1937 Peugeot 402 Darl Mat news, pictures, specifications, and information
Designer: Georges Paulin
Chassis Num: 705516
Sold for $777,000 at 2009 Bonhams.
Sold for $522,500 at 2011 RM Sothebys.
Combined with a tuned two-litre overhead-valve four cylinder engine with dual carburetors and a stout Cotal four-speed pre-selector gearbox, the Darl'mat was a remarkable performer on road and track alike. Competition versions, remarkably similar to their road-going stable-mates were very successful. They competed at LeMans in 1937 and 1938, achieving a sterling class victory in the latter year.

1935 saw the introduction of the 402 at the Paris Show in October. It marked a turning point in the history of the Peugeot brand, which was ahead of all its French competitors in introducing aerodynamic bodies as standard. This is the famous 'Sochaux rocket' range, characterized by fluid lines and a shield-shaped grill to protect the headlights.

A total of 105 Peugeot 402 Darl'mat models crafted on the 402 chassis. It is believed that 53 were roadsters, 32 cabriolets, and 20 coupes. They were upgraded at Darl'mat's shop with Cotal four-speed electro-mechanical gearboxes, before being shipped to Pourtout and fitted with the Paulin-designed bodies, formed from pieces of sheet aluminum hand-shaped and then nailed to wooden structures of ash framing that were then attached to the chassis.

Three Darl'mats finished in the top 10 overall at the 24 Hours of LeMans in 1937. Approximately 30 still survive today. This 1938 roadster has been faithfully restored. It is equipped with a crank-down windscreen, which was patented by Georges Paulin. Similar to the 1937 Le Mans cars, it is powered by a four-cylinder engine with unique tuning advances developed by Emile Darl'mat.

This 1938 Darl'mat roadster, based on the 402 Legere (light) chassis has known history dating back to the 1960s. During the 1970s this car went from Switzerland to the United States and participated in the 2000 edition of the Monterey Historic Races. With a known history and having been in the hands of noted collectors, this Peugeot is a marvelous example of French styling, racing, and beauty.
Chassis Num: 688 928
Engine Num: 697 865
Sold for $203,500 at 2012 RM Sothebys.
Emile Darl'mat was a Parisian Peugeot dealer during the early-1930s and was one of the world's largest. He was well known among the racing community and worked tirelessly to return Peugeot to the motorsports dominance it enjoyed immediately before and after World War I. To help in his endeavors, he created special Peugeot-based automobiles with leading-edge performance and styling. He was even granted access to Peugeot's factory resources.

Two other resources that Darl'mat pursued were Paris coach-builder Marcel Pourtout and designer Georges Paulin. Darl'mat had a history with both individuals; he had worked with Pourtout on a car for the 1927 Salon de l'Automoible and with Paulin on a Peugeot 301 with streamlined bodywork, which was created for display at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair.

Paulin, who's early profession was dentistry, had gained prominence in the automotive community by developing and patenting an automatic retractable metal roof mechanism, predating the Ford Skyliner of the late-1950s. Paulin and Pourout made plans to build it on a Peugeot 301 chassis, but Peugeot initially considered the roof mechanism to be overly complicated. So the duo purchased a bare chassis from Darl'mat and constructed the cars, dubbed 'Eclipse,' on their own. A companion model was later built on the larger 601 chassis. The mechanism proved popular, resulting in Peugeot licensing the design from Paul and produced 430 retractable-hardtop 402 models, dubbed the 402 BL Eclipse Decapotable, between 1935 and 1939.

Darl'mat conceived an idea to create a sporting model of Peugeot's 302 and fitting it with a two-liter engine from the 402. The bodywork was created by Pourtout, which involved Georges Paulin, who penned a flowing, teardrop-winged body with a vestigial boat-tail rear end. Other unique design cues including a flowing grille, medallion-shaped hood side vents, and heart-shaped rear license-plate housing. The bodies were created from lightweight aluminum sheets and hand-formed over wooden bucks.

The two-liter, overhead-valve, four-cylinder was fitted with dual carburetors and mated to a Cotal four-speed pre-selector gearbox. Competition versions, which were similar to the road-going versions, were met with great success. In 1937 and 1938 they competed at the grueling 24 Hours of LeMans, achieving a Sterling Class Victory in the latter year. Later production examples were built using a lightened, or legere, 402 chassis.

This particular example, chassis number 688 928, is built on the 402 DSE chassis. The 'DSE' stands for 'Darl'mat Sport à boîte de vitesses Electromagnétique,' with electromagnetic referring to the Cotal four-speed gearbox.

