Delage D6-70 Le Mans - coupe body by Figoni & Falaschi - manufactured in 1936
Delage was a French prestige marque which was established in 1905 by Louis Delage. The company was at its peak during the 1920s and 1930s, producing many classic models which were both sporty and elegant. Sales of these expensive cars were however dwindling during the economic depression of the 1930s and as a result the Delage company failed in 1935. The Paris dealer of Delage, Walter Watney, took over the company and decided to reestablish the marque by participation in important motorsport events.
Watney soon found out that the financial difficulties of Delage were too much for him to overcome and sought outside help. Ultimately he found it in Delahaye, also a French prestige marque, located in the same area as Delage and catering to practically the same segment of the market. The help of Delahaye came at a cost; Delahaye closed down the original Delage factory and transferred production to its own facilities and used many of its own components in the manufacture of Delage cars. Essentially only the Delage 6-cylinder engine was retained.
During this transition Watney instigated a very special Delage for taking part in the important Le Mans 24 hours race. Using the modern 6-cylinder 3-litre engine of Delage, a Delahaye chassis and a special streamlined body made by coachbuilder Figoni & Falaschi, a beautiful and competitive coupe was created for the 1936 edition of the Le Mans race. Unfortunately this race was cancelled because of labour strikes and Watney's initial plan for reestablishing Delage fell through. The car was reentered for the 1937 edition though and this time all went well with a class win in the up to 3-litre class and a 4th place overall. Still, this achievement was slightly overshadowed by the fact that the first 3 places fell into the hands of other French manufacturers, with a 1st place for a Bugatti Type 57 and 2nd and 3rd for two Delahayes Type 135 CS. Because of this the Delage received less attention than it should have had.
This Le Mans Delage, similar to the one shown here, was not only interesting because of its result in the race but also because of its influential styling. Figoni & Falaschi maybe most remembered now for its flamboyant and expressive creations on luxury car chassis for the rich and famous, during the 1930s it was also specialized in making bodywork for racing cars. Most successful of these were the roadster bodies on Alfa Romeo racing chassis which won the 1932 and 1933 Le Mans races, featuring hints of streamlining which was not very common at the time. The design of this streamlined Delage is linked to that of the mythic Bugatti T57 Atlantic and of course to the iconic Figoni & Falaschi creation of the "Goutte d'Eau" (teardrop) coupes on Talbot-Lago chassis in 1937 and as such holds an important place in car design history.
This wonderful car didn't manage to save Delage in its own right but the brand name continued to appear on Delahaye produced cars until 1953 and many of these later cars are held in high esteem by collectors and enthusiasts.
© André Ritzinger, Amsterdam, Holland