1938 Delahaye 165 Cabriolet
Above Images ©2006 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, Richard Owen
As one of the world's most voluptuous supercars, this cabriolet design was first released at the 1938 Paris Motor Show. Basically built on a production-version of the V12 145 race car chassis, it received accolades for both radical performance and world class elegance. Furthermore, it is one of only a handful of cars to receive Delahaye's rare V12 engine.
Of all the cabriolet bodies that Figoni et Falaschi made, this sweeping design is their most harmonious. Dashes help split up the profile and conceal the engine bay vents as well as the door handles. Chrome brightwork runs along the sills and neatly wraps around the rear end brake lights.
At some point the Paris show car was shipped to America where it was probably the only V12 Delahaye running. In 1973, it received a perfect 100 point score while being judged in a Classic Car Club of America event. It was shown at Pebble Beach in 1976, 1978 and 1990 and is currently in the extraordinary collection of Robert Lee.
A second car based on the Paris show car was made for the 1938 New York World's Fair where it was displayed at the French Pavilion. It used a patented roll-down windscreen and fully enclosed fenders like the first car, but at the show, it sat without a working engine. As Europe launched into war the roadster's ownership was in question and it was then held at the US customs office for six years. Finally it was released and made available at a California showroom, but fitted with a Cadillac V8 engine and automatic transmission.
In the mid eighties, the original engine was sourced out of Germany and the car was reunited with it and restored to debut at the 1992 Pebble Beach Concours. It returned to the event in 2006 to compliment the many Delahayes that filled the feature marque.
Sources & Further Reading
Adatto, Richard and Diana Meredith. Delahaye Styling and Design. Dalton Watson Fine books. 2005.
Dorizon, Peigney and JP Dauliac. Delahaye-Le Grande Livre. Paris Editions EPA. 1995.
Renou, Michel. Delahaye-Tout l'historie. Paris Editions EPA. 1994.