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Lot 75 1936 Delahaye 135 Competition Long Wheelbase Disappearing Top Convertible
Coachwork by Figoni et Falaschi
CHASSIS NO: 46864
• Simply one of the most beautiful and important classic cars by renowned French coachbuilders Figoni et Falaschi, Paris, France • Stunning achievement of magnificent French prewar design and streamlined “piece unique" custom handcrafted aluminum coachwork • Exceptionally successful in concours competition against some of the most important cars in the world • Over 25 Best of Show awards and always judged at a perfect Classic Car Club of America 100 points • Full matching numbers and exceptionally well-known and documented provenance • Restored by famed Hill and Vaughan with further work by marque specialist Alan Taylor Company and Hjeltness Restoration • Extremely rare copy of original build sheet specifications, which the car matches exactly • Extremely rare original owner’s manual in English • The first streamlined competition convertible bodied by Figoni et Falaschi • Advanced Figoni-patented disappearing top body design; high-specification competition engine, gearbox and chassis and folding windshield
Equipped with Competition 3,557 cc OHV inline six-cylinder engine, triple Solex 40PAI carburetors, 120 HP, four-speed manual competition gearbox (synchromesh on top three gears), independent competition front suspension with transverse leaf spring, front and rear friction-type shock absorbers, four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes; wheelbase: 116”
Featuring Disappearing Top convertible coachwork by Figoni et Falaschi pioneered and patented on this car, this stunning, long-wheelbase 1936 Delahaye 135 Competition model is rightly considered one of the finest and most interesting of all elite prewar automobiles from either side of the Atlantic. Built on Delahaye’s fast and reliable 135 Competition chassis, it marks the beginning of the streamlined competition convertibles from Figoni et Falaschi, a magnificent car with disappearing top. France was one of the most innovative early adopters of the automobile, with its development thriving there in the scientific, artistic environment of France. One of the first makers to take advantage of the favorable conditions in France was Emile Delahaye. Delahaye was soon bought out and the new owners made two strategic hires, technical director Amédée Varlet and works manager Charles Weiffenbach, who would guide Delahaye for years. Others came along, drawn by the company’s reputation, notably engineer Jean François who designed the Type 138 Superluxe in 1933 with pushrod operated overhead valve inline six-cylinder engine that was modified, adapted, and improved to achieve competition success.
The Type 138 was succeeded by the Jean François-designed Type 135. Independent front suspension, a rugged frame, and precisely located live rear axle were the basis of the Type 135’s racing success, along with a 3,557-cc Competition evolution of the Delahaye six-cylinder engine supplementing the normal 3,227-cc unit. Versions proliferated with coachwork from teardrop-fender Competition models that could also expose their wheels to compete in formula events to luxurious coupés and cabriolets. The Delahaye 135’s competitiveness was regularly demonstrated including finishing second and third at Le Mans in 1937, then sweeping the podium in 1938. Another 135 won the Monte Carlo Rallye the same year. For a gentleman in search of a high-performance chassis for occasional competition and the basis on which to engage a great coachbuilder like Chapron, Graber or Figoni et Falaschi to create Concours coachwork, Delahaye was a serious alternative to Bugatti.
That choice is evident in the decision of M. et Mme. Wolf of Paris to specify the Delahaye 135 long wheelbase competition chassis to give to Wolf’s friend Joseph Figoni at Figoni et Falaschi, Paris, to create this gorgeous combination of high-performance chassis and elegantly beautiful coachwork. Figoni had proposed a new aerodynamic design and his friend Wolf accepted the opportunity to acquire a one-off streamlined example “piece unique” of Figoni’s artistic genius. Giuseppe (Joseph) Figoni had apprenticed in a cart shop, establishing his own coachworks in Paris in 1923. He eventually partnered with Ovidio Falaschi who managed the business side of the enterprise leaving Figoni free to design and build the most beautiful, fantastic coachwork in France and the world.
This particular design is consistently and widely considered to be one of Figoni’s best, as confirmed by many different judges at numerous concours d’elegance events, effectively combining the Delahaye identity in the grille and hood with generous teardrop fenders flanking Marchal headlights tucked tightly to the grille and a pair of Marchal fog lights low below them. The fender shape is echoed at the rear with skirts enclosing the rear tires. Chrome accents highlight the fenders’ trailing edges matching the bright chrome accent sweeping back from the peak of the grille, down across the doors then filling the rear fender joint and small chrome spline down the rear deck. In a statement of its competition character, the engine compartment covers have approximately 250 hand crafted louvers. Another special fine design touch is the upturned chrome line at the center bottom of the windshield, which in turn is beautifully mirrored on the interior including the wood and ostrich panel accents. Wolf, having poor eyesight, granted to his close friend, Figoni, the privilege of showing his car and often accompanied Figoni on tours. Wolf, one of the wealthiest men in Europe at that time, could also afford to have the car campaigned in various competitions of the period, hiring the famous racing team of Guy Mairesse and Paul Vallée. A photo accompanies the car which documents the car being raced by the team at Rallye de Monte Carlo in 1949, a very special gift from Joseph Figoni’s son Claude, who also remembers his father’s concern with making it perfect for his friend Wolf. Figoni was especially talented with complex mechanisms including the disappearing top, which he perfected on this car. Completely out of sight, the clean line of the body with the three-position top stowed below the rear deck highlights the distinctive, sporting design and implicitly accentuates its recognition of the importance of aerodynamics. After the war, its engine was updated at the factory – perhaps before the Monte Carlo Rallye – with the later 135M Competition cylinder block featuring improved cooling.
