Louis Delage was born in 1874 in Cognac, south of France. His family had a modest income which allowed for him to attend and graduate from the Ecole des Arts et Metiers in Angers in 1893. He then moved to Paris and began working with the Turgan-Foy company. Later he accepted a position with Peugeot. He left soon after to start his own company. Louis Delage began designing and building cars in 1905 with Augustin Legros as his chief engineer. Legros had left Peugeot with Delage and stayed with the company until 1935. The company focused on building cars that were of high quality and reliability. Their first cars were produced in 1906, and called the Type A and B. The cars were powered by a single cylinder de Dion engines producing about 6-7 horsepower.
Louis Delage was a very ambitious man. He had a passion for racing and a competitive edge that led him to produce some of the greatest sports cars of the era. In 1906 he participated in the Coupe des Voiturettes and was awarded a second place finish. This accomplished fueled sales. In 1908 he had three cars entered in the Coupe des Voiturettes race where their achieved a fist place victory.
In 1909 Delage moved away from the de Dion engines and began using their own 4-cylinder engine. However, some of the models they produced did use engines produced by the famous engine supplier, Ballot.
During World War I the company aided in the war-time efforts by producing munitions. This did much to increase Louis Delage's personal fortune. When peace returned, the Delage Company returned to automobile production. Their first vehicle after WWI was a six-cylinder CO, which was a slow seller. Their other model, the four-cylinder DO, was also an unfruitful venture. Production continued until 1921, with a total of 1602 examples produced of both types.
In 1921, at the Paris Motor Salon, Delage introduced their next new model, the four-cylinder DE. Sales were steady, with around 3600 units produced by 1923.
In the Grand Prix racing world, new regulations had been put into effect for 1923 which limited engine displacement to two liters. Delage's chief engineer, Charles Planchon, was tasked with building a new engine that could comply with these regulations. The result was an engine that had twelve cylinders and twin-overhead camshafts. It was called the 2LCV. The project was rushed and as a result the car had little success in the Tours Grand Prix. Delage, enraged by the failure, fired Planchon and placed Albert Lory in his place. Lory worked hard to make the 2LCV racer a success and his efforts were eventually rewarded. At the 1925 French Grand Prix at Monthelery, the racer - now fitted with two superchargers which produced nearly 200 horsepower - emerged victorious. Sadly, just as the 2LCV had finely achieved its intended goal, it was made obsolete due to new racing regulations which lowered displacement to a mere 1.5-liters, a two-seater body remained mandatory, the riding mechanic was no longer required, and a minum weight of 600kg was imposed.
Lory was tasked with building a new Grand Prix car for the 1926 season. Lory chose a straight eight design with twin, gear driven cams and fitted with two superchargers. The engine produced nearly the same amount of power as the car it replaced, though it had a much smaller displacement size. The engine was bolted to the five speed transmission and placed into a ladder frame. The resulting vehicle was called the Delage 15 S8.
Delage attacked the Grand Prix season with no fewer than three 15 S8 models for each race. (A total of four examples were created). They made their debut at the Spanish Grand Prix where the new cars proved to be rather reliable and competitive, finishing in second, fourth and sixth against very strong competition. Their first major victory came a few weeks later at the British Grand Prix at Brooklands.
At the close of the 1926 season, no major rule changes were announced that would hinder the Delage's from returning for a second year. On the off-season, the cars were modified to improve the handling and increase their performance. The most visible change was the switching of the exhausts from the right side to the left side of the engine. The two superchargers were replaced with a single front-mounted unit.
For the 1927, Robert Benoist would win all five of the Grand Prix races, resulting in a constructor's World Championship for Delage. Though the success had been great for Delage, so had the expense. This dedicate had nearly bankrupted the company and resulted in them withdrawing from competition for the following season. Their efforts were now focused on building road going cars which could generate some much needed revenue.
The four Delage 15 S8 models would continue to race in the hands of privateers. They would continue to earn many impressive victories especially in the voiturette class.
By Daniel Vaughan | Feb 2009
Three of the four cars still exist in modern times.