1939 Delahaye Type 135 M news, pictures, specifications, and information
Coachwork: Figoni & Falaschi
Chassis Num: 48667
Engine Num: 48667
Sold for $6,600,000 at 2014 RM Auctions.
Even by the 1930s, the performance capabilities of the automobile had progressed to such an extent that many manufacturers would shy away from offering chassis that tested those limits for fear their customers would not be able to handle what was available to them. A few, however, would throw caution to the wind and would make such performance available to their customers. Delahaye was just such a manufacturer.

Delahaye's offering of track performance for the street would come in the form of the Type 135 S chassis. Delahaye's means of protecting itself and its clients was bound in the fact the Type 135 Competition Court, the model chassis actually intended for competition but that could be made into a road car, would not be found in any official listing from the company. This particular chassis had to be requested, and not just anyone would get one.

One particular example of the Competition Court chassis is 48667. Its number would suggest the chassis was actually assembled in 1936. The custom-built body adorning the chassis would be exceptional in its own right.

Coachbuilders of the period would be particularly drawn to the design of teardrop and the torpedo as both similar represented for aerodynamic shapes, even though the science wasn't very well appreciated at the time. Based upon the show car that could have been seen at the Paris Auto Show in 1936, 48667 would be graced with a Torpedo Roadster body designed by the illustrator Georges Hamel. Hamel's fame as an illustrator would grow from his racing posters featuring aircraft and automobiles. He would work closely with Figoni at Falaschi to design the body that would sit atop the very special chassis. When completed, 48667 would become one of just 13 streamlined bodies that were a part of series based upon the Paris show car.

But, while the brass tag would give the impression of a close association between Figoni and Hamel, the illustrator would have to threaten a lawsuit before his name would be included as a collaborator in the project. An agreement would be struck and Hamel's name would be added to the bronze plate of just three examples. Such intrigue only adds to the story of this very special Delahaye.

Chassis 48667 would be one of those bearing Hamel's name. Completed in Blue Monaco and Straw Yellow, the car would be delivered in August of 1937. Immediately after being delivered it would take part in its first concours event, the Gardenia Concours d'Elegance at Saint-Cloud. Even from the very beginning this Delahaye would be recognized as a priceless collectible. Though presented at the concours by Emilienne d'Avray, it seems clear 48667 would be without an owner for a couple of years.

Apparently given a new engine, just carrying the original number, the Delahaye would set off across the Atlantic in 1939 for North America. There is some suggestion that this particular chassis made an appearance at the World's Fair and that Bob Grier, the photographer and motoring enthusiast, would purchase the car about the same time. Unfortunately, the war would hinder Grier from being able to enjoy the car. When the war came to an end though, Grier would take to the wheel and would use the performance of the 3.5-liter six-cylinder engine to take part in a number of hillclimbs. Apparently, the car would be seen with its color scheme reversed.

In 1954, the Delahaye would take part in Herb Shriner's World Motor Sports Show held at Madison Square Garden. Approaching the 1960s, the Delahaye had spent some twenty years in Grier's possession. It was time to pass the car along. So, in November of 1963, just a couple of weeks before the assassination of Kennedy, Hugh J. Weidinger's Long Island's Hemostead Auto Company would become the new owner of the Delahaye. While the property of Weidinger's company the Torpedo Roadster would again be refinished. This time the scheme would turn to red and black.

Malcolm S. Pray, Jr. had also been at the World's Fair in 1939. He was just 11 years old at the time but would be absolutely taken back by the Delahaye on display. Right there in that very moment he desired to own what he saw. In time, Mr. Pray would become an influential businessman and an avid car collector. Though he collected the very best, there was one, if he allowed himself to dream, he absolutely wanted more than any other.

About 25 years after that first encounter, Pray would find himself in the position of being able to purchase the very same car he had seen when just a boy. Pray would need no convincing and needed little incentive. He would jump at the chance of owning his fantasy car, a car that he would consider greater than any other in his collection. The best part of it all was that it would really be a chance encounter; two separated lovers meeting again after years apart. And such was the relationship.

