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Lot 140: Delahaye 135 M Cabriolet Atlas

The Scotsdale Auction, Bonhams (16 January 2014)

Very few models in automotive history combine the breathtaking physical design and race-bred pedigree of the Delahaye Type 135 M. As often noted, the model's evolution may have been the result of a tip from Ettore Bugatti to company manager Charles Weiffenbach. According to Bugatti's somewhat legendary appeal, Weiffenbach would do best to return Delahaye to its roots in sports cars and eschew the reliable but pedestrian-looking saloons that had become the company's stock-in-trade by the early 1930s. Weiffenbach's response was nothing short of a benchmark in European automotive design, with his race program developing the 18CV Type 138 competition cars, which were powered by a 3.5-liter inline six-cylinder engine. Debuting in production form at the 1934 Paris Salon with a single-carbureted 3.2-liter engine, the new Type 135 was warmly greeted and soon clothed with Europe's finest coachwork, making the cars equally versed in performance and luxury. With the availability two years later of the 3.5-liter engine with three carburetors (as in the original racing versions), the so-called 135 M truly came to life as the model garnered a litany of Grand Prix and rally victories. In total, the Type 135 and its various iterations remained a cornerstone of Delahaye production through the company's final days in 1954, a testament to the model's longevity and enduring appeal. The Motorcar Offered This exquisite example of the venerable 135 M boasts a number of superlatives, from rarity of its body style to a recent life with some of the Delahaye niche's most luminary collectors. In mid-1949, chassis no. 801636 was sent to Courbevoie-sur-Seine for bodywork by Alphonse Guillore, a lesser-known coachbuilder active between 1937 and 1954. Known for no-frills formalism and an overwhelming use of heavy steel, Guillore developed a clientele of Delahaye and Talbot-Lago owners, and besides Chapron was responsible for more postwar Delahayes than any other coachbuilder. While Guillore's work was often overshadowed by the more ostentatious styles of Saoutchik or Figoni et Falaschi, the coachbuilder unquestionably came into his own at the 1949 Paris Salon de l'Automobile with the debut of a unique new cabriolet. During the annual October event, Delahaye exhibited a 135 M with a sporty open body featuring far more streamlined form and art deco styling than the coachbuilder's typical work. There is a strong likelihood that 801636 was this exact car. In addition to its impressive design, the so-called Atlas cabriolet also featured a novel hood-cover, a one-hand operated mechanism that folded into the body and lacked hood irons. While little written history exists regarding the particulars of Guillore production, many marque experts believe that no more than five Atlas-bodied Delahayes were built by the coachbuilder, and this car might be the sole example constructed as a two-seater. 801636 wonderfully reconciles brasher pre-war styling elements with the staid modernism that became vogue in European design following the war. The front fender lines beautifully sweep through the doors, accented by curving one-piece chrome spears, while the interior abounds with luxurious wood burling on the dash console and upper door sills. First registered on July 7, 1950, 801636 was eventually assigned tags marked "317 AYC 59," a registration it has authentically worn over the years. It is almost certain that the car remained in France through the entirety of its life, and has reportedly always been maintained in running condition without any prolonged periods of storage. In the 1990s, the unusual Cabriolet Atlas was discovered by Francois-Michel Faucher, an officer with the well-known French Delahaye Club, one of the world's preeminent marque organizations (even possessing rights to the company's trademarks). Mr. Faucher restored the car's original 135 M motor and soon refreshed all of the mechanical components. In the early 2000s, he then sold the car to the most esteemed of Delahaye Club members, Philippe Looten, the group's original 1966 founder and current honorary president. Enamored with the 135 M's unusual Guillore body, Mr. Looten sent 801636 to coachwork specialist Bonnefoy for a repaint in a beautiful shade of Delahaye blue, returning the car to a stunning state of exterior cosmetic condition. Mr. Looten soon began driving the car to numerous local events, commencing with Retromobile in February 2003, followed by participation in several Delahaye Club rallies over the next three years. Dutifully maintained during these outings, 801636 was occasionally displayed at distinguished exhibitions, such as the Delahaye Salon du Coupe & du Cabriolet held in April 2006, and the Epoqu' Auto in November 2007. In late 2010, Mr. Looten decided to part ways with the remarkable Atlas, selling it to Hugo Modderman of Monaco, who quickly set his sights on Concours exhibition. While a fresh repaint in the car's original color of dark blue cellulose was commissioned, the Delahaye's all-original interior was deemed to have a charming patina worth preserving, so the leather was sympathetically cleaned and refreshed by Swisswax. In such enviable cosmetic condition, 801636 remained a striking visage of its original 1949 Parisian presentation, and made a perfect entry for the 2011 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. The car also ran in that year's Pebble Beach Motoring Classic, winding down to Monterey from Seattle, Washington. The following year, the Atlas Cabriolet was treated to another bout of engine work, freshening the motor's operating condition and leaving it optimally primed for additional events. Appropriately, the car then received an honorable mention for Furthest Distance Traveled to the Event at the 2012 Schloss-Bensburg Classic Concours d'Elegance in Germany. This exceptional 135 M remains a highly desirable example of one of the rarest and most subtly beautiful Delahayes to become available in recent years. The sporty open two-seat bodywork can be enjoyed in vintage rallies or cruising on noteworthy occasions. Perfect for marque club events and world-class Concours d'Elegance events, this extremely rare numbers-matching Cabriolet Atlas is a testament to the underrated quality of Guillore's design work, and would make a stunning addition to even the most accomplished collections. Aficionados of pre-war French Curve styling and marque connoisseurs will undoubtedly be thrilled by this car's current availability, a rare opportunity to acquire one of the final chapters in the Delahaye legend. Saleroom notices Please note that the title for this vehicle is in transit.

Lot Details
Auction The Scotsdale Auction
Bonhams, Arizona
Lot Number140
Outcome NOT SOLD
Hammer Price-
Hammer Price (inc premium)-
Condition rating2
Registration number
Chassis number
Engine number
Engine capacity (cc)3557
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors2