Delage D8S Coupe Roadster by deVillars

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D8S Coupe Roadster by deVillars





The Delage D8 was an eight-cylinder luxury car produced by the manufacturer between 1929 and 1940.

The 4061 cc engine of the original D8 placed it in the 23CV car tax band which, for many contemporaries, would also have defined its position high up in the market hierarchy.

Delage took a traditional view of its role as a car producer, and provided cars in bare chassis form to have their bodies fitted by one of the more prestigious bespoke body builders operating (in most cases) in the Paris area. The D8 therefore appeared, throughout its life, in a wide variety of (frequently) elegant shapes.

The D8 was introduced late in 1929 as a replacement for the opulent Delage GLS, but in view of the range of body types (and, subsequently, of engine sizes) with which it was offered it can also be seen as a replacement for the some versions of the Delage DM.

The timing of the D8’s launch, with the European economy still reeling from the aftermath of the 1929 stock market crashes appears unfortunate, but cars at this level were never intended to sell in large numbers, and by taking sales from other top end auto-makers such as, in particular, Bugatti the D8 held its own and justified its manufacturer’s aspirations for it, becoming one of the best known products of what subsequently came to be known as a golden age for low-volume expensive and luxurious cars in France.

At launch there were two versions of the D8: the “D8 Normale” and the “D8 S”. For the “D8 Normale” there were three different wheelbase lengths: these were 3,167 mm (124.7 in), 3,467 mm (136.5 in) and 4,066 mm (160.1 in), the third of which would accommodate body lengths of more than 5 meters. The “D8 S” was intended for sports car applications, and the shortened wheelbase was intended to optimize maneuverability and handling.

Both versions were produced till 1933.

In 1930, Delage added a sports version to its D8 range. Available only on the short 130-inch wheelbase chassis, the new car was not just a shortened D8 but quite a different car. In fact, about the same time the Delage engineering team was designing a new engine to be installed in a military aircraft. Louis Delage, always keen to produce impeccable motor cars, decided to link the two, and asked his staff to produce a brand new head with specially-made short springs located next to the valve to avoid any breakage. The carburetor, too, made especially by Delage for the D8S, was of aviation type. The sump, a piece of artistry by itself, was cast with six longitudinal tubes through it to let for air-cooling. Altogether, the engine produced no less than 120hp and a great deal of torque.

The chassis was lowered, the suspension revised and even the back axle and differential were particular to the S series. Externally, to make the S more aerodynamic, a new type of radiator shell was employed, which required a special hood and firewall that made the D8S even more visually distinctive. Alas, the Depression was reaching Europe, and only 99 D8Ss were sold.

Certainly most Delages bore bodies by French coachbuilders, the likes of Henri Chapron, Kellner, Franay and Labourdette. Some, however, were sent farther afield for their bodies, including this car, which was sent to London and the coachworks of Freestone & Webb.

Like most top-tier British coachbuilders, Freestone & Webb, Ltd. produced the bulk of their output on Rolls-Royce and Bentley chassis. However, this firm is known to have built a remarkable number of Mercedes bodies as well as having taken out an early license to build Weymann fabric bodies. Best known for sedans and limousines, Freestone & Webb occasionally turned out more intimate bodies, like this coupe.

Few coachbuilding companies have been created from scratch just for the purpose of working on both the owner’s and his friends’ cars but that is exactly the motivation behind “la Carrozzerie de Villars.”

Among his other enterprises Gould maintained a workshop to repair the coachwork of his and his friends’ automobiles. At some point Frank Jay Gould decided not only to repair, but also to create his own style of coachwork. When his daughter, Dorothy, married a Swiss gentleman named Baron Roland de Graffenried de Villars, an expert polo player and playboy well-placed in the French aristocracy, Gould named his newly created company with the patronyme of his son-in-law, “De Villars.” Success followed swiftly. Thanks to a very strict boss –Gould himself – who said “there was no friendship in business,” the company gained a solid reputation and was acclaimed by l’Auto Carrozzeria in 1932 as a place where perfectionism reigned. Standards were high and precision and craftsmanship were part of every step in the building process. With no more than 25 bodies produced a year, the company was focused on style and perfection and had the time to achieve it. To cite the well-known French historian Alain Dollfus, “some people said that de Villars did Figoni with the seriousness of Franay.”

The "Delage D8" was powered by a straight 8 engine which was a first both for Delage and for the French auto-industry. The 4061cc engine featured an overhead centrally positioned camshaft and a listed maximum output of 102hp (76 kW) at 3,500 rpm for the “D8 Normale” and 120hp (89 kW) in the “D8 S” version. Power was delivered to the rear wheels through a four speed manual gear-box featuring synchromesh on the upper two ratios.

Performance will have varied according to the weight of the body specified but the top speed listed for the "D8 Normale" was 120 km/h (75 mph) with 130 km/h (82 mph) listed for the "D8 S".

The drum brakes operated on all four wheels. Suspension was traditional, involving rigid axles front and back with semi-elliptic leaf springs and “friction dampers”.

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