1939 Delahaye 148 Drop Head Coupe by Chapron Stunning Car with Known History
Delahaye was a family-owned automobile manufacturing company, founded by Émile Delahaye in 1894 in Tours, France. Manufacturing was moved to Paris following incorporation. The company built luxury cars, trucks, utility vehicles and busses. Delahaye made a number of technical innovations in its early years and after establishing a racing department in 1932. The company came to particular prominence in France in the mid-to-late 1930s when its cars won a number of auto races. The company faced setbacks due to the Second World War and was taken over by competitor Hotchkiss in 1954.
Engineer Émile Delahaye began experimenting with belt-driven cars in 1894, while he was manager of the Brethon Foundry and Machine-works in Tours, France. These experiments encouraged him to enter automobiles in the 1896 Paris–Marseille–Paris race and the 1897 Paris–Dieppe race, followed in 1898 by the Marseilles–Nice rally, the Course de Perigeux, and the Paris–Amsterdam–Paris race.[Delahaye's automotive company was incorporated in 1898 with investors George Morane – who had driven one of Delahaye's cars in the Marseilles–Nice rally – and Morane's brother-in-law Leon Desmarais. The company moved its manufacturing from Tours to Paris, to a former hydraulic machinery plant owned by the Morane family. Charles Weiffenbach was made operations manager. The company initially produced three models at this location: the 1.4 litre single-cylinder Type 0, and the twin-cylinder Type 1 and Type 2. All three had bicycle-style tiller steering, rear-mounted water-cooled engines, automatic valves, surface carburetors, and trembler coil ignition; drive was a combination of belt and chain, with three forward speeds and one reverse.
By 1904, about 850 automobiles had been built. The company introduced its first production four-cylinder in 1903 and shaft-drive transmissions in 1907. Delahaye's chief design-engineer Amédée Varlet invented and pioneered the V6 engine in the 1911 Type 44. Varlet also designed the Delahaye Titan marine engine, an enormous cast-iron multi-valve twin-cam four-cylinder engine that was fitted into purpose-built speedboat La Dubonnet, which briefly held the world speed record on water. Licensed production with a variety of firms for Delahaye models in began in 1907, while in 1909, H. M. Hobson began importing Delahaye vehicles to Britain. US Manufacturer White pirated the design but the First World War interrupted enforcement action. By the end of the war, Delahaye's major income was from manufacturing trucks.
In 1934, Delahaye set eighteen class records at Montlhéry, in a specially-prepared, stripped and streamlined 18 Sport. The company also introduced the 134N, a 12cv car with a 2.15-litre four-cylinder engine, and the 18cv Type 138, powered by a 3.2-litre six-cylinder engine – both developed from their successful truck engines. In 1935, success in the Alpine Trial led to the introduction of the sporting Type 135 "Coupe des Alpes". By the end of 1935, Delahaye had won eighteen minor French sports car events and a number of hill-climbs, and came fifth at Le Mans. In 1936, Delahaye ran four 160 hp cars (based on the Type 135) in the Ulster TT, placing second to Bugatti, and entered four at the Belgian 24 Hours, finishing 2-3-4-5 behind an Alfa Romeo. Delahaye was able to leverage their racing success to acquire automaker Delage in 1935.
American heiress Lucy O'Reilly Schell paid the developmental costs for short "Competition Court" 2.70-metre-wheelbase Type 135 cars for rallying and racing. She purchased 12 of these, reserving half for her Ecurie Bleue amateur racing team. In 1937, René Le Bègue and Julio Quinlin won the Monte Carlo Rally driving a Delahaye. Delahaye also ran first and second at Le Mans. Against the German government-sponsored juggernauts Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union, Delahaye entered the Type 145, powered by a complicated 4+1⁄2-litre V12. Called the "Million Franc Delahaye" after a victory in the Million Franc Race, the initial Type 145 was driven by René Dreyfus to an average speed 91.07 mph (146.56 km/h) over 200 km (120 mi) at Montlhéry in 1937, earning a 200,000 French francs government prize. Dreyfus also scored a victory in the Ecurie Bleu Type 145 at Pau in 1938, using the model's fuel economy to beat the more powerful Mercedes-Benz W154. Another Type 145 finished third in the same race.
These victories combined with French patriotism ensured demand for Delahaye cars up until the German occupation of France during World War II. In early 1940, 100 Type 134N and Type 168 chassis were built and bodied by Renault as military cars under contract for the French army. The French government had ordered all private automobile production to cease in June 1939, but small numbers of cars continued to be built for the occupying German forces until at least 1942.
This Stunning Drop Head or Convertible Coupe is one of the most exciting Chapron Designs we have encountered. Fully restored to top show standards by Marque Specialists, this car is ready for the most demanding Concours. In perfect running order, the car would also be a welcome participant in any of the numerous historic rallies for which it qualifies. Never Shown Stateside.