This car is one of six coupés produced by Figoni in 1936, on a Delahaye Type 135 (20bhp) short chassis. These very special coupés were built on non-standard 2.7m wheelbase chassis like the competition 135S models, and were intended for private clients and seasoned drivers. They were powered either by the 6-cylinder, 3.2-litre (18bhp) engine with three carburettors in the "Coupe des Alpes" version, or by the 6-cylinder 3.5-litre (20bhp) engine in the "Compétition" version. Chassis 46837, dated April 1936, was originally fitted with the 20bhp engine, hence its 135 Competition title.
Details of the 6 Figoni coupés on Delahaye 135 chassis dating from 1936:
The first car built was delivered to Mr Jeancart. It had chassis number 46576. Its rather flamboyant styling is different to the other five models built in 1936. The car was registered in Paris sometime in January 1936. Before the war, it took part in various concours d'elegances on the Côte d'Azur. The car has survived and belongs to a collection in the US.
The second car was built for Dr Robert Firminhac in Paris. His wife entered the car for several concours d'Elégance events during 1936. The chassis, number 46577, follows on directly from Jeancart's car. It was registered in Paris around January 1936. This car no longer exists.
3-Body 572 - The car presented on this page
This Delahaye is described in the Figoni register as : "Three-seater faux cabriolet with 2 front seats and one sideways behind the seat backs". There is no mention of the chassis number but the car was registered in Paris in February 1936 with the number 3439 RK 3. Police records tell us that this registration corresponds to chassis 46837. The client was a certain Bibal, who lived in or around Paris. This car was the only one recorded as having "3 seats with one across".
This car is described in the Figoni register as "Faux-Cabriolet Perrot", without mention of its chassis number which was 46839. Figoni registered the car in the name of the driver Albert Perrot in April 1936. It had no opening roof and no exterior door hinges.
5- Body 571
In the Figoni register this car is described : "Faux cabriolet. Red body. Moulding and wheels : white. Client Badel". There is no mention of chassis number or registration. A certain "Bedel-Paris" had already taken delivery from Figoni of a " Convertible cabriolet on Delahaye chassis, left workshop 11.12.1935. This shows that Bedel lived in Paris, and the fact that he ordered two Delahayes from Figoni in four months suggests that he may have been a dealer. In 1936 there was a "Garage L. Bedel, 9 Boulevard Garibaldi. Paris 15em." and in 1939 : "Bedel Garage, 54 Avenue Bosquet. Paris 7em". This car was the last of three almost identical Figoni coupés in this series, as the next one, 47242, was very different.
Chassis number 47242 is recorded in the Figoni register, although neither the name of the client or the registration number appears. The vehicle is described as "2-door sedan in blue and grey". It featured integrated headlights and there was a single row of louvres on the bonnet. The car had a steel body, whereas 46837 and 46839 had aluminium bodies. Today the car belongs to a collection in the US.
The short chassis Figoni Delahaye Coupés in competition
The short chassis Figoni coupés were raced by three Delahaye drivers. It is almost certain that Tremoulet's Coupé from 1936 was the car owned by A.Bith in 1948, ie chassis 46837, the car in the sale. Perrot's Coupé from 1936, chassis 46839, closely resembles Chabout's car in 1938-1939. When 46839 was found as a wreck by Tainguy, the holes on the edges of the front wings for chrome bars were still visible, as on Chaboud's coupé in Paris-Nice. These details don't appear on the photo of 46837 at Montlhéry in 1948, suggesting that the car in the sale wasn't Chaboud's coupé, but is more likely to be Tremoulet's. The two drivers owned a garage in Paris between 1936 and 1938 : "Chaboud -Tremoulet.voit.auto.22bis Boulevard Saint Marcel. Paris 5em. " also known by the name " Grand Garage d'Austerlitz". If Tremoulet's coupé is indeed chassis 46837, delivered new to Bibal, it is not clear why it was never inTremoulet's name. It is possible that he bought it from Bibal at the end of May 1936, as the car was re-registered in Paris on 23 May 1936, having been put on the road in February of that year.
THE DELAHAYE FIGONI COUPE CHASSIS 46837 - Body 572
Chassis n° 46837
Figoni body n° 572
Engine n° 46837
The body number 572 was made for Bibal at the same time as body 556 for Perrot, the two chassis 46839 and 46837 being very similar, as was the case with 46576 (body 532) and 46577 (body 533).
