Lot Number
53
Coachwork by Dubos Frères
1937 Delahaye 135 M Coupe


CHASSIS NO: 47633
• A singular example with exciting one-off custom coachwork
• Known history from new with exceptional documentation
• First owned by a high-ranking diplomat posted to Spain
• Spectacular style and design; bureau-style “rollback” roof
• “Triple-carburetor” engine and advanced preselector gearbox

3,557 cc OHV inline six-cylinder engine, triple side-draft Solex carburetors, 115 HP, Cotal four-speed preselector gearbox, independent front suspension with transverse leaf spring, live rear axle with quarter-elliptic springs, four-wheel mechanical drum brakes; wheelbase: 2,896 mm (114")


Established during 1845 in Tours and later relocated to Paris, France’s Delahaye was one of the world’s earliest automobile manufacturers, having built its first horseless carriage in 1894. Diversification into commercial vehicles brought further success; however, Delahaye’s signature product undoubtedly remains the Type 135, introduced at the 1935 Paris Salon. Marking a clear and refreshing break from the company’s reliable but somewhat uninspiring prior designs, the 135 ushered in a new era for the company, along much more sporting lines. Nicknamed the “Coupe des Alpes” for its early success in the challenging Alpine Rally, the 135 gained immediate fame and profoundly influenced Delahaye’s future designs and direction.

Careful development brought several variants of the 135, including the uprated 135 M (Modifié). Highly successful competition models for Grand Prix and sports-car events acquitted themselves very well in the face of stiff competition – not only from French manufacturers including Bugatti, Delage, and Talbot-Lago, but importantly the German and Italian racing teams of the latter 1930s, with the less-powerful but highly reliable Delahayes often outlasting them to the checkered flag. A truly important automobile by any standard, the 135 would endure through the turbulent late 1930s and postwar reconstruction until 1954, when Delahaye automobile production effectively ended.

The Delahaye 135 chassis was designed by engineer Jean François. The 135’s inline six-cylinder engine, initially displacing 3.2 litres, featured modern overhead-valve architecture and it was particularly effective despite its relatively humble origins with Delahaye’s trucks and the more sedate, longer-wheelbase 138 automobile line. For 1936, power output increased with the 135 engine enlarged to 3.6 litres. Competition variants proved dominant in sports-car racing during the late 1930s. Proving the point, Delahaye 135s took 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th at the 1936 French Grand Prix, which was run to sports-car regulations that year. While labor unrest forced cancellation of the 1936 Le Mans 24 Hours, Delahaye 135s scored 2nd and 3rd there in 1937 and 1st, 2nd, and 4th in 1938. Track-bound 135s put England’s finest on notice as well, with Siam’s Prince Bira winning the 1938 Donington 12-Hour Sports Car Race and Prince Chula victorious at Brooklands’ “Fastest Road Car in England” event. Post-WW II, Delahaye 135s raced well into the 1950s, with one contesting the 1954 Tour de France.

The 135 chassis was purpose-built for some of the most luxurious and sporting custom coachwork ever conceived by design, and also by necessity, as Delahaye did not produce coachwork of its own. The era’s finest custom coachbuilders, including Figoni et Falaschi, Saoutchik, Pennock, and Marcel Pourtout, of course gravitated to Delahaye’s 135 with the chassis’ independent front suspension and low ride height allowing the design of ever-more daring and streamlined bodies. While not as often seen, elite French carrossier Dubos Frères, located in the outskirts of Paris at Neuilly-sur-Seine and then Puteaux, first displayed its considerable talents with Voisin, a Renault Vivastella in 1934, and then by 1937, a focus on Delahaye 135 chassis. After the Second World War ended, Dubos designed the first Talbot-Lago Grand Sport coupe, but discontinued operation by 1950.

Numbered 47633, this high-specification 1938 Delahaye 135 M features a stunning expression of Dubos’ work with stunning “teardrop” style fenders and a profile quite similar to that of the Bugatti Type 57 Atalante coupes of the era. Other highlights include a unique band atop the hood, which sweeps across the bodysides, terminating just aft of the B-pillar. Most uniquely, this Delahaye 135 M is quite likely the sole example known with a bureau-style “rollback” roof. Following completion, 47633 was acquired by top-ranking German diplomat Eberhard von Storer, who is listed on the vehicle’s Spanish vehicle title document as having been domiciled in Barcelona. He is understood to have remained in Spain after the close of World War II in Europe, with the car’s next owner, Marciso Alsina Basol, joining the ownership roster on August 28, 1948, followed by the third owner (surname illegible) on December 30, 1950, followed by Santiago Fernandez Vela of Madrid, the last recorded Spanish owner, on May 12, 1958. The extremely rare Delahaye remained in Spain, apparently left abandoned in a parking facility. A 1979-dated release order issued by Spanish authorities is included in the vehicle’s document file, which names Mr. Vela as the car’s owner and states the Delahaye had formed part of a musuem collection. Photographs on file confirm the car was complete and that a restoration had commenced. The current owner acquired the Delahaye from Mr. Vela during the late 2000s, imported the car to the United States, and commissioned a complete restoration addressing the cosmetics and mechanicals by noted restorer John Schiess, proprietor of Custom Built Machines in Chatsworth, California.

Visually striking throughout in its white and black exterior, this Delahaye 135 M by Dubos is a study in streamlined French design and bespoke coachbuilding with its innovative and exceedingly rare bureau-style “rollback” roof. Twin Marchal-scripted fog lamps, crowned Marchal headlamps, and discrete, yet effective brightwork restored by D & D Plating (now Brightworks) provide further distinction. The interior is similarly elegant, trimmed in rich red leather for a great contrast, particularly with the elegant roll-down top in the lowered position. A three-spoke “banjo” steering wheel, steering-column-mounted Cotal preselector gearshift, striking “O.S.” instruments, and beautifully trimmed upholstery complete the interior. The renowned “triple carburetor” 135 M engine dominates the engine bay, being well and properly detailed and equipped throughout.

Unique, blessed with documented and unbroken provenance from new, and incredibly handsome throughout, this Dubos-bodied Delahaye 135 M is accompanied by a copy of the original Spanish registration document, the aforementioned release letter dated 1979 from Madrid, and all restoration photographs. In addition to its rarity and desirable “M” specification, this wonderful coachbuilt Delahaye retains its original body panels and wooden framework underneath. While the restoration was completed approximately three years ago, this very special coachbuilt beauty has yet to be shown, creating a significant opportunity for the new owner to grace the lawns of the most notable concours around the world. This fabulous Delahaye presents with virtually every sought-after element collectors require – fascinating provenance, known ownership and, of course, a desirable sporting specification of a superb motor car with singular stunning coachwork.

1937 Delahaye 135 M Coupe
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