1938 Delahaye 135 MS

1938 Delahaye 135 MS

Standing for Modifie Speciale, the 135 MS was the definitive version of Delahaye’s signature chassis. It had 100 mph performance which included it with the fastest cars in the world.

When the MS was released in 1938, its chassis had already won many victories including LeMans with special competition versions built for sporting clientele. These earlier cars featured three carburetors and special inlet ports and a six-port exhaust manifold which was later included for the first time on road cars with the 135 MS.

First shown at the 1935 Paris Auto Show, the 135 was an lower, more powerful and sporting version of the 18HP model it replaced. This model was updated in 1937, to include the 3,557cc engine in various states of tune. The the 135M or Modifie featured either one or three caburettors for 95hp or 115hp. The top model was the Modifie Speciale (MS) with 135hp.

As an option, the pre-selective Cotal transmission was available which used a gearshift lever mounted near the steering wheel to electromagnetically change gears. While totally complicated and hard to maintain, the clutch only had to be used for starting and stopping.

One aspect that made these Delahayes special were their connection to the great French carrosseris that made extravagant bodies and interiors for them. These were sometimes built for a Concours d’Elegance and most were almost always executed by Figoni et Falaschi who had a great sense of sweeping styles and subtle chrome decoration called brightwork. Many other great companies bodied the 135 MS including Saoutchik, Guillore, Chapron and Franay.

Unfortunately the 135MS was the last great car made by Delahaye. After the war they continued producing the same chassis restyled with a radiator grille and hood by designer Philippe Charbonneaux, but it was showing its age. In 1951, the 135 was replaced by the 235, which wasn’t very different.

In Detail

type Series Production Car
engine Water Cooled Inline-6 w/Alloy head
position Front Longitudinal
aspiration Natural
valvetrain 2 Valves / Cyl
fuel feed Triple Down-Draft Solex Carburetors
displacement 3557 cc / 217.1 in³
bore 80 mm / 3.15 in
stroke 107 mm / 4.21 in
compression 8.4:1
power 96.9 kw / 130 bhp @ 4000 rpm
specific output 36.55 bhp per litre
body / frame Aluminum over Steel Box-Section Chassis
driven wheels RWD
wheel type Rudge-Whitworth wheels
front tires 17 x 5.5
rear tires 17 x 5.5
front brakes Drums w/Servo Assist
rear brakes Drums w/Servo Assist
front wheels F 43.2 x 14.0 cm / 17 x 5.5 in
rear wheels R 43.2 x 14.0 cm / 17 x 5.5 in
steering Worm & Nut
f suspension Independant w/Transverse Semi-Ellipic Springs, Friction Dampers, Radius Rods
r suspension Live Axle w/Leaf Springs & Friction Dampers
wheelbase 2950 mm / 116.1 in
front track 1380 mm / 54.3 in
rear track 1485 mm / 58.5 in
transmission 4-Speed Cotal Preselector or 4-Speed Manual or 4-Speed Cotal Preselector
gear ratios 3.456:1, 2.22:1, 1.64:1, 1.00:1
top speed ~160.9 kph / 100 mph

Auction Sales History

1938 Delahaye 135 MS Coupe by Figoni et Falaschi – sold for $990,000 Displayed on the Figoni et Falaschi stand at the 1938 Paris Salon. Formerly owned by Antoine Rafaelli and Peter Kaus of the Rosso Bianco Museum and John O’Quinn. Equipped with the desirable racing-specification MS engine. Two year restoration by Atelier Automobiles Anciennes Dominique Tessier
Auction Source: 2015 Amelia Island by RM Sotheby’s

1938 Delahaye 135 MS Coupe by Figoni et Falaschi 60112 – sold for $1,540,000 Offered with an invitation to the 2013 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. Displayed on the Figoni et Falaschi stand at the 1938 Paris Salon. Concours restoration by marque specialists Atelier Automobiles Anciennes Dominique Tessier and overseen by Mr. Claude Figoni. Desirable MS racing engine. From the Estate of John M. O’Quinn.
Auction Source: 2013 Arizona Auction by RM