In 1969 and '70 the car would be refurbished. Wanting to remember it as it was, Pray would have the car refinished in its original colors. Though refurbished and return to its original livery, the car would be seldom seen for the next 45 years. Then, amazingly, the car would make an appearance at the Meadow Brook Concours d'Elegance in 1994. It had been 40 years before the car made its last appearance in a show and it would prove to be a truly moving moment. Then, one year later, Malcolm and his new wife, Natalie, would tour the car in Europe. Such was the affection Pray had for the car that Natalie would consider the car the 'French Mistress'.

Mr. Pray's pride would get the better of him. After that debut in 1994, the Delahaye would be a participant in more than 50 events. This active lifestyle would certainly seem to give credence to the affectionate nickname 'French Mistress'. Unfortunately, Mr. Pray can no longer enjoy such rendezvous. The arousing Delahaye will have to use its looks and performance to find a new amour.

'Lot No. 167: 1937 Delahaye 135 Competition Court Torpedo Roadster', (http://www.rmauctions.com/lots/lot.cfm?lot_id=1064908). RM Auctions. http://www.rmauctions.com/lots/lot.cfm?lot_id=1064908. Retrieved 6 February 2014.

Mellana, Tom. 'Malcolm S. Pray Jr., Greenwich Businessman and Benefactor, has Died', (http://www.greenwichtime.com/local/article/Malcolm-S-Pray-Jr-Greenwich-businessman-and-4759990.php). Greenwich Time.com. http://www.greenwichtime.com/local/article/Malcolm-S-Pray-Jr-Greenwich-businessman-and-4759990.php. Retrieved 6 February 2014.

By Jeremy McMullen
Convertible Coupe
Coachwork: Henri Chapron
Chassis Num: 60136
Delahaye built its first automobile in 1894 in Tours, France and went on to produce well-made but modest utilitarian vehicles. After sales declined severely due to the Depression of the 1930s, the firm needed to produce something incredible if it wer  [Read More...]
By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2011
Coachwork: Figoni & Falaschi
Chassis Num: 48667
Engine Num: 48667
Sold for $6,600,000 at 2014 RM Auctions.
The current owner first saw this fabulous Figoni & Falaschi designed roadster when it premiered at the French Pavilion at the New York World's Fair in 1939. He purchased the car in 1964, not realizing that this was the car he sketched as a captivated  [Read More...]
Coachwork: Figoni & Falaschi
Chassis Num: 48667
Engine Num: 48667
Sold for $6,600,000 at 2014 RM Auctions.
Emile Delahaye founded the Delahaye automobile manufacturing company in 1894, in Tours, France. Production was closed in 1954, after gaining a reputation for building reliable trucks and fast automobiles.  [Read More...]
Coachwork: Gebruder Tuscher
Delahaye was one of the earliest auto manufacturing companies in the world, having been founded in 1894 in Tours, France. Always innovative, Delahaye produced the first twin-cam multi-valve engine and the V-6 configuration. And though both disappeare  [Read More...]
Emile Delahaye was born in Tours, France in 1843. He studied engineering in Angers, France. In 1869 he began work with his engineering degree in applied arts and crafts.

Emile Delahaye began business in Tours, France in the middle of the 19th century for the purpose of constructing engines for the ceramic industry. The company branched out and began constructing mechanical appliances such as pumps and engines. In 1888, Delahaye designed an internal combustion engine for the shipping industry. It was not until 1896 that Automobile production began for Delahaye. His first automobiles produced were powered by belt-driven single and twin cylinder engines.

Emile used motor racing to promote his vehicles. In 1896, Emile Delahaye entered the Paris-Marseilles race. Not only did he enter a vehicle his company had created, but he entered as the driver. The results were astounding, which truly speaks highly of the caliber and quality of the automobile. The demand for the vehicles began pouring-in and a second factory was opened.