An individual in France owned this car from 1981 to 1987 before passing it to the current caretaker. It is finished in French Blue and was given a full restoration by the previous owner using all the original components. The original engine was rebuilt and is believed to have 15,358 original kilometers and the original Cotal pre-selector four-speed gearbox.

Inside, there is black leather upholstery with black carpeting and a matching black tonneau cover. There is an engine turned aluminum dash and the special 'banjo-style' steering wheel with Bakelite rim, which reads 'Peugeot Darl'mat' around the center ring. Bakelite was a new material and often found on French cars of this ear. This car also has a roll-down windscreen and a slightly unique hood bulge.

In total, there were 105 examples of the Peugeot Darl'mat produced, including six for racing. Production was comprised of 53 roadsters with low doors (like this example), 20 coupes, and 32 cabriolets. 38 examples were built as combination 302/402 models, while the remaining 67 examples were built on the lightened 402 chassis. It is believed that just 30 examples of all types remain in modern times.

This vehicle wears a faithful factory-authorized replica body that was created in the 1980s.

In 2012, this car was brought to the Monterey Auction presented by RM Auctions where it was sold for the sum of 203,500 including buyer's premium.
By Daniel Vaughan | Jun 2014
Designer: Georges Paulin
Emile Darl'Mat was a Peugeot dealer in Paris who suggested a light, affordable sports car built on the Peugeot chassis and engine. George Paulin, a former dentist with a talent for automobile design, styled the aluminum body. Pourtout, a well-known French coach builder, was responsible for production. The engine was tuned by Peugeot and fitted into a short chassis.

Four models were available including a coupe, roadster, convertible, and a race car. The race car and roadster were almost identical, and was the last model produced. Darl'Mats raced into the two-liter class at Le Mans in 1937 and 1938, where they finished fifth and eighth overall.

This particular example, part of the Tampa Bay Auto Museum, was delivered on the 29th of October in 1937 to a Mr. Kacher from Valence. Years later it was impounded by the Parisian police and purchased at auction in 1957. It has since been given a restoration to its original condition.

Peugeot 402, 1935-1940

With a rich history of technical innovation, Peugeot's 402 cars have become some of the most respected Peugeots that France ever produced. But even more impressive than the cars themselves were the people behind the curvaceous vehicles. World War II was swinging closer when the 402 was released in 1935, and by the end of the car's production run in 1940 the world had already fallen into one of the most devastating and atrocious struggles that humanity had ever known. Key individuals involved with the development of the 402, particularly with the stunning 402 Darl'mat, were dangerously intertwined with the growing war effort. The personal difficulties faced by these few key men helped make the Peugeot 402's story transcend the realm of automotive history and become a troubling example of the long-reaching effects of war.

The most intriguing story of the 402's past was the tale surrounding the creation of the 402 Darl'mat. Automotive journalist and historian Jim Donnelly wrote a colorful and detailed history of the car in the September, 2005 issue of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car magazine. In his article, Donnelly mentions three men in particular as being responsible for the creation of the special 402. These men were Emile Darl'mat, Georges Paulin, and Marcel Pourtout.

Darl'mat, whose name made it onto a series of special Peugeot 402 models, was a renowned Peugeot dealer. Darl'mat was an avid and passionate auto enthusiast, and was constantly working in the garage at his dealership to improve his own cars with careful modifications. He became well-known to a few Peugeot lovers as the man to see about high-quality improvements.

Paulin was a stylistic genius with a functional flair who had developed the first retractable hardtop (forget everything you've heard about the Ford Fairlane), which he called the Eclipse roof system. Paulin received a patent for his novel idea, which landed him a partnership with Pourtout.

Pourtout was a French coachbuilder and longtime friend of Darl'mat. Though Pourtout was skilled, his works initially lacked the high style and creative originality that Paulin would later provide. When Pourtout needed a chassis on which to display Paulin's Eclipse roof design, Darl'mat was contacted and subsequently became involved with the development of the Peugeots to bare his name.

After the three men decided to build cars together, Peugeot would send 402 chassis to Darl'mat's garage. There, Cotal MK-25 electromechanical transmissions were mated to the 402 engines in the fashion of Darl'mat's superb modifications. The advanced transmissions were four-speeds, with no dedicated reverse gear. Instead, any gear could be used for reversing, with Cotal suggesting the selection of second gear whenever moving backwards was required.