1939 Delahaye 135 MS Grand Sport Roadster 60158 – sold for €784,000 Offered from the Estate of John M. O’Quinn. Frequently campaigned in vintage rallies. First appearance since completion of restoration by marque specialists Atelier Automobiles Anciennes Dominique Tessier. Restoration overseen by Claude Figoni.
Auction Source: RM 2011 Villa d’Este Auction

1938 Delahaye 135 MS Figoni et Falaschi Coupé 60112 – did not sell for €830,000 Offered from the Estate of John M. O’Quinn. Displayed on the Figoni et Falaschi stand at the 1938 Paris Salon. First appearance since completing concours-quality. restoration by marque specialists Atelier Automobiles Anciennes Dominique Tessier. Restoration overseen by Claude Figoni. Desirable MS racing engine.
Auction Source: RM 2011 Villa d’Este Auction

1938 Delahaye 135 MS Figoni et Falaschi Coupé 60112 – did not sell for €830,000 Offered from the Estate of John M. O’Quinn. Displayed on the Figoni et Falaschi stand at the 1938 Paris Salon. First appearance since completing concours-quality. restoration by marque specialists Atelier Automobiles Anciennes Dominique Tessier. Restoration overseen by Claude Figoni. Desirable MS racing engine.
Auction Source: RM 2011 Villa d’Este Auction

1938 Delahaye 135MS Sports Cabriolet 60123 – sold for $852,500 The deVillars show car for 1938 Salon. Multiple awards including Best in Class at Pebble Beach. A singularly beautiful design, s/n 60123 incorporated a flowing body envelope that was enhanced by a delightful body-side sweep. Its lack of running boards, accompanied by bright trim on the rocker panels and fender edges, gives the car its modern look. The raked “vee” windscreen and close-coupled two-passenger cabin results in a stunning and highly

sporting appearance. It is important to note that while it is not difficult for a convertible to be made to look good with its top up, the reverse is much more difficult to accomplish. In the case of s/n 60123, this was accomplished with the disappearing top that neatly avoids the bulky top stack so often seen at the time.

The restoration was completed in 2003, and the results were magnificent, with invitations received from virtually every major concours d’elegance, including both Pebble Beach, where it won its class, and Amelia Island.

Provenance, performance and appeal. Above all else, one thing about this 1938 Delahaye 135MS to which both the learned collector and the neophyte will agree – it is absolutely gorgeous.

Auction Source: RM Auctions’ 2010 Sports & Classics of Monterey

1938 Delahaye 135 MS Competition Cabriolet by Figoni & Falaschi 49197 – sold for €1,792,000 With stunning Figoni & Falaschi open coachwork constructed on the 135 MS Competition-type long chassis, this unique Delahaye offers the delectable combination of the best in late ’30s French custom body design with some of the highest specification mechanicals ever offered by the company. This particular Delahaye is also somewhat unusual in that it participated in two diametrically opposed forms of motoring competition by being both a show car

and a racing car.

According to the Figoni archives and verification by the sales manager for Delahaye, Jean-Pierre Bernard (who later became the President and founder of the Delahaye Club), chassis no. 49197 was delivered by Delahaye to the Figoni & Falaschi works in April 1938 destined to be an exhibit on the Delahaye stand for the Paris Salon of 1939. In fact the Salon was cancelled owing to rumours, soon to be justified, about an impending war. This information was also verified by a long term owner of this car, Philippe Looten, similarly a previous President of the Delahaye Club. The beautiful two-seater cabriolet was created and finished in black and sent to the first owner, a Mrs. Chandler.

The car was custom fitted with red leather interior and upholstery (which included the dashboard and steering wheel) supplied and sewn by the master craftsmen from Hermès, the renowned saddlery, luggage, silks and handbag firm. According to the records, Mrs. Chandler took delivery of her prized Delahaye Cabriolet in July 1938 with the French registration number 2354 RL9. The next entry, according to J-P Bernard, is after World War II, when the car passed to French racing driver Marcel Contet, and the registration number changed to 9654 CL75. Contet was a well-known driver in French events during the late 1930s, and he quite often competed in Delahayes, including a victory in one at the 1939 Monte Carlo Rally.

