From its foundation in 1894, Delahaye quickly rose to prominence in the French motor industry. Their reputation for quality and performance resulted from their exploits at Le Mans and elsewhere across Europe in the highly competitive world of Grand Prix racing. In 1935, Delahaye unveiled a new car that became one of the most successful models in its history – the Type 135. Aside from being a natural-born competitor, the Type 135 chassis was also a darling of the prestigious French coachbuilding industry, proving to be the canvas of choice for many a masterpiece of French design from highly prestigious firms including Chapron, Franay, and Figoni et Falaschi.
As the dust of war settled, the citizens and industry of France emerged from the rubble battered but far from broken. Delahaye reopened its factory, initially just for 3 ½ -ton truck production, which paid the bills thanks to the high demands of Reconstruction. In 1946, the Type 135M resumed production, and Delahaye was finally back in the business of building France’s premier sportscars. Engineers revised the 135 with a widened track for better handling and improved the overhead valve six-cylinder engine, offering up to 130 horsepower for the “MS” and considerably more for racing. The emerging postwar aesthetic proved a fine match for the superb chassis, and bodies varied as widely as owners’ personalities. Ultimately, Delahaye built 1,155 post-war Type 135s through 1952, but sadly, it was all over in 1954 following a merger with Hotchkiss.
The Delahaye offered here is one of a scant few Type 135s with coachwork by Worblaufen of Berne, Switzerland. Carrosserie Worblaufen is a lesser-known coachbuilding firm, yet they enjoyed a quiet reputation for superb quality craftsmanship and tasteful, understated design. Fritz Ramseier founded the firm in 1929 in his home village of Worblaufen and was joined by his brothers Earnst and Hans, who assisted with sales and running the workshop, respectively. Their early work consisted mainly of drophead versions of humble Opels, Renaults, and Peugeots, but soon, a more sophisticated clientele came calling. Before long, chassis from Mercedes-Benz, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, and Isotta-Fraschini were dotted throughout the workshop. Delahaye was an ideal fit for Worblaufen’s style and quality, and the firm bodied about a dozen chassis in-period, of which just four or five survive.
Most of the surviving Worblaufen Delahaye dropheads share a broadly similar streamlined form, though our featured car, chassis 800319, stands apart with a much sportier character thanks to its low-mounted Marchal headlamps, polished alloy teardrop trims, and rear wheelarch spats. Gorgeous ventilated wheel covers and black wall tires provide the perfect finishing touch to this sporting grande routière. The older restoration is well preserved, with attractive dark metallic blue paint, and excellent brightwork. Worblaufen coachwork is highly regarded for its impressive quality, which is apparent throughout this marvelous automobile.
The lovely interior offers plenty of room for four passengers. Like the exterior, the soft trim is well preserved since its restoration and presents in excellent condition with attractive taupe-colored leather piped in blue, matching light tan carpets, and a woodgrain-effect instrument panel. Switches and controls are in good order, including the correct O.S. dials and three-spoke banjo steering wheel. Understated yet luxurious, the cabin is undoubtedly a marvelous place to spend the day motoring along your favorite roads.
The side-hinged bonnet opens to reveal the OHV inline-six equipped with triple carburetors and backed by a four-speed Cotal pre-select gearbox. The engine bay is well detailed, tidy, and honestly presented, with authentic ancillaries and paint finishes. It runs well and is ideally suited for further preparation for touring and road events.
Of the approximately 45 known examples of Worblaufen coachwork extant, this marvelous Delahaye is certainly one of the standouts. It is a beautiful machine that combines the best restrained Swiss aesthetics and sporty French underpinnings in a beautifully crafted package.
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