After they were finished receiving the new gearboxes, 402 chassis were sent from Darl'mat to Pourtout. At Pourtout's coachbuilding facility, hand-shaped aluminum bodies were fitted to ash wood frames that were then attached to the waiting chassis. The attractive and aerodynamic bodies were designed by Paulin, and affixed to the ash frames simply by nails. Production of the 402 Darl'mat cars lasted from 1937 to 1938, with 106 produced.

Though Paulin's greatest accomplishments were in the area of design, he was actually trained as a dentist. His dentistry skills had little to do with his aesthetic genius, but they did help him land a job as a French spy working under Charles de Gaulle at the outset of World War II. Fearlessly, Paulin made detailed drawings of German equipment and bases. He passed these German secrets on to a posing dental patient who was actually a French railroad worker. His skills as a dentist, designer, and patriot all helped him successfully deliver important information to France. If espionage seems an unlikely livelihood for a gifted designer, consider the men with whom Paulin worked. Joseph Figoni and Jacques Kellner, both highly skilled coachbuilders, were essential spies that dealt closely with Paulin.

It became known that Paulin and his co-spies were on the verge of being discovered, and Paulin was offered the chance to be quickly removed to safety by the British. The man whom Paulin and the rest were working for was a double agent who had been supplying information to French Vichys and German Nazis. Paulin knew that if he left, Kellner and Figoni would be caught and killed. Paulin bravely remained in France, where he was soon arrested by Vichy mercenaries along with Figoni and Kellner. In 1942, Kellner and the Paulin were shot and killed by firing squad. Only Figoni managed to survive, thanks to a Gestapo officer who had been on the Mercedes-Benz racing team recognizing him.

Paulin's was a devastating loss to France and to the world of automotive design. Though Pourtout would resume production after the war, he was never as successful as he had been with the skilled Paulin working by his side. Darl'mat continued the postwar operation of his garage, but never ventured into auto production again after Paulin's tragic death. The last car produced by Darl'mat, in 1939, was designed by Paulin.

The cars of the 402 series earned the nickname 'Sochaux rockets.' Peugeot's primary assembly plant was located in Sochaux, and the aerodynamic streamliners had an advanced, rocket-like look to their bodies that garnered respect and praise. Many different models were built on the 402 chassis. There were 4-doors, 2-doors, cabriolets, roadsters, and the important retractable hardtop models with Paulin-designed Eclipse tops. The first of the 402 models were powered by a 1,991cc four with overhead cam that produced about 70hp, a respectable figure for such a small engine in the 1930's. Later models, using the 402B designation, were fitted with 2,142cc mills. Peugeot's business was going well during the time of the 402, with annual production reaching 50,000 units by 1938. In June of that same year, a 402 Darl'mat took first place in the 1,500cc to 2,000cc class at Le Mans.

All 402 bodies were carefully streamlined. On models with the Eclipse retractable hardtop, the roof lowered as a single, unbroken piece into a tapered trunk area. Top up or down, even the Eclipse-equipped vehicles looked distinctively aerodynamic. Though the 402 Darl'mat bodies had headlights mounted low and flanking the grille, other 402 models had headlights mounted within the grille. This gave the cars a unique look and provided the wind with one less obstacle as it flowed seamlessly over the slippery bodies. The 402 Andreau, designed by Jean Andreau, had the most radical styling of the closed, 4-door 402 bodies. The Andreau had a split rear window with an enormous dorsal fin running between the glass.

The 402 and its advanced forms bettered Peugeot's prewar image as a fine automaker. Mechanically the 402 chassis was not particularly impressive, but the voluptuous sheathings fitted over those chassis were remarkable. The team of Paulin, Pourtout, and Darl'mat was gifted at producing its own version the 402, and had Paulin not fallen to the terrors of an apocalyptic war the history of French design surely would have grown even more intriguing.


Donnelly, Jim. 'Of Paulin, Pourtout, and Peugeot.' Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car Sep 2005: 22-29. Print.

'1936 Peugeot 402 Andreau.' Serious Wheels Web.7 Aug 2009. http://www.seriouswheels.com/cars/top-1936-Peugeot-402-Andreau.htm.

'Peugeot 402.' Phil Seed's Virtual Car Museum Web.7 Aug 2009. http://www.philseed.com/peugeot402.html.

'Peugeot History.' Peugeot Fans Club Web.7 Aug 2009. http://peugeot.mainspot.net/hist12.shtml.

By Evan Acuña
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