Rolling sculpture. Art Deco on wheels. Pure decodence.
Meet 1936 Delahaye 135 Competition Court Figoni et Falaschi Coupe.
One of the 135's biggest assets was the relatively low-slung chassis, which made it a popular choice for custom coachbuilders, but naturally also increased the car's handling characteristics*. Although not quite under-slung, the use of independent front suspension and arched frame members at the rear contributed to the car's low stance. Displacing just over 3.2 litre, the reverse-flow six cylinder engine was available with one or three Solex Carburetors, producing 95 or 113 bhp respectively. With no synchromesh on first and second the four speed gearbox was the weakest link of the drivetrain. This was relatively easily solved by having a Cotal preselector gearbox installed.
Another major contribution to the success was the 'Ecurie Bleue' racing team founded by American Lucy Schell. In short she desired to be the 'Scuderia Ferrari' of France, with Delahayes instead of Alfa Romeos. The team campaigned a specially prepared version of the three 'carb' 135 throughout the 1935 season with considerable success. The highlight was a victory in the Coupe des Alpes rally, which resulted in the high performance version receiving this model name to distinguish from the base model. The good results encouraged Delahaye to develop a more powerful, larger version of the six cylinder engine and a shorter, more agile chassis.
By increasing the bore by four millimeter, the engines displacement grew to nearly 3.6 litre and with it the output to 120 bhp with three carbs. The competition version with a high compression head produced 152 bhp. This engine was installed in a shorter and even lower chassis to form the 135 Special racing car. The 120 bhp engine was available in the road going 135 Competition and 135 Competition Court, which as the name suggests sports the short wheelbase chassis of the racer. This compact road car was particularly popular with the French coach builders and in 1936 Joseph Figoni debuted the first of his legendary 'teardrop' designs on this chassis.
Both in the salesroom and on the racing track the various types of the Delahaye 135 were very successful. Its competition highlight came at Le Mans in 1938 when Delahaye recorded a one-two victory against often faster, but less reliable competition. That year also saw a change in the road car line-up with the two top 3.6 litre models being replaced by the 135 M Competition powered by a one or three carb version of the large engine and the 135 MS fitted with the high compression competition engine. Soon after the War ended, production of the 135 continued. It was finally replaced some seventeen years after its introduction, in 1952.
This Delahaye 135 Competition Court was bodied by Figoni & Falaschi with what is generally considered the first of Joseph Figoni's coupe designs. It was ordered by Mr. Jeancart, whose name would later in the decade also be associated with a Talbot Lago teardrop style. There are hardly any straight lines on the short, stocky design that stands out by the fully enclosed front and back. Other striking features are the split rear window and sun roof. The stunning design was well received and won the Grand Prix during the Cannes Concours d'Elegance.
After the War, it resurfaced in the United States where it changed hands various times and used on the road regularly. In the 1980s the unique coupe received a ground up restoration from Hill & Vaugn in California, who finished the car in a two tone blue paint scheme. In this configuration, it won best in class at Pebble Beach. After being acquired a few years ago by its current owner, it received a second restoration; now to its correct black livery and with its original engine. In this form, this most important Figoni & Falaschi Delahaye is seen here at the 2005 Meadow Brook and 2006 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.
* Article by Wouter Melissen @ ultimatecarpage.com