1951 Delahaye 135M Cabriolet
Coachwork by Henri Chapron
Chassis no. 801011
•Rare Chapron-bodied 135M Cabriolet
•Matching chassis/engine numbers
•Restored in New Zealand 2010-2012
•Unused since the restoration
•Registered in the UK
'With the arrival of the Delahaye 135M Chapron set a classic style, beautifully proportioned, that remained the benchmark for French carrossiers for two decades or more. Chapron's influence can be detected in nearly every custom-built French body from 1935 to 1955, regardless of the house by which it was designed and built.' – 'The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile'.
Based initially at Tours and from 1906 in Paris, Delahaye built its first automobile in 1894 and soon diversified into commercial vehicle manufacture. Its early products tended to be rather lacklustre but then in 1935 came the first of a new generation that would change the marque's image forever: the T135 Coupe Des Alpes. A fine sporting car, the T135 was powered by an engine which, although designed for car use, had first appeared in a Delahaye commercial vehicle. The 3.2-litre, six-cylinder, overhead-valve unit produced 110bhp on triple Solex carburettors, while the chassis featured transverse-leaf independent front suspension, four-speed synchromesh or Cotal gearboxes, centre-lock wire wheels and Bendix brakes.
Delahaye improved on the formula the following year with the 3½-litre, 120/130bhp T135MS, and the sports version was soon making a name for itself in competitions, taking 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th places in the run-to-sportscar-regulations 1936 French Grand Prix and winning the Monte Carlo Rally and Le Mans 24-Hour Race outright in 1937 and 1938 respectively. Prince Bira won the 1938 Donington 12-Hour Sports Car Race in Prince Chula's example and went on to take victory in Brooklands' 'fastest road car in England' race against some formidable opposition.
The model reappeared post-WW2 as the 135M with the 3½-litre engine and lasted in production until 1951. By this time Delahaye was in serious financial difficulty as a result of the French government's taxation policies, which heavily penalised cars of over 3.0 litres, and in 1954 was taken over by Hotchkiss.
Delahaye had no in-house coachworks, so all its chassis were bodied by inde¬pendents, which created some of their most attractive designs on the Type 135. It was a most fortuitous partnership, resulting in memorable automotive sculpture from the likes of Saoutchik, Chapron, Franay, Graber, Pennock, and Figoni et Falaschi. The example offered here features handsome four-seater cabriolet coachwork by the influential Parisian carrossier, Henri Chapron. This cabriolet is one of a limited edition, though exact production numbers are not known.
'801011' was purchased in the 1980s in Newport Beach, California by Richard Straman, who is best known for his Ferrari 'Daytona' convertible conversions. In 2007, the Delahaye was bought by a gentleman of Monaco, who sent the car to New Zealand where it was completely restored by Auto Restorations Limited of Christchurch (photographs on file). The car has been unused since the restoration's completion in 2012 and is presented in commensurately excellent condition. Accompanying documentation consists of a history file containing a copy of the old US Certificate of Title, a current UK V5C Registration Certificate, and the all-important letter of authenticity from Madame Chapron.
Embodying the quality and performance for which Delahayes are renowned, this beautiful Chapron-bodied 135M would make a fine addition to any collection or simply a wonderful period tourer to enjoy the coming summer.
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