According to Philippe Looten, the Delahaye was acquired by Contet before the war, and Madame Contet took top awards in 1939 at the Concours d’Elegance at La Baule and at the Concours of “La Grande Cascade” in the Bois de Boulogne, Paris. A period photograph of the car on a mountain pass with a lady posing appears in Benedict Bocquet’s book on Figoni Delahayes and is captioned as “Madame Contet in 1939 at the Col du Simplon.” More black and white photographs on file show the car crossing the parade ramp at other early Concours d’Elegance events.

Monsieur Contet returned the car to Figoni after the war to have the nose updated with a different grille, perhaps in an attempt to improve the cooling for racing purposes. In the Francois Jolly book on Delahaye, there is a racing photo of 49197 competing post-war (Car No. 75) at Montlhéry with this new nose fitted. Contet may have sold the car to another racing driver, Edmond Mouche, although this information conflicts with the recollections of J-P Bernard who states that in early 1955 Mr. Contet returned the car to him to re-sell, and it was purchased in February that year by a Michel Boujean, a salesman working for Mr. Bernard.

Apparently Boujean kept the car only for a few months and sold it in September 1955 to a Mr. Depaie Georgas of Blvd Raspail, Paris. It was sold again the following month to the President of the Chamber of Commerce of Le Havre (registration plate 9903GF59). Later, it was sold to Mr. Andre Ziegler who was President of the Chamber of Commerce of Dunkerque. In 1960, Mr. Ziegler decided to sell the car to a scrap dealer for 500 French Francs, because it had been in storage and received damage in one of his garages.

Fortunately, the car was to find a deserving new home, because the dealer’s son knew that Philippe Looten was a Delahaye enthusiast, and so he sold it to him for 700 French Francs! Mr. Looten, who was the long term President of the Delahaye Club (and is still the current Vice President), owned this important car from 1960 until 2002. During that long period of time, the Delahaye was restored twice and driven more than 160,000 kms on various rallies and pleasure trips. The original red Hermès leather interior had been almost completely destroyed during the period when the car was in storage, although a few parts did survive, including the leather trimmed steering wheel. Also of note was that the car came with racing buckets seats, which again had most likely been fitted by Contet.

In 2005, this fabulous car, complete with a spare 135 MS engine and the second nose which had been fitted in the early post-war period, was sold to the current (USA) owner. The decision was taken to have the Delahaye fully restored and ready to be exhibited at Pebble Beach in 2006, where it won a class award. A frame-off, full nut and bolt restoration was undertaken with the aim of returning the car to its former show glory with the correct colour scheme it had from new.

Hermès Interior

Since it had originally been supplied with a custom made interior by Hermès, the owner made contact with the family-owned business in Paris. After Hermès inspected the car and consulted their archives, they readily accepted the task of supplying a new red leather upholstered interior, including the correct bench seat. Furthermore, Hermès made a set of custom leather luggage suitcases bespoke for this car, complete with exquisite crocodile leather-trimmed corners and handles. Hermès even scoured their own archives to find new old stock, period correct latches and hinges! Apparently this was the very first car interior undertaken by Hermès since before the Second World War, and they were so delighted with the project that they expressed interest in borrowing the car for their future promotional events.

It is offered publicly for the first time and comes with the aforementioned spare post-war 135 MS engine, nose and original Hermès-trimmed racing seats, all of which accompany the sale of the car but will need to be collected at buyer’s expense from the U.S. This is an opportunity not to be missed by Delahaye enthusiasts!

Auction Source: 2010 RM Auctions Sporting Classics of Monaco

1938 Delahaye 135 MS Coupé 60112 – sold for $1,712,000 This coupe’s early history after the Salon is unknown, but postwar it came into the hands of Madame Michele Gautier of La Seyne-sur-Mer on France’s Cote d’Azur. At some stage the frontal aspect of the car was modified with the fitting of a narrower radiator grille as well as chrome embellishers incorporating position lights on the leading edges of the wings. This enhancement replaced the exposed low-level lamps of its initial configuration. In

1964 the Delahaye coupe was discovered by that indefatigable seeker-out of rare and desirable automobiles Antoine Raffaëlli behind a reed hedge in South-West France and for the next 21 years he negotiated tirelessly with its owner before eventually acquiring it in 1985.

Although having been a museum exhibit for a number of years, this beautifully presented Delahaye has enjoyed a recent and modest road test where engine, gearbox and brakes were reported to be in good working order.

Auction Source: 2006 Monterey Preview