1939 Delahaye 135 MS Grand Sport Roadster by Figoni et Falaschi
- 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
Joseph Figoni’s approach defined his fluid forms. Instead of drawing the car he was going to build, he would construct a metal outline of the bodywork on the frame, adjusting it until it looked just right. Then he’d call in the draughtsmen. Even when he began using clay models, technical drawings came last.
As his partner Ovidio Falaschi said later: “We really were true couturiers of automotive coachwork, dressing and undressing a chassis one, two, and three times and even more before arriving at the definitive line we wanted to give to a specific chassis-coachwork ensemble.”
Figoni and the Delahaye 135
Figoni et Falaschi came to the public’s attention through their Delahaye designs, when the Model 135 was introduced at the 1936 Paris Salon. The car’s low-slung rigid chassis and independent front suspension, through an ingenious system of transverse leaf spring and radius rods, light steering and excellent 14-inch Bendix brakes, made it the perfect platform for Figoni’s designs.
Powered by a 3½-litre, six-cylinder, hemi-head engine, with triple carburettors and up to 140 horsepower on the MS (Modifiée Spéciale) model, Delahaye coupés and convertibles were as fast as they looked, with up to 110 mph top speed. The MS engine featured a bigger cylinder head, larger valves and improved breathing, and race-tuned versions could generate 160 hp and 125 mph.
Chassis no. 60158
The 1939 Delahaye 135 MS Grand Sport Roadster on offer has intriguing history and is one of the most perfectly proportioned designs on this chassis. According to Delahaye historian Andre Vaucourt, 60158 was commissioned in March 1939 by a Monsieur Jeantet, 54 Rue Ampere in Paris, as World War II loomed. M. Jeantet was not going gently into the good night however, ordering the Grand Sport in vibrant Andalouse red, with door handles integrated into chrome spears, curving down the side of the car, and a large Plexiglas rear window.
The car re-emerged after the war, when it was sold to noted collector Peter Agg in England. He campaigned it enthusiastically in numerous international rallies, including two Monte Carlo events, three Morocco rallies in 1984, ’86, ’88 and the Danish Spring Rally in 1994.
The next owner is listed as Hugh Taylor, of Eastington Hall, Upton-Upon-Severn in Worcestershire, England, who had owned several Delahayes. There is record of a frame-off restoration by UK expert Jim Stokes, which included a refinish in dark blue, with a light brown interior and complete mechanical rebuild to race specifications. Taylor owned 60158 until March 2007, at which point it was sold to the late Texas collector John O’Quinn, who bought both 60158 and the 1938 Delahaye Figoni et Falaschi coupé, chassis 60112.
The two cars were dispatched to marque specialists Atelier Automobiles Anciennes Dominique Tessier, where a full body-off restoration was started with careful input from Mr. Claude Figoni, son of Joseph Figoni, whose own family archives and remembrances proved invaluable in ensuring the restoration’s correctness throughout. Having been restored by Jim Stokes 20 years previous, the car was found to be very sound and in excellent running order. As such, Mr. Tessier and his restorers had an excellent platform from which to work.
Over the course of two years, 60158 was brought down to its bare chassis and received a complete mechanical overhaul; from the engine to the Cotal gearbox, every element was tended to with supreme precision. The body was restored, the interior was completely removed and readied for re-trimming, and a complete photographic record was maintained of the entire process. Based on Mr. Figoni’s research, the restorers were able to refinish the car in its correct original colour of Andalouse red with “Brick” leather hides. Invoices are also available for review by interested bidders. RM Auctions has followed the completion of this car’s restoration very closely and can confirm that no corners were cut in ensuring a concours-quality product.
Figoni et Falaschi-bodied Delahayes must be considered at the top level of pre-World War II classic sports cars, with Art Deco flair unmatched by any other coachbuilder. What makes 60158 uncommon is that it has not been on static display; it is clearly very enjoyable to drive, with historic competition history and great speed and ease of control for modern conditions. It is hard to consider a more pleasant way to travel: a fast, classic roadster, which draws a crowd in any setting thanks to a concours-quality restoration, powerful engine and racing-derived chassis.
As part of a large private collection, this car has seen limited exercise. RM strongly advises the successful bidder carry out a thorough service before driving the car on the open road.
Please note that this car is eligible for import into the UK at 5% VAT.