Historic Car Brands
Emile Delahaye had an engineering company background before taking over a small machine shop in Tours, France, in 1890. He became increasingly interested in steam and internal combustion engines and developed cars with belt-driven one- and two-cylinder engines from 1894.
1899 Delahaye – Milborne One
In order to expand production Emile needed moneyed partners and they appeared in the form of fellow racer George Morane and Emile’s brother-in-law, Leon Desmarais. All three partners worked on the assembly floor, alongside their employees. Delahaye employed two graduate mechanical engineers, Charles Weiffenbach and Amedee Varlet, who remained with Delahaye throughout the company’s history.
Three models were produced initially: two twin-cylinder 2.2-litre models, with 4.5hp and 6.0hp, plus a 1.4-litre single that produced 5-7hp. All cars had bicycle steering, water-cooling, coil ignition and combination belt and chain drive.
To publicise his cars Emile entered two in the Paris-Marseilles-Paris road race in 1896, picking up sixth and eighth places. Next year, in the Paris-Dieppe event Delahayes scored a win in the six-seater class – with a full complement of passengers – and a third in the four-seater class.
However, Emile Delahaye was in poor health in the late 1890s and was forced to retire form the company in 1901. He died in the south of France in 1905.
After his death the racing interest ended and wasn’t resumed until the 1930s.
The Delahaye 10B model debuted in 1902, with its 14hp, 2.2-litre twin-cylinder engine mounted up front. It had a removable cylinder head, steering wheel and chain drive. The singles and twins were relegated to light van chassis later that year.
Delahaye Type 32L Limousine
In 1903, Delahaye introduced the 13B 27hp, 4.4-litre four-cylinder model, followed in subsequent years by the 4.9-litre, 28hp Type 21 and the luxury 8.0-litrr model – one of which was purchased by King Alfonso XIII of Spain.
Protos in Germany began licence-production of Delahayes in 1907 and in 1909 Delahayes were imported into Britain. In the USA, While pirated the Delahaye design, but Word War I intervened before damages could be pursued.
Delahaye Tourer – Lars-Goran Lindgren
In a technological feat, Delahaye had patented a twin-cam, V6 engine in 1905 and it was finally fitted into the Type 44 car in 1911, but it wasn’t successful and was discontinued in 1914.
During WW I, Delahaye produced cars, trucks and a few buses, with most income derived from truck chassis.
After the War, Delahaye struggled, producing cars, trucks and tractors. The cars were American-model look-alikes, powered by 1.9-litre and 3.0-litre fours and 4.4-litre sixes. Sales weren’t good and the company’s position became precarious in the late 1920s.
In 1932, Delahaye’s majority shareholder was the widow of Leon Desmarais. She instructed Charles Weiffenbach to come up with a high-quality automotive chassis line, with greatly enhanced power and also to institute a racing department.
1935 Delahaye 135 – Lothar Spurzem
At the 1933 Paris Salon, Delahaye launched the Superluxe, 3.2-litre model, with transverse-leaf independent front suspension and a choice of manual synchromesh or pre-selector transmission. A cut-down, four-cylinder, 2.2-litre model was also available, plus an 18 Sport version of the Superluxe. The proved engines were from the company’s truck line-up.
A racing version of the 18 Sport set 14 class records at Montlhery in 1934 and success continued through 1935, with a win in the Alpine Trial that led to the release of the Type 135 Coupe des Alpes model. Delahayes won many minor sporting events and scored a fifth at Le Mans.
1937 Delahaye 135MS Roadster – Jim Evans
Market success followed and Delahaye took control of Delage in 1935. Many significant coach builders provided bodies for Delahaye models and for the Delahaye-Delage hybrids.
Delahaye entered four Type 135-based, 160hp racing cars in the 1936 Ulster TT, placing second, behind a Bugatti and four Delahayes finished behind an Alfa Romeo in the Belgian 24 hour race.
In 1937 a Delahaye won the Monte Carlo Rally and scored a one-two at Le Mans.
In 1938 the French Government and the Automobile Club of France hosted a competition that was designed to boost the image of French racing and engineering. To do so they offered a million francs to any company that could beat the Italian speed record around Montlhery with a car that adhered to the upcoming 1938 Grand Prix regulations.
For this challenge, Delahaye constructed the 145, powered by a 4.5-litre V12. The valve-train was unique, having three camshafts, one in the centre of the V for both banks of intake valves and two located in the blocks beneath the exhaust valves.
The 145’s superior fuel economy helped it defeat one of the all-conquering Mercedes-Benz W154 Silver Arrows at Pau. Another 145 scored fourth in the Mille Miglia. Resurgent French patriotism and these race results greatly increased demand for Delahaye cars in the late 1930s.
Delahaye 145 V12 engine
A very few Type 165s were produced, shoehorning the V12 race engine into the 135 chassis.
1948 Delahaye 135 – Ctellai
Post-War, Delahaye found the luxury market meagre, but introduced the Type 175, powered by an overhead-valve 4.5-litre six, at the Paris Auto Salon in 1946. It had been designed by the company’s star engineer, Jean Francois, before the War and had class-leading, all-independent suspension.
1949 Delahaye Type 178 Drophead Coupe (formerly owned by Elton John) – Rex Gray
However, by 1946 it was no longer a technology leader and the first production vehicles had serious front and rear suspension issues.
The 175 and succeeding 178 and 180 models were phased out in 1951. The replacement was labelled Type 235, but was, under the skin, a Type 135 with triple Solex carburettors on its 3.6-litre engine, upping output to 152hp, with stopping power improved by hydraulic brakes.
Delahaye 175S Roadster – Simon Davison
Although recognised as probably the best Delahaye ever made, the 235 achieved only 84 sales, before the company closed down. It had been kept afloat after the War mainly by military and truck products, including a two-litre, Jeep-like vehicle.
The company’s main competitor, Hotchkiss had managed to get a Jeep production licence and undercut the Delahaye vehicle, so that was the end of that. Delahaye agreed to a Hotchkiss takeover in 1954.
Delahaye mascot – Larry Stevens