Bibal -Tremoulet 1936
The only definite participation by Tremoulet at the wheel of this coupé was in the "Grand Prix International des Indépendants.Coupe d'Automne à Montlhéry", on 20 September 1936. Jean Tremoulet raced car number 28. The day, organised by the A.G.A.C.I, included three races reserved for independent owner drivers, with one specifically for sports cars. The Delahaye 135s of Joseph Paul, Louis Villeneuve, Danniell and Chaboud had Le Mans competition bodies, and Tremoulet's was the only coupé. The race started in the rain, and Joseph Paul led from start to finish. Tremoulet retired for an unknown reason. There is just one photo of Tremoulet's coupé taking a corner in the wet, which was published in the A.G.A.C.I magazine in September 1936. The quality of the photo is poor and it is not possible to read the registration. The car was practically new, and it is possible to make out the light moulding on the dark background. André Bith's coupé, shown at the start of a race on the same circuit in 1948 looks remarkably similar. Following his appearance at Montlhéry in September 1936, there are no further records of Tremoulet at the wheel of this car. On 23 September 1938, he may have taken part in the Lapize hillclimb, near Montlhéry, driving a Delahaye, number 123. This has not been verified but it could have been in a competition 135S. Chassis 46837 had already been sold in the spring of 1938.
Dr Jean-Marie Lefevre and the Delahaye coupé 1938-1946
When Roger Tainguy bought chassis 46837, he discovered a plaque engraved with the name "Dr J-M LEFEVRE Vigne aux Bois (Ardennes)" in the car. Armed with this precious information, Tainguy tracked down the son of the Doctor, who found a photo in the family archives of chassis 46837, showing the same car that Tremoulet drove at Montlhéry in 1936. The registration plate reads 7109 AV 2, a number issued on 28 April 1938, to Jean-Marie Lefevre, Doctor from Vrigne aux Bois. According to recollections of the family, Dr Lefevre used his Delahaye to do his rounds in the country, at a speed that made it possible to respond to emergencies ! Jean-Marie Lefevre had established himself as a country doctor in the Vrigne aux Bois region, and his brother Robert in Monthermé, in the north of the department. Jean-Marie bought his first new Delahaye 135 18bhp in February, and then in April 1938 acquired this coupé, chassis 46837. His brother, meanwhile, acquired a Géo Ham short chassis Delahaye 135 roadster by Figoni ! The two brothers were friends with a local racing driver, Raymond Sommer and his Le Mans team mate, Tazio Nuvolari. The drivers entertained themselves with a race that started in the Place des Vosges in Paris and finished in the Place Ducale in Charleville. Dr Lefevre also enjoyed driving his Delahaye on the ciruit at Monza after taking part in a stage at Danieli in Venice. Later, during the war, the car was hidden by a farmer in the center of France. It spent five years in a barn, hidden under hay bales. In the summer of 1945, Dr Lefevre and his six-year old son returned to find the coupé. The sleeping beauty started immediately, the memory of this extraordinary event from his childhood staying with the son ever since. Unfortunately, after a hundred of kilometres or so, part of the clutch broke. It was changed by a local mechanic who luckily had the correct spare part. The Delahaye was sold during the winter 1945-1946.
The coupé/cabriolet owned by André Bith from 1946 to 1959
On 18 April 1948, André Bith lined up at the start of a race at Montlhéry, at the wheel of his Delahaye coupé, chassis 46837. There was a report on this event in the magazine l'Action automobile et Touristique in May 1948 :"At Montlhéry on 18 April, the national sports race, was held by the A.C.I.F with the support of the USA, under the patronage of the Action Automobile. In addition to the popular sporting success of this gathering, it was good to see that the event allowed some aspiring champions to showcase their talents" André Bith took the lead in his series. He had the habit of starting explosively but didn't always finish. He knew the Montlhéry circuit well, having burnt plenty of rubber there since 1936, first in a Bugatti Type 44 roadster and then in a 1925 Bugatti Type 35. André Bith was mad about cars. Between 1928 and 1991 he owned more than 50. Born in Paris on 21 April 1910, son of the chief physician for the Police Force in Paris, and from a family that owned the land on which André Citroen built his factories, the young André had always considered life to be about having fun, particularly in cars. In a handwritten list of his cars that he was kind enough to prepare for us some years ago, his Delahaye chassis 46837 features prominently. The car was described thus : "1946 Delahaye 135MS Roadster 2 seater 20 bhp Figoni Falaschi". During a conversation with André Bith shortly before his death, he gave us the following valuable information on his Figoni Delahaye Coupé/Cabriolet :
"I had 3 Delahayes, the first bought at the end of 1938 was a 2-seater long chassis Chapron cabriolet, with a single carburettor, black with black hood. This car was seized by the Germans in 1940. At the end of 1944 I bought a 4-seater cabriolet by Chapron, convertible into a Milord. It was white, and I sold it in 1946. Finally, in 1946, I acquired a short chassis Delahaye coupé by Figoni. The car was equipped with two carburettors. I put a 3.8-litre engine in it, and De ram shock absorbers in order to race at Montlhéry in 1948. I bought it from a guy who was a doctor based in Paris and who owned a discotheque. The car had suffered from the cold and I had to change the engine. A twin-carb racing engine was fitted. Around May 1948, my girlfriend at that time wanted a cabriolet for our trips to Deauville. I took the car to a coachbuilder in Levallois, who modifed it respecting the Figoni design. The hood comes in the place of the 3rd pack seat, covered by its hard tonneau cover. The cabriolet was painted black. It worked well. I wasn't able to use it for long as for personal reasons I had to go to South America in 1949"
While in Mexico, André Bith had two Mercury coupés and then two Buicks. During this time, the Delahaye 46837 was wisely stored away in one of the outbuildings of the Chaumont family château in Yonne, a former residence of the Princes of Condé. This immense 60-room property had a heated outbuilding. The Delahaye waited there for its owner to come back in late 1957. Later, he returned to the château with his friend Henri Salvador to find the car. Salvador advised him to sell it. At the end of 1959, the car was sold to a dealer in Porte de Paris. The manager ran a business in Place Champerret, a kind of open-air secondhand market. Henri Salvador had bought a Cadillac from there. The deal was done for 30 000 French francs. Bith remembered the name of the owner who succeeded him : a certain M. De Nègre, who lived on Avenue Wagram and would have paid around 150,000 French francs for the car. It is believed he sent the car to Chapron to have a hood made.
