| Coral Gables, Florida
- One of the most beautiful surviving D8-120s; elaborate and spectacular coachwork
- Formerly owned by Bob Grier, Alfredo Brener, and Dr. Joseph Murphy
- Completed for Automobiles Delahaye following World War II
- Documented by fascinating correspondence between Delahaye and Chapron
- Multiple concours award-winner, including at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance
Chassis number 51980 was one of the final examples of the grand Delage D8-120 chassis produced prior to World War II. The hostilities rudely interrupted it before completion, and the unused chassis remained in storage for the duration. In 1946, with peace finally having come and basis for custom coachwork being at a premium, the chassis was sent by Delage’s corporate parent, Delahaye, to the noted Parisian coachbuilder Henri Chapron. His creation, dubbed a Cabriolet Grand Luxe, features especially dramatic lines, including robustly curved fenders that surround the wheels, a relatively low and sharply raked folding windshield, a louvered hood, “aviation-style” bumpers, a pointed tail, and magnificent inlaid wood and chrome interior trim, all as documented in correspondence on file. It was outfitted with the Torpedo “special” grille, which curves from the top of the radiator all the way to beneath the front apron—a fabulous touch also used on the famous Pourtout-bodied Delage D8-120 Aero Coupe. The completed creation was finished in Valentine Capri Blue and Ruby Red, accented by a red leather interior.
Like all of the best coachwork in this era, the Cabriolet Grand Luxe was a bridge between the subtle curves of the pre-war years, and the advanced aerodynamics to come—and it was a showstopper, as indicated by its intended use for the 1946 Paris Salon, as noted on its Delahaye correspondence, although it is believed to have not actually been shown there. Instead, the paperwork indicates that construction of the car extended into 1948, after which it was finally sold to a buyer, believed to have been in Egypt.
If the car ever indeed journeyed to Egypt, it soon was brought to the United States. It was purchased in 1953 by Bob Grier, a photographer and passionate automobile enthusiast, best-remembered for his ownerships of the D8-120 Cabriolet Deltasport shown at the 1939 World’s Fair, and the famed Delahaye 135 Competition Court later owned for decades by the late Malcolm Pray. Photographs included in the history file, taken in the 1950s outside the famous Fina’s Imported Motor Car Company in New York City, show the car in very much its original configuration, including the iconic curved grille and “skirts” over the rear fenders.
Reportedly this Delage was kept by Grier until the late 1960s, then sold to Cal Bedell of Glen Cove, Long Island, who largely stored it for 15 years. In the late 1980s it was acquired on trade by a prominent East Coast dealer, who sold it to Alfredo Brener of Houston. Mr. Brener undertook a restoration of the car in two-tone maroon and black, with the top converted to nearly disappear below the rear deck. He went on to show it at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 1995, earning an award in its class. A year later it was sold to Jerome Sauls of Pennsylvania, who soon passed it to his longstanding client, Dr. Joseph Murphy, then assembling a select collection of important Full Classics. As one of the most significant automobiles in the Murphy stable, the car was featured in the book written on the collection, In Search of Excellence by Dennis Adler.
Mr. Sauls reacquired the Delage from Dr. Murphy in 1998, and returned it to its blue and red livery, after which it was returned to Pebble Beach in 1999. This time, it won its class. He held on to the car for another five years before it was acquired by the late Los Angeles-based collector, Tony Vincent. Mr. Vincent oversaw a two-year-long restoration of the car to a more correct condition, including reinstalling the original rear seat removed in the prior restoration, and then upkept the car well within his small private collection while also occasionally bringing it out for further concours showings. It once again returned to Pebble Beach in 2005, this time as part of the Delage Centennial celebrations alongside many other significant examples of the marque; it was awarded Most Elegant Convertible, always a sought-after prize and especially so given that field!
In its current ownership as part of a distinguished Florida collection, the Delage has continued to enjoy excellent care, including rebuilding of the carburetor and minor interior improvements by Vantage Motorworks. Invoices for this are included in the file along with a history of this particular example, the aforementioned build documentation, and invoices from the Vincent restoration work. Further the car is accompanied by a convertible top. It remains a magnificent specimen of the marque, with the beautiful styling once expects from Chapron, and the superb engineering one finds on a Delage—both combined in abundant measure in an aerodynamic creation that still retains all the sportiness of its youth. It may have taken nine years to build, but the world can be grateful for the result.