Due to failing health, Delahaye was forced into retirement in 1901. This was a year after the second factory was opened in Paris. Since Delahaye had no heirs, management control was passed onto a young engineer named Charles Weiffenbach. Weiffenbach oversaw operations until 1954.

In 1905, due to failing health, Emile Delahaye passed away.

Automotive racing was paramount during this period in history. This is why many of the vehicles built during this era were built to be raced and to be used as the daily driver. The sales of the vehicles were stimulated by the way the vehicle performed on the race track. Weiffenbach, however had a different philosophy. His main focus and priority was to build dependable vehicles. Many of the early vehicles were equipped with four cylinder engines capable of producing between 9-12 horsepower. Near the beginning of the first World War, a 6 cylinder, 2565cc, engine was used.

In addition to automobiles, the Delahaye company produced trucks, lorries, parcel carriers for the post office, motor ploughs, fire engines, and other commercial and military vehicles. Many of the vehicles were used during the First World War

From 1927 to 1933, productions of the medium-class cars were low, but the vehicles that were produced carried with them a reputation of being reliable and robust.

In the early thirties, Weiffenbach, also known as 'Monsieur Charles' by his piers, was in his early 60's. The decision was made to boldly move into the sports car arena. This was in response to the market trends and a way to re-establish a competitive edge in the automotive technology spectrum. For an automotive company that had never created a car that could achieve a top speed faster than 110 km/h, this would be a major undertaking.

Jean Francois, a 29 year-old engineer, was commissioned to construct a series of sporty cars using as many of the spare parts as possible. Talbot's new independent suspension was used along with a new chassis with box-section side members. The engine was borrowed from one of their trucks. The engine featured a 65mm crankshaft with internal lubrication. In 1933, the vehicles were introduced at the Paris Car Salon. They were the 4 cylinder 12CV and the 6 cylinder 18CV. At the show, Lucy O'Reilly Schell approached Weiffenbach with a request to have a vehicle built that could be entered in rally events.

Lucy O'Reilly, a wealthy American with an Irish origin, had a passion for racing. So fueled by Delahayes desire to produce sports cars and Reilly's financial backing and quest to win motor sport events, the company re-entered the racing scene.

The Type 135 was created with variants such as the 135 Competition Speciale (135 CS), designed specifically for racing. The 135 Sport and the 135 Coupe both featured a 3.2 liter engine. The Sport produced 96 horsepower while the Coupe had 110 horsepower. 120 horsepower was produced by the 3.6 liter engine that rested in the Type 135 Competition model. The engine in the 135 CS was a simple pushrod operated engine borrowed from the 1927 Type 103 truck engine. It gave up horsepower for great acceleration and torque.

The Type 135 is considered as one of the most famous and prestigious vehicles produced by Delahaye. In both design and racing competition, it was very successful. Designed in 1934 it was quickly entered into races such as the 24 Heures du Mans, the Monte-Carlo Rally, and the Paris-Saint-Raphael motor race, where it had great successes at being a competitive and reliable automobile.

The Type 135 Competition Speciale Sports Car (CS) had a chassis 25 cm shorter than the 135 touring car. This shortened version had better weight distribution which greatly improved the handling and performance. The engine and 4-speed Wilson epicyclic gearbox was placed lower in the chassis, thus contributing to the benefits of a better balanced vehicle. The 135 CS came equipped with an 80 liter or a 100 liter fuel tank, this option was left up to the buyer's discretion.

The 135 CS was debut in the 1936 Monte Carlo Rally where it finished 2nd in a field of fierce competition. In 1936 it was the winner of the Marsailles Gran Prix. At the French Gran Prix is placed second, third, fourth and fifth.

Well-known coachbuilders, such as Franay, Letourner & Marchard, Chapron, and Guillore, were tasked with outfitting the 135's. This may have been influenced by Delage, an automotive company that Delahaye merged with in 1935. As a result, the 135 won numerous awards for styling and design.

The Type 135's are truly a prestigious masterpiece with a strong racing history and a heritage that was formed on stability, robustness, and stamina.
By Daniel Vaughan | Feb 2007
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