High bid of $1,100,000 at 2012 RM Sothebys. (did not sell)
Sold for $544,500 at 2014 RM Sothebys
Car design, especially during those early years of the 20th century, was certainly an art form. And one of those that had an 'eye' for beautiful lines was Louis Delage. And perhaps none were more beautiful and elegant than his early designs. However, even as the company teetered on the brink of bankruptcy, the company would continue to produce some truly remarkable pieces of art, including the D6-70.
Delage would be bailed out by the businessman Walter Watney, but still, Delage faced threats all around. The economic crisis had virtually brought the luxury car market in France to its knees. Adolph Hitler was also planning on bringing France to its knees. Still, Delage would not give up.
Delage did not have control though. Delahaye had come on board and Watney had taken control as the company's president. Delage would remain on board only as an advisor. Still, even in an advisor role, Delage would keep working. As per agreement, neither Delahaye nor Delage could produce engines of the same size. Still, Delage would root around with a Delahaye 135 engine and would begin modifying it. He would decrease the engine size to 2.8-liters and would shorten the stroke. But, as it would turn out, this would be a stroke of genius as the 2.8-liter engine would be much more alive and responsive than even the 135 engine from which it had been derived.
Delage needed an engine because he had a new model in mind. Taking from a Delahaye 134 chassis, which was much lighter and just as stiff as the 135 chassis, Delage would begin attaching components, like Houdaille shock absorbers, that he wanted to comprise this new model. Delage would also incorporate newer, more innovative features, too in the new model. Besides the Houdaille shock absorbers, the D6-70 would feature modern hydraulic Bendix brakes. In addition, most would feature the Cotal electromagnetic gearbox. This four-speed manual transmission was a leap forward in gearbox design and reliability. While other gearboxes had a tendency to crack and needed great care when down-shifting, the Cotal was very smooth and was a significant leap forward in technology.
But while the D6-70 chassis would be remarkable in its own right, it would be the coachwork by Figoni et Falaschi that would truly set the car apart, giving it its true elegance and grace.
One of the elegant Figoni et Falaschi-bodied D6-70s would be offered for sale at the RM Auctions' Monterey event in 2012. Bearing body number 557, the contract for the coachwork to this particular chassis would be received in February of 1936. Just one month later, the chassis would arrive. It would end up being the first cabriolet decapotable, or roadster.
The body-styling would closely follow a design study, numbered 7675. The design offered three different configurations. But it would be the'Milord', or half-cabriolet, configuration that would give the 124' wheelbase of the D6-70 a certain touch of style and nobility. As with just about every Figoni et Falaschi design of the period, chassis 50607 would be a study in both form and function. The car would boast of the simple, and yet, elegant lines that would cause this particular body style to stand out. But the design would also be very simple, thereby underscoring its practical uses.
Just a few of the roadsters would be built and, therefore, it is quite possible that this particular chassis was on display on the Delage stand at the 1936 Salon de Paris. It is also very possible the car won the 'Grand Prix d'Honneur toutes categories' during the Concours d'Elegance of the select Automobile Club Feminin de France, also in 1936.
With Germany on the doorsteps of France by the later-part of the 1930s, chassis 50607 would somewhat retreat from public view but would reappear in 1946 when it was imported to the United Kingdom and issued the registration number HGP 361. The car would then pass through a series of owners including Major Homi Toni Boga, Mr. James Jakes and a Mr. P.M. Bull. Then, in 1969, the car would be acquired by Mr. Parfitt.
Not long afterward, the Delage D6-70, chassis 50607 would have a homecoming of a very special degree. Not only would the car return to France but it would end up in the hands of Mr. Repusseau. Though meaningless to many, this would be a very special union as Repusseau was the grandson of the coachbuilder and inventor Francois Repusseau. Francois had been tightly associated with Louis Delage since before the days of World War I.
Mr. Repusseau had been a member of the French Delage club before his death in 2008. Before his death, however, Repusseau would have the engine of 50607 fully rebuilt. The Cotal gearbox would also be torn down and entirely rebuilt by the specialists at Salmeron. But this would be just the beginning of the car's restoration.
