Arizona | Lot 40
1936 Delage D6-70 Milord Cabriolet by Figoni et Falaschi
$544,500 USD | Sold
| Phoenix, Arizona
16 January 2014
- Known history since new
- A specialist-administered concours restoration
- Numerous extraordinary design features, including a folding windshield and a three-position top
90 bhp, 2,729 cc six-cylinder engine with an inverted Solex carburetor, Cotal four-speed electromagnetic transmission, independent front suspension and live rear axle with transverse leaf springs in the front and rear, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 124 in.
After Delahaye merged with Delage in 1935, both Louis Delage and his own technical office remained largely autonomous. Using the Delahaye bank of parts, they modified and precisely prepared the forthcoming new model, the D6-70. Louis Delage used the Delahaye 135 engine and modified it by decreasing it to 2,729 cubic centimeters. In doing so, the engine gained a shorter stroke, which, combined with a modified head, gave the new Delage’s engine a lot more vivacity, in comparison to its sister Delahaye 135.
Then, Delage and talented engineer Arthur Michelat chose the type 134 chassis, which was much lighter than that from the 135, although it was just as stiff. Michelat further prepared this frame so that it could be fitted with Houdaille shock absorbers in place of the quite outdated friction shocks fitted to the 135. Also of much interest was the fact that only the Delage was fitted with modern hydraulic Bendix brakes; the Delahaye range would retain the aged mechanical system until the outbreak of World War II.
Lastly, most of the D6-70s were equipped with the optional Cotal electromagnetic gearbox, which was an almost automatic transmission system that had four speeds plus reverse. The Cotal system, with its silky smooth operation, was a huge improvement over any other concurrent design. The resulting D6-70 was listed in the Delage brochure as a sport model, as was the higher-level D8-120, and it is widely recognized as the best car built by Delage in the late 1930s.
Chassis number 50607 was the first cabriolet décapotable, or roadster, out of a small batch bodied by Figoni et Falaschi on a few Delage D6-70 chassis in 1936. According to the late Benoît Bocquet, formerly the official Figoni et Falaschi historian, the commission to build the body arrived at rue Lemoine on February 2, 1936, with the rolling chassis being delivered in the coachbuilder’s premises on March 12 of the same year.
It followed design study number 7675, as illustrated by a centerfold in Delage: Styling and Design by Richard Adatto, and it was given body number 557, which it still bears but on different chrome-plated fairings. This design is of sheer elegance and shows the car in three different configurations, namely with the top up and down, as a cabriolet, and with the “Milord,” or half-cabriolet, setup, which gives this example a specific touch of class that was so well-crafted by the French school of the 1930s. The artistic way Joseph Figoni penned this Delage’s sketch shows the innovative and slender line that cuts the side of the car, which made his design a standout next to the other renderings of the time, and it is representative of Figoni et Falaschi’s signature of innovation and elegance, which made their workshop world famous in a short period of time. Also of great impact is the fact that 51607 was equipped with an optional folding windscreen, which adds versatility and, moreover, brings that magnificent touch of sport and freedom, which is evocative of a sunset drive along a winding shoreline road.
According to the Figoni et Falaschi archives, 51607 was sold new to the wife of the famous French industrialist Marcel Menesson, whose residence was located at 20 boulevard Suchet in Paris, a famous avenue near le Bois de Boulogne. Mr. Menesson, a prolific inventor, developed and built the universally known Solex carburetor, which was the starting system that could be adapted to most carburetor devices around the world, and the Velo-Solex, which encountered a huge acclaim all around Europe post-WWII. He also invented the pneumatic micrometer, which was of great assistance to American factories that were making precision parts during the war. Interestingly, 51607 is equipped with an inverted Solex carburetor, as were most examples of Delage, Delahaye, Bugatti, and Hispano-Suiza at the time.
Madame Jeanne Mennesson was a member of the very select Automobile Club Feminin de France. A car quite similar to, and possibly 50607 itself, won the Grand Prix d’Honneur Toutes Categories during the concours d’elegance of this club in 1936. On that occasion, the car was shown by the Duchess d’Echingen and the Princess Amédée de Broglie, but it may be that Madame Menesson lent her car to these friends for this instance. Similar Delages won a Grand Prix d’Elegance in both the elitist events of Deauville and le Bois de Boulogne in 1936. In addition, Mme. Betty Spell, the famous French actress, brought the same honors at Longchamps, and Mme. Leon Malinges was awarded with a Grand Prix d’Honneur at the 1937 Concours d’Elegance de la Baule, in the northern Atlantic coast of France.
Figoni et Falaschi were very proud of their work, and they had this car, or a very similar example, displayed on the Delage stand of the 1936 Salon de Paris. Interestingly, two other examples from the 1936 Delage show stand have been sold recently, and it would be astounding to discover, with further research, that this was a third example from that same show.
According to Peter Jacobs, the long-term secretary of the English Delage Register, this car was imported into the UK in early 1946 and issued registration number HGP 361 by the London Country Council. The car then passed in the hands of a Major Homi Toni Boga, followed by a Mr. James Oakes in 1956 and a Mr. P.M. Bull in 1959, until being acquired by Mr. Parfitt, of Sherwook, in 1969; at this time, it was still painted its original colors of two-tone green. The car then came back to France with Mr. Repusseau, grandson of the coachbuilder and inventor François Repusseau, whose company was intimately linked with Louis Delage’s pre-WWI development. Mr. Repusseau, a well-regarded member of the French Delage club, had the engine fully rebuilt and finely tuned by Eric Limpaler, of Mecaretro. The Cotal gearbox was rebuilt by marque specialist Salmeron shortly before he passed away in 2008. The new owner decided that such an exquisite example deserved a no-expense-spared restoration, and he had the car stripped down to its foundation.
The two-year process began with full disassembly; the engine and transmission, having been previously restored by specialists, were put aside. Every other piece and part was dismantled and restored with the strictest attention to detail. The chassis, body, brakes, and chrome plating were all disassembled and rebuilt or refinished, as appropriate. The cosmetic result is spectacular, and the color combination looks just magnificent, with its matching and beautifully installed upholstery. The car develops the same attraction power it brought at the 1936 Salon de Paris, and it will be a perfect new entrant for some of the most important concours events in the world.
The late 1930s masterpieces by Figoni et Falaschi seldom come to the market; this car, in fully restored condition, will definitely attract intense attention wherever it appears. Chassis 50607 is a prominent model amongst the Delage production, as it has a fully-documented history and sports its original and beautifully penned body by Figoni et Falaschi, the most acclaimed French coachbuilder of all time. It will surely bring many accolades to its new owner, the same way it did back in 1936, when owned by its first custodian, Madame Jeanne Menesson. Today, this expertly restored D6-70 still maintains its original panache and astonishing performance capability. Any driver would be surprised by the ease of its handling, which would surely conjure an irrepressible call to hit the road.