1937 DELAHAYE 135 COUPE DES ALPES
Visitors to the 1935 Paris Auto Salon were treated to a surprise at the Delahaye stand with the unveiling of the marque’s superb new Type 135. The low slung, elegant Type 135 was the ultimate development of the six-cylinder range, with powerful engines, independent front suspension adapted from the Type 138, and a rigid chassis for superior handling ability. Central to the Type 135 was a 3.2-1iter inline-six with overhead valves and a four main-bearing crank. The stout and reliable engine shared its underlying architecture with Delahaye trucks, with considerable refinements and tuning to make it suitable for use in an upscale sporting car. In road trim, the engine was capable of an impressive 130 horsepower, delivered with unparalleled refinement. An accomplished road car, the Type 135 was also a formidable competition machine, and it marked Delahaye’s triumphant return to international motorsport. Wins, podiums, and records soon followed in prestigious events like the Monte Carlo Rally, Mille Miglia, Le Mans 24 Hours, and Ulster TT. In celebration of the Type 135 wining the grueling Coupe des Alpes rally, Delahaye introduced a new high-performance variant named for the event. The Type 135 Coupe des Alpes became the first of many sporting versions of the model that remained in production until the early 1950s.
When new, many buyers preferred the Delahaye over the comparable Bugatti Type 57, believing the Delahaye to be more durable and technically sophisticated. The low-slung chassis also made the Type 135 the darling of the French coachbuilding industry. All the great names, including Henri Chapron, Figoni et Falaschi, De Villars, and others, worked their magic on the chassis – often with truly spectacular results. Many of the most memorable and significant designs of the French Art Deco era owe the brilliant Delahaye Type 135 to their existence. Sporty, elegant, and thrilling to drive, the Type 135 Coupe des Alpes is the quintessential belle Voiture Française.
The story of this extraordinary Delahaye 135 roadster begins in May of 1937, when chassis number 47545 left the Delahaye works equipped in the coveted high-performance Coupe des Alpes specification, with a the triple-carburetor 3.2-liter, 18CV engine, and traditional four-speed manual gearbox. The rolling chassis traveled across town to the storied workshops of France’s favorite carrossier, Henri Chapron. There, it became the second of only seven Type 135s fitted with this stunning roadster design, with flowing wings and a gorgeous swept tail with an integrated spare wheel - considered one of Chapron’s most exceptional pre-war efforts. By the 21st of July, 1937 it was registered in the name of its first owner, Mr. Cyriel Depery. Mr. Depery was a young industrialist, clearly enjoying the fruits of his success. As war overtook Europe, he is believed to have played a role in the French Resistance movement, somehow managing to hide this very special car from the Germans. A photograph dated Sunday, August 20th, 1944, shows Depery at the wheel of this Delahaye, chauffeuring three other gleeful members of the Resistance in a parade celebrating the liberation of Annecy.
In 1951, Depery sold 47545 to M. Eugene Julliard, a salesman from Douvaine, who enjoyed the car regularly until his death in 1960. After his passing, the Delahaye sat in the garage of his mechanic in Annecy. When the storage fees were no longer paid up, the mechanic unceremoniously pushed it out to the street! Mercifully, a passerby named Georges Lombard spotted the forlorn Delahaye and fell in love with its graceful lines. He made a deal with the mechanic to purchase the car for a mere 170 Francs. In the hands of Monsieur Lombard, the charmed life of this remarkable Delahaye carried on, seeing regular enjoyment and attentive maintenance. He used the car enough to necessitate multiple engine rebuilds and one repaint in black, yet he never had to completely restore it. In the 1960s and 70s, Lombard used the Delahaye in some of the earliest classic car rallies held in Europe, including the 1965 Bugatti Club Holland Rally and the 1968 Tour du Lac d’Annecy. He remained a loving steward of this fabulous motorcar for the better part of five decades, and in 2014 it was offered for sale by his family.
When the most recent owner acquired 47545 in early 2014, it was a complete and fine driving car in remarkably original condition, displaying a heavy careworn patina from its years of enjoyment. The new owner decided the best way to honor its legacy was to treat it to a world-class, no-expense-spared restoration. He handed it to Butch Dennison of the highly regarded Dennison International, who took on the task of returning the Delahaye to its former glory. Mr. Dennison has multiple awards at Pebble Beach under his belt, including a recent Best in Show, so he was more than up to the task at hand.
Incredibly, the car survived all those years of use without significant modifications. The original Chapron coachwork, still bearing body number 5475 on the windscreen frame, was taken down to bare metal and meticulously restored, refinished in the stunning all-black livery that it has worn for most of its life. The color highlights the exquisite detailing of the striking form of Chapron’s design. The quality of the paint is beyond reproach, and the chrome body fittings and décor are restored to world-class standards. Notable details of the body include Chapron’s signature scallops on the bonnet sides, a covered rear-mounted spare wheel, a dicky seat (quite unusual for a French car of this era), and gorgeous V-shaped bumpers. Beautiful Marchal Aerolux headlamps, twin taillights, and single-sided semaphore are correct original fittings.
The interior restoration stayed true to form as well, with beautiful red leather, exquisite woodwork, and meticulously detailed switchgear and instrumentation. At some point early in Mr. Lombard’s ownership, the original engine was replaced with a later unit, and as part of the restoration, a correct triple-carburetor sport-specification engine was tracked down and restored. The potent inline-six pairs with a proper floor-shift four-speed manual gearbox, which is preferred by drivers over the complex Cotal preselect unit. As expected of a world-class restoration by Dennison, the engine restoration is executed beautifully with superb finish quality and is dialed in for on-the-button performance.
Following the two-year restoration, this fabulous Delahaye Coupe des Alpes debuted at the 2016 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, where it completed the tour and took home top honors in special class E2, celebrating the cars of the great Henri Chapron. It has had limited public appearances since then, and it remains in magnificent condition. This extraordinary Delahaye is one of the finest examples of the mastery of Chapron, ready to take on the best of the best in international concours events.
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STOCK NUMBER 6577
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