Delahaye 135 Compétition Court

Figoni and Falaschi cabriolet 1937

  • After the 1929 recession, Delahaye bounced back using the full force of its competitive tradition. Their type 135 chassis led to a whole range of exceptional models.
  • Built on a short chassis, the body work of the 135 cabriolet was a mixture of sporting baroque and elegance.
  • As much a success at the Longchamp track as at the Montlhéry Speed Ring, it was the jewel of the racing category that we now know as "Grand Touring".

Born in 1895, the automobile pioneer Delahaye was also one of the greatest ambassadors of French luxury automobiles, synonymous with performance and prestige. During the thirties he full made use of his talents, spurring a technical revolution with the design of his chassis: The type 135 was the master stroke that took Delahaye to the summit of automobile production.

1933 was an important chapter in the Delahaye story, with the appearance of front suspension with independent wheels on their new Super Luxe type 134 and 138 models. This involved a parallelogram structure with transversally positioned, leaf-sprung cantilevers, completed with transversal oblique cross-pieces and assisted with Raxef friction shock absorbers. Since it was fitted with a type 103 6 cylinder engine, the type 138 was also used as the basis for the design of sporting and competition automobiles.

To support the production launch of the models that had been presented at the 1934 Paris Motor Show, Delahaye took a shot at speed records. To this end, a specially prepared 138 with streamlined bodywork took on the Montlhèry track. It was a success: the driver, Perrot, completed the 500 km (310 miles) with an average speed of a little over 98 mph.

A half-lowered sports version appeared in the range as predecessor of the following year's type 135. Up to then, the factory had not been mass-producing sports models for two reasons; firstly, the consequences of the 1929 financial crisis had plunged automobile constructors into extremely fragile circumstances. Fortunately, Delehaye managed to keep business going, unlike a number of his competitors, thanks to his large range of utility vehicles. The second reason was the company's client base, which were both conservative and attracted by luxury.

To be continued...