Driving into Summer | Lot 263
1935 Delahaye 135W Cabriolet Project
$130,000 - $160,000 USD
| Santa Paula, California
21 - 29 May 2020
- Unique and attractive cabriolet coachwork with disappearing top
- A very early example from the first year of production
- An exciting and substantially complete restoration project
- Three-time participant in the Monte Carlo Historic Rally
- A true grande routière in the classic French tradition
Production of Delahaye’s most recognized and successful model, the 135, began in 1935. It was nicknamed the Coupe des Alpes after winning the grueling Alpine Rally. The 135 had independent front suspension, a live rear axle, Bendix brakes and was available with either a partial synchro four-speed manual or Cotal pre-selector gearbox. Delahaye’s perimeter frame was designed to maintain a low center of gravity for exceptional handling. For 1936, a larger, 3,558-cc triple carburetor six was made available in the 135M. To live up to the standard of the engineering, France’s finest coachbuilders were employed by the factory and private clients to grace the Delahaye 135 with their finely crafted bodies. Figoni et Falaschi, Saoutchik, Franay, and Henri Chapron all made their mark on the 135 and helped to establish it as a symbol for grand French elegance.
This exciting example is a very early 135 dating to the first year of the model, though little is known of its early history. It wears attractive cabriolet coachwork with lines reminiscent of Chapron, though no coachbuilder plates are found on the car. As such, precise origins of this body are unknown and are subject to further research. Design features include a covered rear-mounted spare tire recessed into the trunk as well as a disappearing top. The curved split bumpers front and rear are particularly attractive, while the hood features side-vented panels and the rear wheels are covered by elegant spats, which appear to be a later addition.
The Delahaye appears to have received a restoration some decades ago, and it is known that it was in France being actively campaigned in historic rallies during the 1970s. Photos showing the Delahaye during this period document its participation in the inaugural running of the Rallye Monte Carlo des Voitures Anciennes in 1974, as well as the second edition in 1976 and again in 1978. It is pictured wearing a two-tone color scheme of silver with black fenders, ascending Alpine passes amongst Bugattis and other pre-war sporting cars, evidently being driven in a spirited manner. During this time, the car bore French registration 378FU82.
Sometime later the Delahaye was partially disassembled, apparently with a view towards a more comprehensive restoration, but it seems that this work was never completed. Today, the Delahaye presents as a restoration project, though fortunately it appears to have remained substantially complete. Items removed from the car, but accompanying it, include the hood side panels, grille, and the large and impressive Marchal headlamps.
The engine is a Delahaye Type 103 unit that has been fitted with triple Solex carburetors. It is understood that the engine is in running condition and that the car has been driven under its own power, at low speeds, while in the consignor’s ownership. During a recent inspection, no stamped numbers were found on the engine itself, though the steering box bears the number 621172.
It is believed that the chassis plate, which identifies the model as “135W,” indicates that the car left the factory equipped with a Wilson pre-select gearbox. At some point in its life, it is surmised that this gearbox was replaced in favor of the conventional mechanical floor-shift transmission fitted to the car today.
This exciting Delahaye project presents numerous avenues for further research, including verification of the origins of its attractive bodywork and additional research into its early years. Unquestionably significant and historic, it will make for a rewarding project to return it to its former glory. Patiently waiting in a Southern California warehouse for a new owner dedicated to returning it to the road, we can only imagine that this Delahaye would be a thrill to drive through the Alpine passes once again.