Delage D8-120

The Delage Automobile Company was established in 1905 in Levallois, a suburb of Paris, France by Louis Delâge. Delâge was a young ambitious engineer who had previously been employed for the Peugeot car company. The company was originally an assembly plant that acquired engines and drive trains from other manufacturers to use along with their own body designs that were purchased from others.

The Delage Automobile Company became a very formidable force in the area of pre-war voiturette racing. Delage focused on Inline-8 and V12 power-plants and won various events that included the Coupes de L'Ato, along with Voiturette races at both Dieppe and Boulogue. These vehicles carried race-bred engineering and robust chassis' that were a tribute to the marques racing heritage.

In 1907 Delage moved his company to Baudin Street in Levallois, as the workshop was becoming too small and orders were pouring in.

From the start, Delage entered his vehicles and in motor races and never stopped. In 1908 the company found success in competing in Grand Prix motor racing, and operation in new production facilities. Delage owned a 400m2 factory in ‘08, and in the same year he won the '500 km Dieppe Grand Prix', with an average speed of 50 miles per hour. By 1909 the Delage Company became making their own engines along with fabricating advanced body designs. Michelat, considered a prominent car engineer joined the company this year, and François Repusseau was in charge of building the bodies.

The workshop was flooded by the Seine River in 1910, so the Delage Automobile Company was moved yet again, this time to Verdun Boulevard in Courbevoi in 1912. Up until World War I in 1914, Delage vehicles were winning lucrative races. At this time the new factory in Courbevoie was converted into military production.

In 1911, Michelat designed the X type, which won the 'Coupe de l'Auto' at Boulogne. Following the war, the Delage Auto Company continued to prosper as racing orientation was increased, and Delage turned producing high quality touring and luxury saloon vehicles moved by six cylinder engines. The original Delage vehicle was the 1918 CO type, which came with a 20 HP 4524 cc six cylinder engine. In 1921 this merged into the CO2 type, which was the first vehicle with front brakes.

Unfortunately, the Great Depression of the 1930's had a very negative effect on the Delage Company and the company went into voluntary liquidation in 1935. The Courbevoie plant was closed and all of its contents were sold. The Delahaye automobile company negotiated a license to manufacture vehicles under the Delage name, and models continued to be produced until 1953 when the company went out of business.

Always envisioning beautiful vehicles to design, Delage constructed the D8 in 1929 with a 4061cc 8 in – line engine that eventually became the D 8 – S (sport). The D8 was built with very little regard for expense, and marked the top end of the Delage vehicles. The coachwork of the D8 was done by famous builders such as Figoni et Falaschi, Letourner and Chapron. Due to the short length of the chassis, only a two-seater D8 coachwork could be fabricated.

By Jessica Donaldson

Delage D8-120

Total Production: 8

Delage D8-120

Total Production: 99
It is believed that there were 99 examples of the D8S constructed from 1931 through 1933. These were highly sought-after high-performance machines that were stylish and elegant.

The D8S was built on a conventional chassis with half-elliptic springs on all four corners. The brakes were cable operated. The true genius of the vehicle lay under the long and graceful bonnet - the eight-cylinder power-plant which was capable of carrying the cars of speeds around 100 mph.

The D8S was followed by the D8SS which brought with it further improvements and enhancements. The chassis was dropped by more than three inches which aided greatly in the vehicles handling. They were available on a shorter wheelbase, though only a few chose this option. Those that did got a vehicle that was very sport, lightweight, and nimble. Horsepower on the D8SS rose from 120 to 145.

The D8S and D8SS were constructed during a very difficult point in history. The Great Depression was bringing an end to many marques. Those who did survive had found a way to corner the market, often offering low cost vehicles or offering vehicles with many amenities to attract new buyers. Introducing an eight-cylinder engine at this time was thought to be foolish, yet Louis Delage found a way to make it work. Though, this would be short lived as the company entered liquidation in the mid 1930s and was purchased by its rival, Delahaye.
By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2007

Related Articles and History

D8-120 History

Louis Delage was born in 1874 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.

The first new product from this union was the D8-120. Mounted in the long, graceful bonnets were an eight-cylinder engine. The engine was basically a Delahye 135MS six with two additional cylinders. Some of Europe's greatest coachbuilders were tasked with creating designs for the chassis. The list includes Saoutchik, Chapron, Pourtout, and Letourner et Marchand.

The Delage D8's were very impressive automobiles that had style and glamour in a high-performance package. Though the economy disparity of the time begged Delage to move down market, the company refused, and continued to produce their high-priced machines.

The Delage D8-120 had hydraulic brakes, Cotal electromagnet gearbox, and a suspension comprised of transverse leaf springs in the front. The 4.3-liter eight-cylinder engine was capable of producing nearly 100 horsepower in unmodified guise.

The Delage D8-100 was a long-wheel base version of the short-wheelbase D8-120. Both the D8-100 and D-120 were built as a conventional rolling chassis and supplied to the coachbuilders for completion. The coachbuilders would often construct the final product to the exact specifications and requirements supplied by the customer. Because of this, many of the vehicles and their specifications vary considerably. Prior to World War II, around 100 examples were created.

Production of the Delage vehicles continued until 1953.

By Daniel Vaughan | May 2010
Delage Models

Vehicle information, history, and specifications from concept to production.

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