Rare Car Network

Rare Car Network
Unique Classics, Replicas and Build Culture
						Delahaye 135 M 1

1939 Delahaye 135M Cabriolet Project Car

By Dean Larson

Photos: Seller, eBay

Among the most prestigious European marques, elegance alone has never been enough to keep the doors open. The most successful manufacturers still had to prove the superiority of their vehicles on the race track, and that’s a lesson the historic French marque Delahaye nearly forgot. Marking a return to high-performance elegance, the Delahaye 135 was a successful luxury touring car that boasted stylish coachwork and posted victories at Le Mans, Monte Carlo and more.

Delahaye opened its doors in 1894 when founder Émile Delahaye began producing simple belt-driven cars in Tours, France. Delahaye soon expanded operations with an infusion of capital from investors, and the company moved its headquarters to Paris in 1898. The company entered many cars in races and rallies throughout France and Europe until Émile retired in 1901, leaving his two partners and a pair of engineers in control. Unfortunately Delahaye’s competitive spirit died with Émile, who passed away in 1905, and the company shifted its focus to reliable transportation and large commercial vehicles, especially fire trucks.

By the early 1930s however, Delahaye was once again considering performance as a way to promote the brand. This most likely came about from Madame Desmarais, who was the widow of one of Delahaye’s top employees (Leon Desmarais) and a majority shareholder, who insisted that the company return to racing in 1933. A more romantic version of the story details that Ettore Bugatti (constructively) told Delahaye management that their cars were not fast enough, and claimed they were as heavy as their fire trucks. Whatever the case, Delahaye soon hired a young designer by the name of Jean François who assisted the company’s racing department. One of his first designs was the new Delahaye 135 platform, a stylish luxury touring car capable of nearly 100 mph, and a rebirth of Delahaye’s performance image.

The foundation of the new 135 platform was nothing special, simply a chassis with independent leaf-spring front suspension, a rear live axle and cable-operated Bendix brakes. Its straight-six engine was the same unit used in many of Delahaye’s larger models and trucks, as opposed to the multi-valve twin-cam and V6 engine configurations they pioneered. The 3.2-liter overhead-valve engine used four main bearings for reliability, and was backed by either a partially-synchronized four-speed, or a four-speed Cotal pre-selector. Two single-carb models were offered with 76 and 90 hp respectively, along with a 110 hp version with three Solex downdraft carburetors. Bodywork was completed by your choice of top coachbuilding shops in France at the time, including Figoni & Falaschi, Letourneur et Marchand and Marcel Pourtout.

Given the storied nature of the Delahaye name, and this car’s significance to the brand’s performance pedigree, the Delahaye 135 is a very significant collector. Coupes and more affordable cabriolets can ask a quarter million on up to nearly $700,000. So how does this beautiful 1939 135M project car stack up for $225,000?

Considering the amount of work required to restore it to its former glory, it’s definitely not cheap, but I wouldn’t discount it entirely. The fact that it’s an original Cabriolet model probably makes a big difference, but this one also boasts rare Letourneur et Marchand bodywork — the only known example left of two built according to the seller. I think it’s also worth considering the early pre-war build date on this car, which surely adds value when compared to later cars.

The 135 was constructed from 1935 to 1954, with roughly 2,000 built. These cars exhibit huge differences in body construction given the coachbuilt nature, and I think this is probably one of the more desirable versions with a timeless design. While the engine is the lower-spec, single-carburetor version, the seller states that the engine turns over freely (after some coaxing) and produces 60-80 psi of oil pressure. It’s also backed by the optional Cotal pre-selector transmission. Little is known of the car’s history, other than it was purchased around 1960 by a collector in Connecticut, who seems to have left it languishing for a few years.

It’s tough to assign an accurate price figure to such a unique car. Based on available comps for sale right now, it definitely seems expensive, but we’ve already touched on a few factors that make this particular car desirable. For now, the seller asks $225,000 for the car, here on eBay.

Comments for: 1939 Delahaye 135M Cabriolet Project Car

comments powered by Disqus

Related Stories You Might Like