1935 Delahaye 135 S
January 12, 2009 12:44 PM
French automobile pioneer Emile Delahaye began his career as an engineer, and began experimenting with steam and internal combustion engines relatively late in life. It wasn't until he reached the age of 51 that he displayed his first automobile at the first ever Paris Motor Show. His first cars were belt driven, with single or twin cylinder engines, and it wasn't long before Delahaye joined the racing circuit to gain publicity. Faced with failing health, Delahaye took on two partners in 1898, who moved the company to Paris in 1901 to focus on the manufacture of trucks. Delahaye retired in the same year, and died soon thereafter.
In the early 1930s, American heiress Lucy O'Reilly Schell offered to pay the company's development costs on a grand prix/rally race car. Delahaye merged with Delage, which allowed larger scale production and more elegant coach building, and young designer Jean Francois joined the team. The Delahaye cars began earning a reputation for their elegance and luxury, and by 1935, the 135 was unveiled at the Paris Motor Show with the promise of victory on the track.
Powered by what is essentially a sturdy 3.2-liter truck engine with pushrod overhead valves, the reliable 135 pulled 120 hp and redlined around 120 mph. The first 135s featured pre-selector transmissions, which were eventually replaced by the innovative French-designed Cotal transmission. Although some may feel that the 135's roar isn't as intoxicating as its contemporaries, the Delahaye did go on to beat the Bugatti many, many times on the race track.