DELAHAYE 135 – THE ELEGANCE OF DAYS GONE BY
The French automobile brand Delahaye that produced sporty luxury cars was dressed by the most famous French coachbuilders. The brand put out a few not very successful racing cars that are falsely said to have had their engines developed from truck engines. Little else is known about the brands classic models, like the Delahaye 135 for example.
But Delahaye, founded in 1895, was quickly involved in motor racing. In 1896, Emil Delahaye came in second in his class in the Paris-Marseille-Paris race driving one of his vehicles. Until the First World War, Delahaye was one of the larger automobile manufacturers in France. The vehicles were built under licence by White in the USA and Presto, Chemnitz, among others. The company also started building commercial vehicles at an early stage. After the war, Delahaye passenger cars were only built in small numbers and the middle class segment was provided with many different designs.
Around 1930, production was simplified and only two different models were produced, the 124 with a 2.1 litre engine and the 126 with a 2.6 litre engine. These two types were further developed until the Delahaye 135 came out in 1935. The designation 135 is inseparably linked with Delahaye’s history. Depending on the model, the 3.2 litre six-cylinder engine produced between 70 kW/95 hp with one carburettor up to the Delahaye 135 Special with three carburettors and up to 112 kW/152 hp. At this time Delahaye took over the French automobile manufacturer Delage as well as their production.
HAUTE COUTURE FOR the DELAHAYE 135
As Delahaye did not produce its own bodies, the haute couture league of French coachwork builders dressed the cars. Chapron, Franay and Figoni & Falaschi delivered masterpieces for Delahaye chassis. About 1.500 examples of the Delahaye 135 were built until the war. With the Type 145 there was also a V12 engine in a 135 chassis for six examples. The twelve-cylinder engine with a capacity of 4.5 liters was developed to compete as a racing car with the German Silver Arrows. But the produced output was by far not sufficient for this. Three of the chassis were fitted with cabriolet and coupé bodies by Franay and Chapron. During the war, trucks were assembled first; later, material for the German ‘Wehrmacht’ forces had to be produced during the occupation, which was not necessarily well received by the workforce.
THE APPROACHING END
After the war, production of trucks and the pre-war type 135 began again, and 1.155 units were produced until 1952. At the same time, the Type 175 with a 4.5-liter six-cylinder engine was added. The end came with the Type 235, a modern version of the Delahaye 135, but after 85 units it was the discontinued.
As Delahaye did not produce their coachwork itself, the production became too expensive and there were hardly any buyers left interested in the brand’s cars. Most of the coachbuilders went out of business. Delahaye joined forces with Hotchkiss, but this was not successful either. For a short period only Hotchkiss cars were produced.
Nowadays, Delahaye is almost only known for its coupés and cabriolets from the late 1930s to the 1950s. A Delahaye from this period can certainly win the occasional Concours d’Élégance.
Text Thomas Ulrich Photos Classic Trader
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