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Monterey | Lot 158

1951 Delahaye 135M Cabriolet by Chapron

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$412,500 USD | Sold

United States | Monterey, California

15 August 2014


Chassis No.
801627
Engine No.
801627
Body No.
6821
  • Formerly of the Bob Pond Collection
  • An excellent example of the coachbuilt post-war Delahaye
  • Formerly owned by B. Paul Moser and Jacques Harguindeguy
  • Restored in a stunning color combination

115 bhp, 3,557 cc OHV inline six-cylinder engine with single carburetor, Cotal electro-mechanical four-speed gearbox, independent front suspension with transverse leaf spring, live rear axle with quarter-elliptic springs, and four-wheel mechanical drum brakes. Wheelbase: 114 in.

The Delahaye’s 135, introduced in Paris in 1935, was a rare model that straddled both the pre-war and post-war era. It boasted a brand-new chassis with the same 3.6-liter, six-cylinder engine first seen in the earlier Type 138, and it proved to be a remarkable automobile upon its release. One year later, Delahaye introduced the 135M, which offered a slightly larger engine with improved horsepower and was offered with a choice of single, dual, or triple carburetors. The 135 proved to more than hold its own in competition, as it swept the top six places at Marseilles in 1936. In the following years, leading up to the beginning of the Second World War, the 135 further cemented its reputation, taking 2nd overall at Le Mans in 1937 and 1st, 2nd, and 4th the following year. Outside of Le Mans, Delahaye 135s also took 1st at the Rallye Monte Carlo in 1937 and 1939.

Following the conclusion of the war, production of the Type 135 resumed and continued with the same 3.6-liter engine used before the war. By this time, the company was nearing its end, as the French government had placed large taxes on cars with displacement over three liters. Even today, six decades after the final Delahaye was produced, the famous 135 series cars remain very highly regarded as some of the most compelling French automobiles ever produced.

This reputation is due as much to the fabulous custom coachwork with which the chassis were outfitted as it is to the fine engineering. Demanding clients requested fantastic designs for the sporting 135 from such coachbuilders as Figoni et Falaschi, Franay, Saoutchik, and, perhaps most prominently, Levallois-sur-Seine atelier Henry Chapron.

The Delahaye offered here, chassis number 801627, is a 135M with a single-carburetor engine that has been dressed with four-passenger cabriolet coachwork by Chapron. Following its completion, the car is known to have remained in its native France, where it was last registered in Paris, under plate 5241 R 75, in 1965. Shortly thereafter, it was imported to the United States and came into the hands of noted California enthusiast Ben Paul Moser. Moser, known to friends and fellow collectors as “Gentle Ben,” spent nearly four decades successfully ferreting fine automobiles out of Europe, and he still owned the Delahaye at the time of his passing in 1992. Two years later, it was sold at his famous estate sale to another legendary enthusiast, the late Jacques Harguindeguy, one of the foremost enthusiasts of French coachwork. Harguindeguy displayed the car at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 1994, where it was awarded the French Cup, which recognized it as the most significant car of French origin at that year’s concours.

The Delahaye was then acquired for Bob Pond’s collection in August 1996, and for the next 18 years, it was lovingly preserved in the Pond stable. Today, it remains in remarkable overall condition, including its very attractive two-tone blue finish, supple red leather interior with exquisite wood trim, and whitewall tires. The three-position top recalls the best of pre-war design, while the streamlined body is fully modern. It has a wonderful presence and character, with colors that flatter the aerodynamic curves of its lines, and it shows very few signs of wear. It would require only minor freshening and sorting to return to a concours lawn.

For an enthusiast of coachbuilt cars, one of the final Delahayes of post-war France is a must-have automobile. It is the bellwether that marks the end of the custom body era, as well as the conclusion of a time of spectacular French design and sporting engineering. This Delahaye has been owned and shown over the years by three of California’s most highly regarded enthusiasts, and it awaits future display at Golden State concours and events.

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