Emile Darl'mat was one of Peugeot's most successful representatives of the 1930s. He not only sold many of Lion badged machines, he also spent much time tinkering with them to increase their performance.
In 1928 Darl'mat teamed up with coachbuilder Marcel Pourtout to produce a completely custom Peugeot. Up until 1934 they continued to collaborate on one-off machines, but then captured the attention of the executives in Sochaux with a Peugeot 601 equipped with a folding steel roof. Peugeot commissioned the construction of 680 of these 'Eclipse' models, which were designed by Pourtout's new in-house designer Georges Paulin.
In 1936 Peugeot launched the short wheelbase 302 model, which would for the basis for the next Darl'mat, Pourtout and Paulin project. A dental technician by trade, Paulin was very passionate about creating very aerodynamic and efficient shapes. This was very useful for Darl'mat as he wanted to create a racing car based on the 302 chassis, powered by the slightly larger two-litre engine from the 402 model. It would be the first time a Peugeot would be seriously raced again since the early teens when the company built some of the most advanced Grand Prix cars of the day. Peugeot was very interested in the project and offered Darl'mat the services of one of their chief engineers. They also allowed him to attach his name to the cars and so the Peugeot 302 Darl'mat 'Special Sport' was born.
Peugeot delivered the rolling chassis to Darl'mat, where a variety of mechanical upgrades were installed. The uprated Peugeot 302 was then shipped to Pourtout for the coachwork to be fitted. Before being executed in metal a wooden model of Paulin's design was extensively wind-tunnel tested. The design featured a very slim and low body with separate front and rear fenders. The Art Deco air vents fitted on both sides of the engine bay are the most recognizable features of the Darl'mat Peugeots. Others include the round radiator grille and the heart-shaped rear license plate frame. In November of 1936 the first example was produced and soon after, it was decided that the 'Darl'mat' would be produced in limited numbers for the road in Cabriolet, Roadster and Coupe form.
For the next 24 Hours of Le Mans three cars were prepared by Darl'mat. The Pourtout built bodies were similar to the production Roadster. They were distinguishable from the road cars by the absence of doors. All cars finished the race in seventh, eighth and tenth overall and second, third and fifth in class. For the following year another three competition cars were prepared. By then Peugeot added a '402 Légère' model to line-up, which combined the short 302 chassis with the 402 engine. As a result the Darl'mats built in 1938 received the 402 type name. The engines were further modified with twin Carburetors and higher compression. The 402 Darl'mat driven by Charles de Cortanze and Marcel Contet took a win in the two-litre class.
A racing car for the road appealed to customers and a hundred road cars on the Peugeot 302 and 402 chassis were produced between 1937 and 1939. It is estimated that around thirty examples still exist today. After the War another Darl'mat was produced, but not of the appeal and class of the original 302/402 Darl'mat. Emile Darl'mat continued to work at his dealership until his death in 1970 and the dealership is still active in Paris to this day. The collaboration between Darl'mat, Pourtout and Paulin has resulted in one of the finest Peugeots ever built.
Featured is a superb example of a Darl'mat Roadster. Restored to a staggering condition, it won the special 'Georges Paulin / Pourtout' class during the 2004 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. It is seen above during the 2005 Quail Motorsports Gathering and the 2006 Palm Beach International Concours d'Elegance. At both occasions the beautiful two-seater received further awards.
Article & images by Wouter Melissen, Ultimatecarpage.com