High bid of $1,900,000 at 2009 Worldwide Auctioneers : The Houston Classic Auction. (did not sell)
Joseph Figoni had a desire to create an automobile design that was modeled after a drop of water. His automobiles had cohesively fluid shapes that were aerodynamic, streamlined, and undeniably attractive. This vehicle, chassis number 46809, is one of the purest examples of his craftsmanship. It is one of Figoni's earliest expressions of automobile coachwork as a drop of dense fluid. The lightweight and aerodynamic coachwork was married to a Delahaye 135 S chassis and engine, making it one of the most capable and competitive cars of its era. Along with its sporty persona, it offered its occupants comfort in long distance road races, practicality and luxury in high speed cruising, and flamboyant beauty that was unmistakable and undeniable.
The Type 135 engine in the Delahaye was designed by Jean Francois under the direction of Delahaye's technical directory Amédée Varlet. The inline six-cylinder unit had a long stroke, pushrod-operated overhead valves, four main bearings, and crossflow heads. When Delahaye introduced the Type 135 at the 1935 Paris Salon, there were two engine's available. It could be ordered with single or triple downdraft carburetor induction systems in addition to two engine sizes, a 3,227cc unit and a 3,557cc unit. Buyers had the option of a 95 hp, 120 hp and two 110 horsepower configurations.
The engine was then placed into the newly designed chassis which had boxed rectangular rails, a central crossmember weldment and a welded-in floor offered both strength and rigidity. In the front was an independent suspension setup using transverse leaf springs as the lower control arm. A shortened wheelbase size was created for competition prospects, and given the 3557cc engine with triple carburetors and offering 160 horsepower. In this guise, it was dubbed the Delahaye Type 135 Special.
The Type 135 Special was a highly tuned and sophisticated machine that featured additional engine block cooling passages, a higher compression ratio cylinder head, modified valve gear, a lighter and better balanced crankshaft capable of higher RPM, and a high lift cam. There were three horizontal Solex carburetors and six exhaust ports with individual exhaust head pipes. There was a larger fuel tank, a bigger radiator, and lightweight alloy brake backing places with added ventilation. Most of the Type 135 Specials were clothed in lightweight two seat coachwork with removable teardrop fenders. This made them very versatile race cars, able to compete in both grand prix and sports car competition.
The Type 135, and all the related versions that would follow, would be successful on nearly every platform in which it competed. It earned victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Monte-Carlo Rally, the Paris-Saint-Raphael race, and many more.
In 1935, Figoni partnered with businessman Ovidio Falaschi who was also from Italy. This union created 'Figoni & Falaschi.' Falaschi had the capital and management skill that allowed Figoni to concentrate on his designs and to enhance his creativity.
The original owner of this 1936 Delahaye 135 S 'Court' Competition Teardrop Coupe
was Jean Tremoulet. Mr Tremoulet would later team with Eugene Chaboud (this cars third owner) to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in an open-bodied Delahaye 135 S. This particular Type 135 S has a short 2700mm wheelbase, a 102 liter fuel tank, enlarged radiator, and alloy brake backing plates. There is a Cotal MK33SS pre-selector four-speed gearbox with overdrive fourth speed.
Mounted under the flowing bonnet is a 135J competition engine based on a different cylinder block casting with a water passage added between cylinders two and three. There is a high capacity water pump located lower on the block and additional oiling passages near number two and four cylinders. The cylinder head was designed for the most grueling competition and is unique to this engine type. It is wider, with bigger valves, different rocker arm assembles which improve porting, and a higher compression ratio. Every surface of this engine has been carefully machined to remove excess weight. There was only one other known engine to have received this care and attention, and that was the Type 135 S driven by Tremoulet and Chaboud to win the 1938 Le mans 24 Hours.
According to Andre Vaucour, the Archivist of the Club Delahaye, just 25 short chassis Type 135s were built in order to homologate the type for racing. Only about 10 were actually built for racing with the balance assembled with road engines and suspensions.
Figoni & Falaschi were tasked with creating a special body for this high performance Type 135S. The body was formed from all-alloy and is believed to be the first to use a boxed 10cm extension to the frame at the back to give it a longer, gentler slope to amplify its aerodynamic features and to blend harmoniously with the design. There is a raked windshield and a split rear window, a small fined spline down the rear of the body, skirted rear wheels, and wind-swept design cues throughout.
The car's second owner, according to research by M. Vaucourt, was Albert Perrot, also a competition driver, racing at Le Mans in 1928 in a Salmson. Eugene Chaboud purchased the car from Perrot in July of 1938 just after winning Le Mans. It remained in his care until the late 1940s, when it was sold to Claude Columeau, owner of a garage near Paris where it remained until being discovered by the immediately preceding owner, Roger Tainguy, in June 2000.
Mr. Vaucourt's research has revealed that this is the only aluminum teardrop berlinetta ever created. It was used in several races in the late Thirties in France including the 1936 Coupe d'Automne driven by Jean Tremoulet. Chaboud drove the car to an 11th place finish in the 1938 Paris-Nice International and fourth with Chaboud and Claude Perrot in the 1938 12 Hours of Paris at Montlhery. It raced again at Montlhery in 1938 with Tremoulet at the wheel and at the 1939 Course de Cote de la Turbie with Chaboud.
Prior to being purchased by Tainguy, the car lay disassembled for restoration for some time. Tainguy completed the restoration. The coachwork was remarkably well preserved, including all its original body panels and interior upholstery. The original wood framing was marked throughout with the body number, 556. Any weak wood found during the restoration was replaced but all the original structural wood was retained. Period photos were used to ensure the car was done to exact details. Some of the photos reveal the car had road bumpers, something that was not original Figoni & Falaschi pieces.
There are Marchal headlights and trafficators, a sliding sunroof, and rollup windows. It is painted in black with maroon accents, matching maroon leather upholstery, beige headliner and interior trim, and walnut interior trim and cappings. The dashboard features a set of white-faced Delahaye-labeled gauges and a spring spoke steering wheel.
The original Delahaye Type 135S was rated at 160, but this engine produces closer to 200 brake horsepower as it benefits from modern materials, machine, tolerances, and tuning.
This is one of the earliest Figoni & Falaschi teardrop coupes ever created, and may even have been the very first one built. It is extremely unique with its all-alloy bodywork and its 10cm extended bodywork. It has spent nearly all of its life in Europe and rarely been seen. Its restoration was to the highest of standards and is absolutely stunning in every detail, in both form and function.By Daniel Vaughan | Aug 2010