The engine and the transmission would be set aside as work would begin on every other aspect of the car. There would be no expenses spared and the level of detail would be intense. The result, many would believe, would be a car that just looks absolutely magnificent and appears to have just arrived back from Figoni et Falaschi.
Chassis 50607 is certainly one of those strikingly magnificent and rare Figoni et Falaschi-bodied cars. It is even more rare to have one come to auction. Full of elegance and grace, all combined in a stately, and yet, simple design, the dark blue and ivory finish is wonderfully accented by carefully-placed and controlled amounts of chrome that only attract the eye and cause one to marvel. Truly this is one example of automotive art and anyone with an eye for anything of beauty would recognize that in a moment.
Heading to auction, this 1936 Delage D6-70 Milord Cabriolet, chassis number 50607 was expected to fetch between $1,250,000 and $1,750,000.Sources:
'Not No. 143: 1936 Delage D6-70 Milord Cabriolet by Figoni et Falaschi', (http://www.rmauctions.com/FeatureCars.cfm?SaleCode=MO12&CarID=r229). RM Auctions. http://www.rmauctions.com/FeatureCars.cfm?SaleCode=MO12&CarID=r229. Retrieved 2 August 2012.
'1938 Delage D6-70 News, Pictures and Information', (http://www.conceptcarz.com/vehicle/z15266/Delage-D6-70.aspx). Conceptcarz.com: From Concept to Production. http://www.conceptcarz.com/vehicle/z15266/Delage-D6-70.aspx. Retrieved 2 August 2012.
'Delage D6-70 Figoni et Falaschi Competition Coupe', (http://www.ultimatecarpage.com/car/2844/Delage-D6-70-Figoni-and-Falaschi-Competition-Coupe.html). Ultimatecarpage.com: Powered by Knowledge, Driven by Passion. http://www.ultimatecarpage.com/car/2844/Delage-D6-70-Figoni-and-Falaschi-Competition-Coupe.html. Retrieved 2 August 2012.By Jeremy McMullen
Louis Delage was born in 1974 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.
After the Delahaye take-over in 1935 the Delages were constructed to Delahaye designs while retaining their own short-stroke engines and hydraulic brakes. In 1937 the D6-70 was introduced featuring Delage's powerful 2729cc overhead-valve six-cylinder engine and mated to a Cotal electrically operated four-speed gearbox.
A Speciale version of the D6-70 was constructed with Joseph Figoni commissioned to construct the aerodynamic body. It had a Delage prepared three-liter six-cylinder engine and mounted on a Delahaye 135 chassis. It was constructed to race in the 1936 24 Hours of LeMans but the race was cancelled due to strikes across the country. Its competition career took a slight detour - it was shown at Concours d'Elegance events where it had a profound impact on many that were in attendance.
The following year the D6-70 Speciale finally made its inaugural competition debut at LeMans. It finished first in class and fourth overall, behind a Bugatti and two Delahayes. The Figoni coupe body was later removed in 1938 and fitted with a Figoni & Falaschi roadster body. It continued its racing career, with highlights including a victory in the 1938 Tourist Trophy. This success spawned two similar cars for 1939, but with further modifications including a lightweight chassis.
The lightweight cars were raced at LeMans where the experience and lessons-learned paid off with another first in class and second overall. War would postpone the efforts for several years; after the war, Watney commissioned five racers similar to the lightweight cars. The three-liter engine now produced 142 horsepower and clothed in a body with cycle-fenders and lightweight materials.
These five new cars, as well as the original Speciale, did well in racing during the post-War era, with several significant victories. Four cars were on the starting grid at the 1949 24 Hours of LeMans. After 24 hours of intense racing, a first and second in class had been achieved, and a very impressive fourth overall with a Ferrari 166 taking the first.
As the 1950s came into view, the six-cylinder engine was showing its age. At the 1950 LeMans race, only one car was entered and managed to finish the race but in seventh place.
Delahaye searched for funds to revitalize their racing program, but they had little luck. Production continued for only a few more years, ending in 1953 when the company entered bankruptcy.
The Delage D6-70s in production trim were raced with much success beginning in early 1937. With strong finishes at the Rallye Monte Carlo and Rallye du Maroc, the Delage's earned a reputation for their speed and durability.
By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2008