The Story of a Legend- Delahaye
The Story of the Company that Made the Most Beautiful cars in the World.
Delahaye, it's a name we enthusiasts have all heard, a name synonymous with beauty, majesty, and art deco. Those of us who have saw it in person have never forgotten the experience, a great, shining chrome beauty standing out in contrast with every other car around it. But how did this famous car company come into being, what happened to the marque, this is the story of an automotive great; this is the story of Delahaye.
The story of Delahaye begins in 1890, in the town of Tours, France. Emile Delahaye was an engineer and artist who ran a ceramics company, but one day, Emile started to get interested in the gasoline engine. Later, he began experimenting with gasoline engines, eventually, he finally debuted his first car at the 1894 Paris Motor show, the Delahaye Type 1. The car was a success, and soon, Delahaye started to participate in races, such as the 1896 Paris-Marseilles, and other races, all with Emile Delahaye as the driver. Unfortunately, in 1901, he was forced to resign over health issues, and later in 1905. The company, however, was still alive and prospering, and now Emile's partners George Morane and Leon Desmarais took control of the operation. Soon after this, sales were booming, with orders overflowing and winning stacking up, with trophies from the Monte-Carlo Rally, Le Man, and the Concourse.
The car that made Delahaye a racing success, the 135M, a winner at Le Mans, and a timeless racing car (though not all of them look the same, they were all custom built.)
The car that made Delahaye a huge success in the beginning was the wonderful Delahaye 135M, a beautiful racing car that gained the company many wins and rallies and races worldwide. It was one of the sportier Delahaye's, with a top speed of over 100 MPH. It was a beautiful beast of a car, as it had an engine swapped from one of their commercial trucks, and as Delahaye tradition, they had a HUGE variety of options. Some of these options where the following, standard straight-six, either with a single carb or triple carbs, one model had special traverse-leaf independent front suspension, Bendix brakes, wire wheels, four-speed and Cortal transmission, and a larger 130 HP version, and the list goes on and on. This car was famous for winning at the Monte-Carlo, and even pulling off a wonderful victory at the 1938 Le Mans (right in between both of the Bugatti "Tank" winning years).
After the success of the 135M, Delahaye wanted to break into a different market, the luxury imports sector, and made their greatest mark.
The Glory Days, the Story of the Delahaye 175
The Delahaye 175, an absolute masterpiece, and has had multiple wins at different Concourse events, the chrome is well laid out (and not fake), and the body is sweeping and gorgeous.
The result of this change was something glorious, a masterpiece of automotive design, the piece de resistance of art deco, a glamorous and expensive marvel, (and also my favorite car of all time!)(tied with the 1959 Cadillac), the Delahaye 175.
The Delahaye 175, like the 135, had LOTS of options, just some of them include: left or right hand drive, a choice of wheelbase, and numerous engines options, not to mention they were all mostly custom built, as the famous Delahaye 175s Roadster, a custom built car made for Diana Dors. One of the most, if not THE most important aspects of this car is the styling, which almost all will agree, is sensational, especially for lovers of the art deco period. It seems to meld together two different eras of automotive design, the great luxurious and exclusive cars of the 1920's and 30's, and the sweeping, flashy, dressed in chrome elegant behemoths of the 40's and 50's. It seems a midpoint of the eras, with the somewhat boxy shape of the 30's gone, and replaced with the sweeping form of the 50', but still retains the bumpers and "graceful but aggressive" look of any 30's roadster. A masterpiece of the times. But the styling is not evident just on the exterior, but also on the interior. It does seem somewhat typical of the period, but in a special way, it was custom built, and used both chrome and lucite as interior details, a strange choice. It has all the instruments well placed out and organized, but one of the most interesting details was in the doors, with a chrome art-deco eagle emblazoned on them. Take a moment to look through some pictured of the 175S. Images Credit: Supercars. net
The beautiful interior of the 175s roadster.
Unfortunately, the Delahaye 175 did also have some problems, despite being marveled at across the globe, the car actually was a huge commercial failure, this was mainly due to two parts, one, all the cars looked different, a great feat, but proved to be very, very costly for the company and the potential buyers. The second problem was not commercial, but mechanical, the car had a reputation for suspension arm failures, as it was a combination of independent suspension and the rear de Dion setup (a de Dion setup is a complex non- independent suspension setup that was used in the early days of the auto industry, and is still used today, but mainly for off-roading, for more info, click here.)
Such was the lack of understanding of suspension dynamics, this crude, bent piece of tube ruled the GP roost for almost 20 years, explains Keith Howard Barring the notable exceptions of Earle MacPherson and, to a much lesser degree, Colin Chapman, the only person whose name has become inextricably linked with a particular form of […]
This all meant that the car was very high maintenance, the engine also was a pain to maintain and keep clean. Also, the combination of independent and fixed suspension meant the car had quite questionable handling at times, overall, it was a commercial failure, but it still win hearts all across the globe with its flashy art deco styling.
The Final Days of Delahaye
The Delahaye 235m, one of the last cars ever produced by the marquee, but also one of the fastest.
After the crushing commercial and dynamic failure of the 175 model group, Delahaye started to turn back to its past, and produce something more performance oriented. The result was the Delahaye 235, and was supposed to replace the ancient 135m, but despite looking completely different, they both shared most of their mechanical components, meaning it used much outdated technology, such as mechanically operated drum brakes, which were outdated by that time. But, the car did have an upgraded engine, and produced around 152 HP, and could reach around 120 mph. It seemed as if Delahaye had finally found the successor to the 135M. The 235 even won competition, and set records, such as crossing Africa, from Cape Town to Algiers. But, unfortunately for Delahaye, the car wasn't selling as well as they expected, the main reason was the fact that it used many of the same old mechanical components as the 135M, the asking price on this car was extremely high, and the rich clients didn't want to pay for a car that had many of the same features as the 135M, even though it was faster. But this proved too much for Delahaye, as the company was already in dire financial straits. Delahaye was eventually bought out by Hotchkiss, but by 1955, the great Delahaye had disappeared altogether.