Unique Delahaye Competition Teardrop Coupe to Sell at Monterey
The Delahaye Type 135 coachwork by Figoni et Falaschi launched a series of automotive design masterpieces from the revitalized carrossier, the most prized of which remains the 1936 “Compétition Court” Teardrop Coupe, Chassis No. 47242 and Body No. 609. This is the definitive expression of Giuseppe Figoni’s singular vision, a virtually organic blend of “Goutte D’Eau“ (Teardrop) contours unrivaled in its elegance, every detail fashioned, finished and placed with artistic finesse, a perfect arrangement of notes forming an exquisite composition.
The last of six specially commissioned coupes completed by Figoni in 1936, Chassis No. 47242 is recorded in the Figoni company register, which notes the completed coupe was delivered to the Delahaye factory, suggesting it was exhibited in concours d’elegance or retained as a factory demonstrator. The Compétition Court chassis was one of Delahaye’s most exclusive offerings with only 30 estimated to have been built. It was a homologation special not listed in the company literature and offered through private arrangement only to “special friends” of the company in bare-chassis form to be fitted with lightweight custom coupe or roadster coachwork by the customer’s carrossier of choice.
It was essentially a road-going Grand Prix-specification chassis on the shorter 106-inch wheelbase, described in the definitive history “Delahaye: Le Grand Livre” as having “a cocktail of parts from the series three Type 135 chassis and the Specials,” with additional specially made components. Its racing-purposed features included the powerful and reliable 3.5L competition-spec inline-6 engine—mounted low in the chassis to lower the center of gravity—a remote oil cooler mounted below the radiator, outside-mounted rear springs, a competition fuel tank with dual fillers and a rare competition-spec 4-speed manual transmission.
This car’s body, No. 609, is unique among the six Figoni-bodied coupes, with its distinctive bonnet flanked by Marchal headlights faired into the inner front wings, a signature feature of future Figoni designs. Fashioned in steel with an aluminum bonnet, boot, fenders, doors and bumpers, its streamlined teardrop fender shapes are emphasized by accents flowing back from the bonnet’s leading edge, down across the doors and then scribing the rear fender arches. Thin chrome strips delicately accent the fender peaks, their contours repeated in small chrome accents on the rear fender skirts, and a central tail fin contoured to match those on the rear fenders divides the split rear window.
Like many French treasures, the car was hidden from occupying forces during World War II, resurfacing in the early 1950s in the possession of Jean-Pierre Bernard, then sales manager for Delahaye and eventual founder and president of Club Delahaye. Its history shows that it passed through several owners in France before being sold to an Italian buyer around the end of the 1950s. Some four decades passed before it again re-emerged in the late 1990s, this time with a garage owner in Brescia who sold it to its next owner in Geneva, Switzerland. It was remarkably complete; while the opening for the sunroof had been closed, the operating mechanism remained intact, and the chassis plate showing No. 47242 was in its correct location on the firewall.
The car was then imported into the United States, where it was restored for concours d’elegance judging. After its postwar discovery, the car had been fitted with a newer engine, so, in keeping with the strict standards of its restoration, the search began for an extremely rare Competition-spec 3.5L engine. Interestingly, the replacement—featuring the unique triple Solex carburetors and correct date-code stamping—was found not far from where the car was located for decades near Brescia.
While the car’s mechanical systems were being rebuilt, the wood framework was refurbished to Figoni et Falaschi’s exacting standards, and the body was refinished in its magnificent black paint and rich chromed trim. The gorgeous interior is likewise worthy of the Figoni et Falaschi legacy, a luxurious mixture of supple red leather upholstery with quill ostrich inserts, hand-sculpted and mirror-polished wood trim, an elegant engine-turned dash panel and blue-faced gauges and tachometer.
The masterful restoration of this exceptional automobile was rewarded with a First in Class upon its public unveiling at the 2001 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Amazingly, in 2003, in the space of less than one week it earned Best of Show awards at the Celebration of Automobiles at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Concours d’Elegance of Texas. Lovingly maintained in concours-winning presentation, it also earned Best of Show and People’s Choice at the 2014 Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance in Kemble, Ontario, and it was honored with an invitation to the “Art in Automobiles” exhibit at the 2015 Canadian International Auto show in Toronto.
A superlative machine built with great care and precision and restored to its original splendor, this 1936 Delahaye Type 135 “Competition Court” Teardrop Coupe is one of Giuseppe Figoni’s finest creations and will be offered for sale at Mecum’s upcoming Monterey sale, August 12–14. For more information visit www.mecum.com