Delahaye 135 MS Sports Roadster

Delahayes have always been remarkable automobiles, but Delahaye’s history began well before the dawn of the automobile with the establishment of M. Brethon’s machine shop in Tours in 1845. In the 1880s or ’90s, Emile Delahaye acquired Brethon’s operation and began experimenting with gasoline engines. He built his first automobile in 1895, and in 1896, he drove one of his automobiles to sixth place in the Paris-Marseilles-Paris race. They were interesting, quick, responsive and often astonishing to look at.

Adventuresome in their engineering, these early Delahayes drew many comparisons to the better-known Benz automobiles. Emile had great reserves of ingenuity, however, not finances. This resulted in his selling of the company to the Desmarais family, who recognized Emile’s vision and continued to expand on it throughout the rest of the company’s history. In 1898, Delahaye took in two partners, Leon Desmarais and Georges Morane, and moved to a factory in Paris.

Launched at the 1935 Paris Salon, the Type 135 would prove to be Delahaye’s mainstay for the rest of its lifetime. Historian David Burgess-Wise describes it as “the keystone of the survival plan which Delahaye, one of France’s oldest car manufacturers, had drawn up to cope with the crisis-hit Thirties.” In fact, it survived into the Forties and Fifties.

The 135 featured a new chassis, designed by engineer Jean-François, with welded box-section side members and pressed cross members welded to a ribbed floor. The engine was a 3,557 cc OHV six, as used in the earlier Type 138, from which the transverse leaf spring independent front suspension was also carried over.

The Type 135 was a delight with its spirited and lively chassis, independent front suspension, light steering, and normally fitted with a buttery-smooth Cotal electromagnetic gearbox. In racing form, the 135 series was a fierce competitor, taking the first six places at the 1936 Marseilles race, a second at Le Mans in 1937 (the 1936 race was cancelled), and first, second and fourth place at Le Mans in 1938.

In 1938, a new, top-of-the-line model of the Type 135 was introduced at the 1938 Paris Salon, the MS (Modifiee Speciale). Its power plant was a thoroughly updated version of the existing 3.5-liter six-cylinder engine. A larger cylinder head and bigger valves improved breathing, and horsepower was increased to 130 hp. With proper gearing and slippery coachwork, it could reach an incredible top speed of 110 mph. Fitted with triple carburetion, output rose again to an astonishing 160 bhp.

This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in August of 2010 at the Portola Hotel & Spa and Monterey Conference Center, Monterey, California.

160 hp, 3,557 cc inline overhead valve six-cylinder engine, Cotal electro-mechanical four-speed gearbox, independent front suspension with transverse leaf spring, live rear axle with quarter elliptic springs, and four-wheel assisted mechanically actuated Bendix drum brakes. Wheelbase: 114".

Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Darin Schnabel 

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