Founded in 1895 by Emile Delahaye, the car company that bore his name grew to become one of the most successful and innovative French luxury car manufacturers of the pre-war period. Delahaye started with building quality, belt-driven single and twin cylinder horseless carriages. His designs were so successful that he quickly needed significant investment to keep his business going. He was able to secure funding via some enthusiastic partners but, sadly, Delahaye did not live long enough to see his company’s successes, and he died in 1905. But before he died, he hired some very influential and creative engineers who carried on his legacy with some truly spectacular machines. Many patents were issued to Delahaye prior to World War I and perhaps the most important were for a V6 cylinder layout as well as a twin-cam multi-valve engine. Delahaye as a company had quite amazing foresight for the 1910s.
Delahaye soon earned its place as one of France’s grandes routieres, building magnificent touring cars and high performance machines that racked up success on the grand prix circuit as well as the great sports car races such as the 24 Hours of LeMans and Mille Miglia. Production of their most recognized and successful model, the 135, began in 1935 as a 3.2 liter 90 or 110 horsepower machine. It was nicknamed the Coupe des Alpes after winning the grueling Alpine Rally. The 135 had independent front suspension, a live rear axle, Bendix brakes and was available with either a partial synchro four-speed manual or Cotal pre-selector gearbox. Delahaye’s perimeter frame was designed to maintain a low center of gravity for exceptional handling. For 1936, a larger, 3,558cc triple carburetor overhead-cam six was made available in the 135M To live up to the standard of the engineering, France’s finest coachbuilders were employed by the factory and private clients to grace the Delahaye 135 with their finely crafted bodies. Figoni et Falaschi, Saoutchik, Franay and Henri Chapron all made their mark on the 135 and helped to establish it as a symbol for grand French elegance.
Precious few 135s were produced prior to World War II when hostilities and the occupation halted production. Following the war, production resumed and the 135M and MS were produced in various forms until 1951, when then parent company Hotchkiss ended its run.
This striking and highly desirable 1937 Delahaye 135 wears gorgeous bodywork from one of the finest French coachbuilders, Henri Chapron. Chapron was known not only for impeccable style, but also for superior build quality. The 3-position drophead style is sporty but elegant and practical. The two-color livery with dark blue sides and tops of the teardrop fenders is accented by a silver beltline and lower fender panels. Paired with a dark blue canvas roof and a blue leather interior, the result is simply breathtaking. This example has been appropriately restored to highlight the elegant, high-quality and high performance nature of the 135. It is ready for enjoyment and would be a fine competitor on the concours circuit, and it has never been shown in its current state. The engine has been upgraded to a post-war style triple carburetor and manifold setup, imparting a bit of additional drivability and performance, well suited to the four-speed transmission. Quality is exceptional throughout. Pre-war Delahayes are very unusual, highly collectible and rarely appear on the open market.
Designed for shuttling the bourgeois from Paris to the Mediterranean with speed and style, this Delahaye will be sure to complement any collection, with its peerless style and grace, courtesy of the archetypal French pairing of Delahaye and Chapron.
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