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Lot 351: Delahaye 135M Cabriolet

Collectors' Motor cars and Automobilia, Bonhams (3 December 2012)

With the arrival of the Delahaye 135M Chapron set a classic style, beautifully proportioned, that remained the benchmark for French carrossiers for two decades or more. Chapron's influence can be detected in nearly every custom-built French body from 1935 to 1955, regardless of the house by which it was designed and built.' 'The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile'. 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 fine sporting car, the T135 was powered by an engine which, although designed for car use, had first appeared in a Delahaye commercial vehicle. The 3.2-litre, six-cylinder, overhead-valve unit produced 110bhp on triple Solex carburettors, while the chassis featured transverse-leaf independent front suspension, four-speed synchromesh or Cotal gearboxes, centre-lock wire wheels and Bendix brakes. Delahaye improved on the formula the following year with the 3.6-litre, 120/130bhp T135MS, and the sports version was soon making a name for itself in competitions, 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. The model reappeared post-WW2 as the 135M with the 3.6-litre engine and lasted in production until 1951. By this time Delahaye was in serious financial difficulty as a result of the French government's taxation policies, which heavily penalised cars of over 3.0-litres and, in 1954 was taken over by Hotchkiss. Delahaye had no in-house coachworks, so all its chassis were bodied by independents, which created some of their most attractive designs on the Type 135. It was a most fortuitous partnership, resulting in memorable automotive sculpture from the likes of Saoutchik, Chapron, Franay, Graber, Pennock and Figoni et Falaschi. The example offered here features handsome cabriolet coachwork by the influential Parisian carrossier, Henri Chapron. Indeed, '801741' is the only Delahaye 135M known to exist with a hydraulic/electric power-operated convertible top. It also has a radio and heater. The car was restored some years ago and previously formed part of the enormous private collection belonging to Texas attorney, the late John O'Quinn, who acquired it in 2005. Copies of over 50 pages of invoices and correspondence relating to its restoration are on file. Despite the passage of time since the rebuild, the car still presents very well. Purchased at auction by the vendor when the O'Quinn Collection was dispersed in 2010, it has seldom been used while in his extensive collection and remains in generally very good condition. Embodying the quality and performance for which Delahayes are renowned, this beautiful Chapron-bodied 135M would make a fine addition to any collection or simply a wonderful period tourer to enjoy the coming summers. Should the vehicle remain in the UK, local import taxes of 5% will be applied to the purchase price.

Lot Details
Auction Collectors' Motor cars and Automobilia
Bonhams, Weybridge, Mercedes-Benz World Brooklands
Lot Number351
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price£2700
Hammer Price (inc premium)£3105
Condition rating
Registration number
Chassis number801741
Engine number
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors2