1937 Delage D8 120 Three Position Drophead Coupé
Coachwork by Henri Chapron
Single family ownership for over 50 years
Chassis no. 50790
•Delivered new to Belgium
•Matching numbers example
•Off the road for over 50 years
•Restored to concours standard between 2015 and 2017
In its day, the Delage D8 was the only French car which could be mentioned in the same breath as the 32CV Hispano-Suiza in terms of elegance and engineering excellence, while the Delage factory at Courbevoie was the most modern in the French industry, equipped with the finest tools that money could buy.
Founded in 1905 by Louis Delage, the company had commenced production with a single-cylinder De Dion-engined runabout and within a few years was offering multi-cylinder designs. The publicity value of racing was recognised right from the start, a single-cylinder Delage winning the Coupe Des Voiturettes as early as 1908 and Louis himself taking the 1911 Coupe de l'Auto in a 3.0-litre four-cylinder. Victories at the Grand Prix du Mans and the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race were achieved prior to WWI, the company going on to become a major force in Grand Prix racing in the 1920s and setting a new World Land Speed Record mark in 1924 with a 10.7-litre V12.
Four-cylinder DI and six-cylinder DM models formed the mainstay of touring car production in the 1920s and then at the 1929 Paris Salon Delage launched the Maurice Gaultier-designed D8. A magnificent 4.0-litre overhead-valve straight eight featuring an X-braced chassis and servo-assisted braking, the D8 was destined to attract the creative attentions of Europe's finest coachbuilders. 'This thoroughbred of engineering was given outstanding coachwork by Chapron, Figoni, Letourneur et Marchand, Saoutchik, Labourdette, Vanden Plas, Freestone & Webb, Barker, Pourtout, Fernandez & Darrin; they all wanted to show what they could do with it,' observed William Stobbs in his book Les Grandes Routières - France's Classic Grand Tourers. The impressive list of D8 owners included King Gustav V of Sweden, King Alexander of Yugoslavia, and Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia as well as leading businessmen, politicians, and film stars of the day. For those of more modest means, there were the 14hp DS and 17hp D6 six-cylinder models; the latter in effect a D8 minus two cylinders.
Along with many other manufacturers of quality cars, Delage was badly affected by the economic downturn of the early 1930s, and in 1935 was taken over by Delahaye. Louis Delage remained on the board of the new company, but from then onwards Delages would be built to Delahaye designs. The Arthur Louis Michelat-designed six-cylinder D6-60 engine was the sole survivor of the existing Delage range, and would continue to be produced until 1953. Delage's last pre-war model was the D8 120, which was powered by a 4.7-litre straight eight based on the six-cylinder Delahaye 135 engine. With a chassis price of 105,800 francs, some 60% above that of the Delahaye, this last of the D8 line was a very expensive car. Not surprisingly, it attracted the attention of Europe's foremost coachbuilders, who produced some of the most elegant designs of the period on the D8 120 chassis, this drophead coupé by the influential Parisian carrossier, Henri Chapron, being one such.
Chassis number '50790' was delivered new to Belgium and imported into the UK in 1953. The car was registered in the UK to one Eleazer Ambrose Evans of London, passing to Edgar Hopkins of Twickenham, Middlesex in 1959 (see old-style buff logbook on file). A photograph on file taken at around this time shows the Delage carrying the UK registration 'SLC 16'. At that time the car was two tone grey over black.
After a few years it was decided that the engine needed a complete overhaul, which was carried out by Crank-Bears of Mortlake in 1962. The associated bill for £69 18s (£60.60) is on file. However, the rebuilt engine was not reinstalled and the Delage remained partially dismantled, surviving many changes of address, until the family decided to sell it, Mr Hopkins having died. By the time of Mr Hopkins' death, the Delage was still in pieces, which were retrieved and reassembled by Peter Jacobs, president of the Delage Club UK. Mr Hopkins' widow then sold the car in 2006.
Acquired by the current owner in 2014, the Delage was completely restored to concours standard between 2015 and 2017 (photographs on file). During this painstaking process the engine was dismantled for inspection and found to be effectively 'as new', having been unused since the 1962 rebuild! While in the vendor's private collection the car has scarcely been driven and remains in commensurately excellent condition. Restoration invoices, the aforementioned UK logbook, and other items of historical paperwork may be found in the accompanying history file.
Beautifully finished in Smokey Blue with cream leather interior, this elegant and most imposing Delage D8 is described by the vendor as excellent and very smooth to drive, its eight-cylinder engine sounding wonderful.
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