In February 2017 Artcurial will auction three very special Delahayes: two having a coachwork by Figoni et Falaschi (a 1936 Delahaye 135 Court Competition Cabriolet and a 1939 Delahay 135 MS Cabriolet) and one having a body by Saoutchik (a 1950 Delahaye 148 L Coach). Both coachbuilders are much in demand, resulting in high prices. But what is the difference between these two and the other French coachbuilders?
Before WWII many countries used to have several famous coachbuilders, who fitted chassis with coachworks independently designed by them. Some did large quantities of coachworks, others were smaller companies with low production levels. The size of the coachbuilding company has little influence on the buyers interest in their coachworks and the prices that are paid for them. More important is the heritage and fame of the specific coachbuilder, the image and the quality of the coachworks. Cars fitted with coachworks from companies with a decidedly distinctive or sporty style are more in demand and therefore more expensive than those from coachbuilders who adopted a less striking style. As a result the name of the coachbuilder can have a considerable influence on the valuation of a car.
The Delahaye 135M can be cited as an example. A two-door, four-seater Coupe, Cabriolet or Roadster on the chassis of a Delahaye 135M, for example by Chapron, is on average worth more than one from Guilloré. A Saoutchik is generally worth more than a Chapron. The list is headed by coaches by Figoni et Falaschi.
Not all (pre-war) cars with coachworks by Figoni et Falaschi have an unusual or striking design. That means that these are not all expensive. But there are vehicles that are much sought after by collectors, and this can cause the price of these cars to increase rapidly. In August 1999, a ‘Geo Ham’ Roadster by Figoni et Falaschi fetched more than 800,000 pounds sterling at an auction of Brooks/Bonhams. Fourteen years later, in October 2013, a Coupe by Figoni et Falaschi changed hands at RM Auctions/Sotheby’s for more than 2.4 million US dollars. And in March 2014, RM Auctions/Sotheby’s sold another ‘Geo Ham’ Roadster by Figoni et Falaschi for 6.6 million US dollars. That was the equivalent of almost 4 million pound sterling.
Red = Figoni & Falaschi
Blue = other coachbuilders
The difference in value between coachworks by Figoni et Falaschi and coachworks by other coachbuilders becomes apparent if you look at the auction results over a period of twenty years of the Delahayes 135M and 135MS with coachworks by Figoni et Falaschi and compare these with the highest results of all other French coachbuilders, such as Chapron, Pourtout, Saoutchik and De Villars. To clarify this picture, the auction results of the ‘Geo Ham’ Roadster are not included. The summary not only shows that coachworks by Figoni et Falaschi are sold for high prices, but also that no other coachbuilder fetches anywhere near the same price. The above is also true for chassis from other brands, such as those from Talbot-Lago.
Dr Vincent van der Vinne
Author of the book ‘Investing in cars’