In 1951, it was acquired by its second owner, Jacques Persin in Paris, then transferred in 1953 to Peter Gogola. Rare copies of the Prefecture de Police registration records from new accompany this car in a dark blue matching leather and gray ostrich very complete history and authentication book which is included in this sale. Gogola then sold the car to the first owner living in the United States, Dr. Earl M. Heath, who was succeeded by five collector owners. It was restored by world renowned Hill & Vaughn in Los Angeles, California, USA from 1990-93 for noted collector William “Chip” Connor, with further work by Alan Taylor Company and Hjeltness Restorations in Escondido, California. It has been authenticated as the original body and chassis as built by Delahaye and Figoni et Falaschi in 1936 by André Vaucourt, archivist of the Delahaye Club in 2003 with subsequent additional confirming research. Club Delahaye France's research and study of the car have confirmed that it is accurately equipped and configured in all respects. It has been featured in many publications including being the cover car for the August 2006 Robb Report. It is a consistent multiple Classic Car Club of America winner national premier champion, always judged at 100 points and is at Premier Level, the highest recognition for a classic car, along with over 25 “Best of Show” awards, including Best of Show at the world famous Quail Motorsport Gathering in 2010.
Since then, this incomparable motorcar has consistently beaten the top cars in the United States and other countries on the concours lawn, including the best competitors from the nation’s finest and important museum collections. Most recently in June 2019, at two highly selective and competitive concours events, this stunning Delahaye garnered First in Class, Best of Show and the Malcolm Pray Trophy at The Greenwich Concours; just a week later at The Excellence at Hershey, it was awarded The Hershey Excellence Trophy with a giant faux Hershey Kiss and an $8,000 bottle of French champagne. Research on this beautiful Delahaye is beyond complete. It appears now that of the roughly 99 streamlined Figoni et Falaschi Competition masterpieces produced in the most important 1935-39 period, Club Delahaye has only been able to account for roughly 15 that are confirmed to exist, due of course to the war and road and racing accidents. Most survivors are ensconced within private collections and are not for sale and no other examples are known offered for sale anywhere at the present time. Also, we have learned that this vehicle is in fact the very first of the streamlined Competition convertibles bodied by Figoni et Falaschi, preceded in 1936 by the streamlined coupe now housed in the Patterson collection in Louisville, Kentucky. These two cars set the stage for the now famous streamlined era of the 1930s, which continues to profoundly influence automotive design and styling. This car is also the one upon which Figoni designed and patented (French Patent 795.769) the disappearing convertible top which further enhances the beautifully flowing lines from front to rear. It was also specified with a folding windshield, perfect for comfortable ventilation on long classic rallies. Research into its racing history also continues and recently, the Club Delahaye feels it may have identified a second Figoni competition car owned by the wife of M. Wolf, Madame Levy Wolf, making them a two-Figoni family!
In all, this very important and special car remains in consistently proven, premium condition with many firsts, being fully numbers matching and retaining the priceless original Figoni body #581. Equipped with three Solex 40PAI carburetors and a manual four-speed competition gearbox, the four-seat body has a beautiful matching ostrich leather set of custom luggage trunks that fit in the back seat for storage when the cleverly engineered rear seat is folded down. Flawlessly presented in its dramatically deep Bleu Foncé (dark blue) exterior finish over light grey ostrich leather piped in dark blue. Beautiful accents include a dark blue convertible top, exquisite intricately engine-turned dashboard, white-on-black instruments and leaf-spring-spoke steering wheel mark this as a driver’s car for one with a refined aesthetic sensibility and high standards for luxury and comfort. It is one-of-a-kind motorcar, the only one of this design and many firsts in the world, blending an internationally competitive chassis and engine with the sublime intuition and proportion of a genuine genius at conceiving and building streamlined, wind-cheating luxurious coachwork. This is very simply one of the documented finest classic automobiles in the world, certainly a fitting and spectacular centerpiece for any fine collection.