Lot 341: Delahaye Type 135 3.6-Litre Compétition Court Roadster
Based initially at Tours and from 1906 in Paris, Delahaye built its first automobile in 1894 and soon diversified into commercial vehicle manufacture. Its early products tended to be rather lacklustre but then in 1935 came the first of a new generation that would change the marque's image forever: the T135 Coupe Des Alpes. A few years previously Delahaye's chief engineer, Jean Françoise, had been briefed by the company's major shareholder, Madame Léon Desmarais, to design a series of sporting cars worthy of the Delahaye name. The first of this family, the 2.1-litre, four-cylinder Type 134, was introduced at the Paris Salon in 1933. It was the first Delahaye with independent front suspension, which was mounted on a new chassis incorporating box-section side members and a sheet-steel floorpan welded to the cross braces. The Type 134 engine shared its 107mm stroke with an equally new 3,227cc six which, although designed for car use, had first appeared in a Delahaye commercial vehicle. It was this engine that Jean Françoise would use for the Type 135. Equipped with triple Solex carburettors, the 3.2-litre, six-cylinder, overhead-valve unit produced 113bhp in Type 135 specification. It went into a chassis similar to that of the Type 134, featuring transverse-leaf independent front suspension, four-speed synchromesh or Cotal gearboxes, centre-lock wire wheels and Bendix brakes. This engine's effectiveness had already been demonstrated when a short-chassis monoposto fitted with one established a number of world and international speed records at Montlhéry in 1934. A 3.2-litre Type 135 finished 5th at Le Mans in 1935 and for the following year Delahaye improved on the formula with the 3,557cc T135 Spéciale and Compétition short-wheelbase versions, which came with 152bhp and 120bhp respectively. The new, 3.6-litre Type 135 was soon making a name for itself, taking 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th places in the run-to-sportscar-regulations 1936 French Grand Prix and winning the Monte Carlo Rally and Le Mans 24-Hour Race outright in 1937 and 1938 respectively. Prince Bira won the 1938 Donington 12-Hour Sports Car Race in Prince Chula's example and went on to take victory in Brooklands' 'fastest road car in England' race against some formidable opposition. It is believed that only 16 of these Delahaye 135 Compétition Court (short-wheelbase) cars were built, of which fewer than ten remain today. They were constructed on the 2,698mm wheelbase chassis and fitted with the 3.6-litre, triple-Solex engine, which incorporated an alloy cylinder head, lightened and balanced crankshaft, modified valve gear, and a special camshaft and exhaust system. They were bodied in lightweight alloy and not only were very functional but also graceful, aerodynamic and reliable. The sporting history of Delahaye is closely linked to the Schell family, whose Écurie Bleue' was effectively a factory team. This original Delahaye short-chassis car was rebuilt in the 1980s in France incorporating original competition parts acquired from the famous French owner of one of the most original remaining competition cars. The body was constructed in the style of the Écurie Bleue' cars and the engine is fitted with the correct, side-draft Solex carburettors, alloy cylinder head, exhaust system, etc. It has been in the current ownership since 1990 and been maintained by Tony Merrick Racing and Steve Hart Racing (copy invoices available). It is currently fitted with a four-speed manual gearbox more suited to the sprint-type historic races that it has been used for; however, a correct Cotal gearbox is available. We are advised that the car has just completed a very comprehensive check over and is 'on the button'. The Delahaye comes with old-style FIA papers in both French and English and has very successfully competed at Montlhéry, the Nürburgring, Silverstone, Donington Park, etc as well as in many rallies and multiple Mille Miglia Retrospectives. Numerous important spares are available from the vendor via separate negotiation.
Collectors' Motor Cars and Automobilia|
Bonhams, Goodwood Revival, Chichester, Sussex
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