In 1937, after Delage merged with Delahaye, the Delage D8 120 was introduced at the Paris Auto Salon. The D8 120 had a shorter wheelbase than the similar D8 100 and a 4.3-liter 8-cylinder engine. This Delage with Saoutchik coachwork was ordered by the French government for the 1939 Paris Auto Salon. Because the show was canceled, the car was never displayed, and during the war it remained stored at the Saoutchik facility in Paris. After the war, it was used by the French government and President Charles de Gaulle. One feature, which Jacques Saoutchik included on a number of cars, is the parallel opening door system using very clever pantograph linkages.
Louis Delage was born in 1874 in Cognac, south of France. His family had a modest income which allowed for him to attend and graduate from the Ecole des Arts et Metiers in Angers in 1893. He then moved to Paris and began working with the Turgan-Foy company. Later he accepted a position with Peugeot. He left soon after to start his own company. Louis Delage began designing and building cars in 1905 with Augustin Legros as his chief engineer. Legros had left Peugeot with Delage and stayed with the company until 1935. The company focused on building cars that were of high quality and reliability. Their first cars were produced in 1906, and called the Type A and B. The cars were powered by a single cylinder de Dion engines producing about 6-7 horsepower.
Louis Delage was a very ambitious man. He had a passion for racing and a competitive edge that led him to produce some of the greatest sports cars of the era. In 1906 he participated in the Coupe des Voiturettes and was awarded a second place finish. This accomplished fueled sales. In 1908 he had three cars entered in the Coupe des Voiturettes race where their achieved a fist place victory.
In 1909 Delage moved away from the de Dion engines and began using their own 4-cylinder engine. However, some of the models they produced did use engines produced by the famous engine supplier, Ballot.
Throughout the years, Delage had many successes in the racing arena. Sadly, it was not enough. In 1935, their fortunes change. The company closed due to bankruptcy and was bought by Walter Watney, the owner of used Delage car dealerships in Paris. A machine tool company purchased the main factory in Courdevoie. Delahaye, another famous automobile manufacture of the time, bought the rights to manufacture cars under the Delage name.
In 1937 the D8-100/120 was introduced at the Paris Auto Show. The D8-100 was a long wheelbase version while the D8-120 used a shortened wheelbase.
The D8 120 was outfitted with coachwork done by famous coachbuilders such as Chapron, Pourtout, and Letourner et Marchand. At the front was a very larger and imposing radiator. Hidden underneath the hood was a powerful, eight cylinder engine that gave this vehicle a reputation as being a fast, high-performance automobile.
This D8 120 was built after the merger with Delahaye. Even though it retained its Delage styling, there are Delahaye influences. A Delahaye-style chassis was used that included a transverse-leaf independent front suspension and a Cotal electromagnetic gearbox.
The Aerosport was the highlight of the D8 line-up. It was designed by Marcel Letourner, the son of Letourner. In 1939, the design was selected to represent part of the French government's automotive display at the World's Fair in New York.
The Pourtout Aero Coupe was penned by Georges Paulin for the French coach builder Pourtout. Paulin had resume that included designs for Darl'Mat, Bently, and other famous European marques.
The flambouyant yet elegant designs created by Delage were futuristic and sexy. It is unfortunate that their production was limited; however, it does guarantee the vehicles exclusivity by today's standards. By Daniel Vaughan | May 2010
Letourner et Marchand of Paris, France, bodied around twenty Delage D8-120s in two styles, a fastback and notchback coupe. The fastbacks were sporty while the Aerosport Notchback Coupes favored elegance and luxury. These cars were given long bonnets to conceal the eight-cylinder engine that lay beneath. The bodies were well proportioned and flew gracefully in to the vehicles running boards. The headlights were integrated into the fenders.
One of the Aerosport D8-120 with coachwork by Letourneur et Marchand was displayed at the 1939 World's Fair in New York. The term, Aerosport, represented the fastback roof design. By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2007
Louis Delage was born in 1874 and was handicapped by blindness in one eye. This handicap would not hinder him at all in creating some of the most elegant and beautiful creations of the pre-WWII era, and into the early 1950s. He acquired his engineering abilities while working for Peugeot. He worked with the company until 1905, when he left to build cars bearing his own name.
Delage had a strong loyalty to France, and he endeavored to build cars that would bring honor to his country. He began racing in 1906 and acquired some success. By 1913, he had constructed a worthy racing machine to claim the Grand Prix de France. His racing machines continued to evolve. In 1914, they featured double overhead camshafts and brakes on all four wheels.
Rene Thomas drove a Delage in the 1914 Indianapolis 500 where he emerged victorious. In 1924, he set a land speed record at just over 143 mph.
During World War I, the newly built factory in Courbevoie was used for the production of military items.
During the mid-1920s, the Delage cars were powered by eight-cylinder engine displacing 1.5-liters. In 1927, Robert Benoist drove a Delage with an inline-eight cylinder engine to a victory at the Grand Prix de France, Spanish Grand Prix, British Grand Prix at Brooklands, and the Grand Prix de l'Europe at Monza. After this brilliant accomplishment, Delage announced his retirement from racing.
Delage had left the sport on a high-note, but there were troubled times in its future. The Great Depression rattled many industries, including the automotive world. By 1935, Delage had felt the strains of this painful time in history, and was forced to enter liquidation. A Delage dealer named Walter Watney purchased the company's assets. This proved to be a pipe-dream for Watney, and soon was looking for aid from an automotive partner who could help bear the costs of engineering, development and manufacturing. Luckily, he found the assistance he was searching for - at Delahaye. An agreement was reached which allowed the Delage name to continue.
The first new product from this union was the D8-120. Mounted in the long, graceful bonnets were an eight-cylinder engine. The engine was basically a Delahye 135MS six with two additional cylinders. Some of Europe's greatest coachbuilders were tasked with creating designs for the chassis. The list includes Saoutchik, Chapron, Pourtout, and Letourner et Marchand.
The Delage D8's were very impressive automobiles that had style and glamour in a high-performance package. Though the economy disparity of the time begged Delage to move down market, the company refused, and continued to produce their high-priced machines.
The Delage D8-120 had hydraulic brakes, Cotal electromagnet gearbox, and a suspension comprised of transverse leaf springs in the front. The 4.3-liter eight-cylinder engine was capable of producing nearly 100 horsepower in unmodified guise.
The Delage D8-100 was a long-wheel base version of the short-wheelbase D8-120. Both the D8-100 and D-120 were built as a conventional rolling chassis and supplied to the coachbuilders for completion. The coachbuilders would often construct the final product to the exact specifications and requirements supplied by the customer. Because of this, many of the vehicles and their specifications vary considerably. Prior to World War II, around 100 examples were created.
Production of the Delage vehicles continued until 1953. By Daniel Vaughan | May 2010
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