1922 Delage Type DF La Torpille news, pictures, and information
Designer: Henry Toutee
The Delage marque enjoyed much success in the pre-WWII era. One individual in particular, Rene Thomas, secured Delage the highest American raced prestigious by winning the Indianapolis 500. In total, Thomas would compete at the prestigious event on four occasions. In 1919 he finished in 11th; in 1920 he finished second and in 1921 he retired prematurely due to a water hose failure after 144 of the scheduled 200 laps. On July 6th of 1924, Thomas drove a Delage vehicle to a new world land speed record at Arpajon, France by traveling 143.31 mph.
Thomas won the Indy 500 in a Delage Type Y which was powered by a four-cylinder engine with twin overhead camshafts. There were four valves per cylinder, totaling 16. The Type Y had been designed by Arthur Michelat whose creativity was partly responsible for the vehicles success. This was proven when Michelat later left the company after the War, and the same success was not duplicated. In time, Delage turned to Thomas to lead their competition department and restored order to chaos.
The companies focus was on Grand Prix competition, however, the first project under Thomas's reign was a one-off sprint car created specifically for Thomas. The design was courtesy of Henry Toutee and based on the road-going Type GS. The Type GS was a well-engineered luxury touring car powered by a six-cylinder engine and residing on a short wheelbase chassis. Thomas's one-off racer was derived from the Type GS, keeping the ladder frame, live axles, and four-wheel cable operated drum brakes. The six cylinder engine was used as a starting point, being enlarged from 4.5-liter to 5.1-liters. The 170 horsepower that the engine produced was sent to the rear wheels through a four-speed manual gearbox. The entire package was clothed in a torpedo body, earning the name 'La Torpille' which translates to The Torpedo.
Thomas aggressively campaigned the car in many racing events, easily dominating the competition. The car captured the French hill-climb championship, and re-wrote many course records. Thomas campaigned the car during the 1922 and 1923 season, before relinquishing the reigns in favor of a V12 powered DH. Albert Divo and Robert Benoist were given the opportunity to continue the one-off DF's impressive racing career. It would become one of the most successful racing cars of its time, capturing numerous victories and records.
The car has stood the test of time, and is currently in restored condition and campaigned in Historic Competition.
The car is a true testament to the abilities of the Delage marque. In 1926, at the first ever British Grand Prix, Louis Wagner and Robert Sénéchal drove a Delage 155B to victory. The Delage vehicles secured victories at the British, French, Spanish and Italian Grand Prix races.
Delage faced its most fierce competition during the 1930s. The Great Depression proved to be too much for the company and was forced into voluntary liquidation. Delahaye later negotiated a license to manufacture the Delage vehicles, using the name Delage. The Delage name persisted until going out of business in 1953.
By Daniel Vaughan | Jun 2007
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