Delahaye 135M Cabriolet 1948
Coachwork by Carrozzeria Viotti
Chassis no. 800585
* One of the all-time great French sports cars
* Bespoke Italian coachwork
* An older restoration
* Registered in the UK
A serious performer upon its introduction at the 1934 Paris Salon, the Jean François-designed Delahaye 135 was endowed with supreme handling capabilities thanks to its independent transverse leaf-sprung front suspension and live semi-elliptical leaf-sprung rear axle. The 135 was initially fitted with a 3.2-litre six-cylinder engine, while later models such as this one benefited from a more flexible 3.5-litre unit. This proved to be a winning combination, with the Delahaye 135 securing overall victories at the 1939 Monte Carlo Rally and Le Mans 24 Hours. Production resumed after WW2, and the 135 proved popular enough to continue until 1954.
Delahaye had no in-house coachworks, so all its chassis were bodied by independents, 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, Henry Chapron, Franay, Graber, Pennock, Figoni et Falaschi, and the lesser known house of Viotti. Founded in 1921 by Vittorio Viotti, his eponymous firm provided coachwork for a wide variety of manufacturers throughout the company's relatively short history. Unique bodies were built on everything from mundane FIAT 600s to more exotic Alfa 1500s. Some of the company's highlights included the stunning 1932 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 with its spectacular swooping bodywork complete with fender skirts, and the bizarre Martini & Rossi publicity vehicle based on an Isotta-Fraschini, which featured an outlandish dorsal fin integrated with a bottle of liquor. During its early days Viotti employed Pietro Frua, who would go on to found his own carrozzeria in 1944, and Mario Revelli. Despite being the first Italian coachbuilder to utilize a proper production line, Viotti faltered and the establishment closed its doors in 1964.
The origins of this particular 135M are not known for certain, though there is a photograph on file of the car in the showroom of dealer Automobilwerke Franz AG, Badenerstrasse, Zürich, Switzerland. The photograph is dated 1949. It is reported that after belonging to one of Europe's largest Delahaye collections for many years, this car was put up for auction in restored condition in 2006, and again in 2009 when it found its current owner. Noteworthy design elements include Viotti enamel and chrome badging in conjunction with an attractively sculpted front grille. While not as outlandish as some of Viotti's pre-war work, the deep red bodywork is nevertheless supremely elegant.
This beautiful coachbuilt classic is a wonderful expression of early post-war Franco-Italian design and worthy of the closest inspection.
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