Information taken from the Paris Police Register 1959
The registration issued in the Seine Department in 1946 was 6291 RP. The car was described : "Delahaye Type 135M convertible 3-seater 20bhp". It was re-registered by André Bith on 25 November 1959, two years after he returned to France. The new plate in the 75 series was 5874 JJ 75. This new registration was perhaps needed before the sale of the car. In any case, it must have been sold by Bith to the dealer from Porte Champerret just after this date.
It was 24 February 1960 when the vehicle sold to Henri de Nègre, of 50 Avenue de Wagram, Paris. Nègre was born on 23 December 1905 in Etrechet, Indre and was a great car enthusiast. His full title was Baron Henri-Robert de Nègre du Clat and he was the son of Baron Charles du Clat. However the young Henri-Robert was known simply as Robert de Nègre. His second wife, who died in 1997 at the age of 92, Mme Françoise de Nègre, kindly shared some memories of her husband, along with the only known photo of chassis 46837 in cabriolet form.
"He called himself Robert. He became a widower when his first wife, Alice Peronnet, died. He lived in an apartment at 50 Avenue de Wagram that belonged to his wife's family. This Haussman building had a small interior courtyard, but no garage to park the Delahaye, which had to stay outside. When he got married in 1966 the cars were sold. Robert de Nègre was a very funny man, with a fabulous memory, who never read. This original and intelligent man could enchant or displease at the first encounter. He was sporty and mad about aviation. The real estate profession was not in a good place in 1966, and the market was flat."
This was perhaps a reason why the Delahayes were sold. Robert de Nègre owned three exceptional Delahayes : the ex-Chaboud competition car, chassis 47192, owned briefly in October 1958. The metallic olive green Coupé, ex-competition chassis 46625, bought in April 1958 and resold in October 1966, and the Figoni cabriolet / ex-Coupé chassis 46837, between February 1960 and January 1966. He also owned other Delahayes. Robert de Nègre kept his cabriolet, chassis 46837, for six years. Impending marriage and the weakness of the real estate market persuaded him to part with two of the rarest Delahayes : the Figoni cabriolet 46837 was sold in January 1966 and the Guilloré coupé 46625 in October of the same year. It was on 28 January 1966 that a M. Landis, a draughtsman, became the new owner of 46837. The car retained its 1959 Parisian registration, 5874 JJ 75.
Towards the end of the 1980s, Roger Tainguy, an important Delahaye collector, bought the car from Landis, who having used it, had started but not completed a restoration. Tainguy entrusted full restoration of the car to a young coachbuilder who had just started in the profession : Jean-Luc Bonnefoy. Asked about this restoration, Bonnefoy remembers : "This car (#46837) and the other Delahaye coupé (#46839) brought in 2000 by the same Tainguy, both had a bulkhead in 19mm plywood and not aluminium. I found that strange. Subsequently, I learnt that all the short chassis competition Delahayes had this feature." The missing windscreen, originally rigid on the coupé, was replaced by a fold-down one, more in keeping with a cabriolet.
In 1992, Hervé Ogliastro fell in love with this stunning and newly restored Delahaye, and bought it from Roger Tainguy. Hervé has taken part in numerous rallies in this car, exhibited it at the Centre International de l'Automobile de Pantin that he had founded, and driven it on the track at Montlhéry in March 1994. Since then, it has been parked in the garage of his splendid property, and maintained by the excellent Francis Courteix.