Delahaye 135 Roadster in the style of Figoni et Falaschi

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135 Roadster in the style of Figoni et Falaschi





Delahaye 135 was an automobile manufactured by Delahaye. Designed by young engineer Jean François, it was produced from 1935 until 1954 in many different body styles. A sporting tourer, it was also popular for racing.

The Delahaye 135, also known as "Coupe des Alpes" after its success in the Alpine Rally, was first presented in 1935 and signified Delahaye's decision to build sportier cars than before. The 3.2-litre overhead valve straight-six with four-bearing crankshaft was derived from one of Delahaye's truck engines and was also used in the more sedate, longer wheelbase (3,160 mm or 124 in) Delahaye 138.

Introduced at the 1935 Paris Salon, the road going version of the Type 135 was offered with two engine sizes and two aspiration options, yielding a choice of 95 horsepower, 120 horsepower, and two 110 horsepower configurations. The competition prospects for the Type 135 were embodied in a fifth model, the short-wheelbase Delahaye Type 135 Special that had a 3,557-cubic centimeter engine with triple carburetters, which could produce 160 horsepower. The Type 135 Special was more than just highly tuned, as it also featured additional engine block cooling passages, a lighter and better balanced crankshaft that was capable of higher rpms, an 8.4:1 compression ratio cylinder head, a modified valve gear, and a high-lift cam. It breathed through three horizontal Solex carburetters and had six exhaust ports with individual exhaust header pipes.

Power was 95hp (71 kW) in twin carburetor form, but 110hp (82 kW) were available in a version with three downdraught Solex carbs, offering a 148 km/h (92 mph) top speed. The 138 had a single carburetor and 76hp (57 kW), and was available in a sportier 90hp (67 kW) iteration.

The 135 featured independent, leaf-sprung front suspension, a live rear axle, and cable operated Bendix brakes. 17-inch spoked wheels were also standard. Transmission was either a partially synchronized four-speed manual or four-speed Cotal pre-selector transmission.

Competition 135S set the all-time record at the Ulster Tourist Trophy and placed second and third in the Mille Miglia in 1936, and the 1938 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The list of independent body suppliers offering to clothe the 135 chassis is the list of France's top coachbuilders of the time, including Figoni & Falaschi, Letourner & Marchand, Guilloré, Marcel Pourtout, Frères Dubois, J Saoutchik, Franay, Antem and Henri Chapron.

Production of the 3.2-litre version ended with the German occupation in 1940 and was not taken up again after the end of hostilities.

The ultimate embodiment of Figoni’s automotive sensuality is Teardrop Coupe, with Figoni et Falaschi body work; it is of six coupes built by the firm in 1936 on the short 2.65-meter Delahaye Type 135 chassis.

Figoni et Falaschi’s coupe bodywork is unique from the other five examples, as it has a slightly different bonnet and features a single row of hood louvers. This is also the only known Type 135 with headlamps faired into the front fenders, which is a nod to the styling trend for the following year of 1937. This feature is not only highly desirable from a stylistic standpoint, as having the headlights positioned lower affords the driver a greater view of the road, but it also increases safety and competitiveness. Signature Figoni styling features include the central tail fin, twin rear windows, rear wheel “spats” matched by small vestigial fins on the rear fenders, and a pronounced molding that flows down the hood and the doors, to finish over the rear fender.

The design for the Torpedo Roadster that clothes the chassis is based on the famed 1936 Paris Auto Show car. Its form has traditionally been recognized as a collaboration between Figoni and the illustrator Georges Hamel, or “Geo Ham,” who remains widely recognized for his depictions of airplanes and automobiles in racing posters of the period. Although credit has long been given to Figoni and Ham, recent debate indicates that its roots lay in a design penned and published in 1934 by designer Alexis de Sakhnoffsky. In any case, the Paris Auto Show car of 1936, constructed by Figoni et Falaschi with the input of Geo Ham, was the first of what would become a series of 13 streamlined bodies.

The series was comprised of both open and closed cars that were based on long and short chassis, with each having its own unique characteristics. In producing these subsequent bodies, Figoni et Falaschi initially refused to acknowledge Ham’s contribution to the design. The illustrator threatened a lawsuit, and an agreement was soon struck, by which Ham was allowed to register bodies 6, 7, and 8 as his creations, under the Union of Artistic Property. Each of these cars bore a brass tag, affixed just aft of the doors, acknowledging this agreement.

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