France's Delahaye was one of the world's earliest automobile manufacturers. They were established during 1845 in Tours and later relocated to Paris, building their first horseless carriage in 1894. Years later, at the 1935 Paris Salon, they introduced one of their most famous and impressive models - the Type 135. It ushered in a new era for the company, featuring sporting lines and given the nickname 'Coupe des Alpes' for its early success in the Alpine Rally.

The Type 135 brought Delahaye fame and it influenced the company's future direction and designs. During its lifespan, it was carefully and continuously developed, resulting in several variants including the uprated 135 M (Modifie) and competition models. Delahaye 135s captured 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th at the 1936 French Grand Prix, which was run to sports-car regulations that year. The 1936 LeMans 24 Hours was cancelled in 1936 due to labor unrest, but returned the following year with Delahaye 135s scoring 2nd and 3rd, followed by a 1st, 2nd, and 4th in 1938. Siam's Prince Bira won the 1938 Donington 12-Hour Sports Car Race and Prince Chula was victorious at Brooklands' 'Fastest Road Car in England' event. Post-WW II, Delahaye 135s raced well into the 1950s, with one contesting the 1954 Tour de France.

 

The Delahaye 135 would endure through the difficult late 1930s and postwar reconstruction until 1954, when Delahaye automobile production effectively ended.

1947 DELAHAYE 135M NARVAL

SPEC OVERVIEW

Engine - Cast Iron, Water Cooled, Inline-6

Postion - Front Longitudinal

Aspiration - Natural

Valvetrain - 2 Valves / Cyl

Displacement - 3557 cc / 217.1 cu in

Bore - 80mm / 3.15 in

Stroke - 107 mm / 4.21 in

Power - 115 bhp @4000 rpm

Driven Wheels - RWD

Front Brakes - Drums w/Servo Assit

Rear Brakes - Drums w/Servo Assit

Steering - Worn & Nut

Front Suspension - Idependant w/Transverse Semi Elliptic Leaf Springs, Friction Dam

Rear Suspension - Live Axle w/Transverse Semi Elliptic Leaf Springs, Friction Damp

Transmission - 4-Speed Cotal Preselector

Engineer Jean Francois designed the Type 135 chassis. Initially, it was fitted with an inline six-cylinder engine with modern overhead-valve architecture and a displacement size of 3.2 liters. Power output increased in 1935 with the engine growing to 3.6 liters.

Delahaye did not produce coachwork of its own. Instead, the work was reserved for some of the finest custom coachbuilders including Figoni et Falaschi, Saoutchik, Pennock, and Marcel Pourtout. Figoni et Falaschi was heavily influenced by the advances in aircraft design and aerodynamics, resulting in the distinctive Italian style of goccia d'acqua goutte d'eau (tear-drop) elliptical silhouettes and enveloppantes (tear-drop shaped pontoon fenders) which gave his designs their characteristic fluid grace and inherent motion. In the pursuit of both aerodynamic form and function, he utilized fender skirts to fill not only the rear wheel openings, but often those in the front fenders as well. Windshields were steeply raked back and headlights, door handles, etc. were fitted flush to the body. Figoni designed and patented hideaway tops and sunroofs, so that his roadsters and drophead coupes would not be cluttered by a folded top. Chrome hood ornaments and mouldings echoed the streamlined, windswept design.

Let us return to the days of yesteryear… When ladies wore hats, men were clean shaven, and children were well mannered…

 

The time was the end of the Second World War, every person’s mind had been stretched, people had been to exotic places, sailed the seven seas, if not in life at least on movie screens. The challenge was high for all companies to attract new customers. Fashion, jewelry, housing, hair and yes, automobiles were redesigned to meet this unknown new young customer base.

Many new concepts were unwrapped, jet packs, polished silver airplanes, telephones were placed in the home…what next? A number of automotive designers had their own ideas. A number of car manufacturers and designers turned toward the SEA. The Packard Motorcar Company launched their Packard Clipper. The grill was to leave the impression of a ship cutting through water. The Corvette was named for the quick ships that played a major role in the battle of the Pacific.

While in France, the coach building company of Figoni & Falaschi dusted off the design board and turned to the living sea. At the Salon de Paris in 1946, the world awoke to one of the most unique designs ever laid in metal; the “Narval”. This work of moving art was to leave the viewer in complete awe as the hood, center section, and trunk were to remind the viewer of a graceful dolphin (actually a Narwhal whale). The fenders and chrome accents allow one to see the water move off the dolphins back as it glides through the waters. 

800516 was one of approximately six built. This body was built on a Delahaye 135M chassis. This car was delivered new to Mark B. Deitsch, president of the Prima Company.  In 1954 he used the Narval in a magazine advertisement for “Cover Girl Dress Flats by Prima”, hence the nickname “Cover Girl” given to this car. The car was restored in the mid 1980’s in black paint and red snakeskin interior. Upon its completion it was sold to the Hata Collection in Japan where it remained for the past 20 plus years. After undergoing a full ground up restoration to its original configuration, this Delahaye received the prestigious “French Cup” and vanquished an impressive lineup to secure “Best in Class – Postwar Grand Touring” at the 2017 Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance.

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