was showcased at the French Pavilion of the New York World Fair.
4. 1938 Delahaye 135 M Figoni et Falaschi Coupe
This car showcases the dramatic teardrop shape from the side, but its a bit of a party in the front with the colors of the French flag emblazoned on the grille. Displayed with the above car at the Paris Salon it sold to an unknown owner who kept the car safely hidden in occupied France, until 1968 when it was discovered in a field near Toulon.
5. 1938 Delahaye 135M Figoni et Falaschi Roadster
The endless curves of the long wheelbase version of the 135 chassis are as awe inspiring as the car’s interesting history. Yet another Paris Auto Salon car, this one was sold to a gentleman from Algeria. It was found in 1992, in the Algerian mountains almost complete, under an olive tree.
6. 1948 Delahaye 135 MS Figoni et Falaschi Narval Cabriolet
Shown by Figoni at the 1948 Barcelona Motor Show, this dramatic low slung high performance spec was bought off the stand by the owner of The Palace Hotel in Madrid. This whale (Narval) inspired design with disappearing top and enclosed fenders was the first body introduced by Figoni & Falaschi after the war years hiatus. (The MS stands for Modifée Speciale, which has triple carburetors rather than single carbs.)
7. 1948 Delahaye 1935 MS Chapron Vedette Cabriolet
A later model built on the 135 chassis, this one by Henri Chapron, and one of only four known to exist today. The long flowing lines are gone, replaced by the more bulbous forms of the 1940s. “Vedette” stands for star or celebrity. This one has the interesting history of being sold to a M. Chanel of Paris.
8. 1947 Delahaye 175 S Chapron Le Dandy Cabriolet
After WWII when Delahaye rebounded, it continued with the successful 135 and added the larger engine 175 with a semi-automatic electrically shifted solenoid-actuated four-speed epicyclic gearbox. The new way of the world required considering America as a market. Of the 50 175s built, this is one of 10 left-hand drives known to exist.
9. 1950 Delahaye 135 M Vanvooren Coupe
Better known in the 20s and 30s for building bodies for Bentley, Hispano-Suiza, Bugatti, or Rolls-Royce, Carrosserie Vanvooren was all but decimated by the war. Their facility was bombed in 1943 almost destroying all records. After the war the luxury car market changed, Rolls-Royce was building aircraft engines. They reopened in 1947 and this is one of about a dozen cars built before they closed, this was the last to leave the workshop in 1950.
10. 1951 Delahaye 235 MS Chapron Coupe
One of the last great Delahaye cars to come off the line, the 235 is similar to the 135 but with a 3.5 liter engine and triple carbs (MS designation). They produced only 36 passenger cars in 1951, this was the end. In 1954 the company was purchased by Hotchkiss who continued with their military and jeep-like vehicles.
Delahaye was founded in 1894 in Tours, France by Emile Delahaye. He began experimenting with belt driven, rear engine cars. As with many start-ups of the time, racing was the road to financing and exposure. Their racing success and innovative machinery became the groundwork of their later success.
Paris was the center of the automotive universe at the end of the 19th century and Delahaye played a big role. By the beginning of WWI Delahaye not only built cars, but ambulances, fire trucks, utility vehicles and farm equipment. The truck business paid the bills but it was declining. It wasn’t until after the 1929 Wall Street crash when Delahaye got back into racing and decided to make luxury cars their new focus. In 1937 Delahaye ran first and second at LeMans and first in the Monte Carlo Rally.
The Delahaye cars from the 30s and 40s were then what the modern day luxury supercars, McLaren, Bugatti, Koenigsegg and others, are today. The superior aerodynamic stylized flowing lines of Fagoni & Falaschi were achieved prior to any modern-day wind tunnel testing, these were purely products of their mind. Amazing fetes of engineering and design, visual eye candy with exceptional performance, early supercars.