18 January 2013
1938 Delahaye 135 MS Coupe by Figoni et Falaschi
Sold for $1,540,000
- Chassis no. 60112
- Engine no. 103364
• Offered with an invitation to the 2013 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance
• Displayed on the Figoni et Falaschi stand at the 1938 Paris Salon
• Concours restoration by marque specialists Atelier Automobiles Anciennes Dominique Tessier and overseen by Mr. Claude Figoni
• Desirable MS racing engine
• From the Estate of John M. O’Quinn
French coachbuilders like Figoni et Falaschi, Saoutchik, Guilloré, Chapron, Pourtout, and Franay revolutionized luxury automobile designs in the mid-1930s. They were fascinated with aerodynamic theory, reveled in vivid colors and brightwork accents, and apparently despised straight lines.
A particular highlight of this most glorious chapter of the French coachbuilt era is Figoni et Falaschi’s introduction of the “Goutte d’Eau,” or teardrop, streamliners that were built on the 135 and 165 V-12 chassis and also as Talbot-Lago T150 SS coupes and cabriolets. Figoni et Falaschi were the most flamboyant and imaginative coachbuilders of the 1930s; Joseph Figoni started his own body shop in Paris in 1921, spreading his wings in the early ’30s, with commissions for Bugatti, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, and other sporting marques. In 1935, he partnered with Ovidio Falaschi, who had both capital and business expertise.
From 1936 through to about 1951, Figoni et Falaschi’s stand at the Paris Salon was a “must see” attraction. Though teardrop cars were made in relatively small numbers, they were so immediately eye-catching that they became instant icons and remain so today. This particular example of Figoni coachwork was built on Delahaye’s Type 135 chassis, a model that was introduced in 1935 at the Paris Salon and was enthusiastically received. It proved delightful to drive, with light steering, independent front suspension, a Cotal electro-magnetic pre-selector gearbox, and 14-inch Bendix brakes. The heart of the car was a 3½-liter, triple-carburetor, six-cylinder, counterbalanced engine. It produced 160 horsepower in this most-powerful MS configuration, which can power the car to 120 mph. Of its performance, The Motor wrote in 1938: “There are few cars with such superb roadholding and steering, such performance and such instantly responsive controls.”
Chassis no. 60112
The Delahaye 135 MS Teardrop Coupe on offer here, chassis 60112, was built for the 1938 Paris Salon, where it shared the Figoni et Falaschi stand with a fabulous Delahaye V-12 Model 165 Roadster. It seems likely that 60112 was hidden from occupying forces during World War II, as it was not discovered until 1964 in the ownership of its second known owner, Madame Michele Gautier, of La Seyne-sur-Mer, a few miles from the Mediterranean port of Toulon in Southern France. Found hidden behind a hedge of bulrushes, the discoverer of the car was none other than Antoine Raffaelli, most well-known for prying Bugattis out of their pre-war hiding places around Europe and France in particular.
At the time of the discovery, it was wearing the registration 308 M 6, which was from the nearby Alpes-Maritimes region. Given that the number is so low, it is likely that it dates back to the original ownership. Only in 1983 was it registered to Madame Gautier under 740 AN 83, likely to establish her ownership of the car prior to its pending sale. After a dogged 21-year pursuit, Rafaelli finally managed to acquire 60112 in 1985, from Madame Gautier, and he registered it again in Alps-Maritimes as 3506 VJ 06.
He then delivered the coupe to the Conforti Frères, of the Quartier du Port in Nice, for a meticulous restoration, which took place between 1986 and 1987. Raffaelli sold the car in 1990, and it was in the care of two owners through 1998. In that year, the car joined the Rosso Bianco Collection in Aschaffenburg, Germany until 2006, when it was purchased by Mr. John O’Quinn.
As acquired by Mr. O’Quinn, the restoration on the Delahaye was aging and had retained minor styling updates performed in the 1940s, including a restyled, narrower grille and chrome embellishers added to the leading edges of the front bumpers. The marque experts Atelier Automobiles Anciennes Dominique Tessier in France were retained, and they embarked on a two-year restoration, which was truly a labor of love with the strictest attention to detail.
The car was brought down to its bare chassis before a meticulous rebuild was conducted on the body, chassis, engine, transmission, and interior—quite literally every single nut and bolt. Mr. Tessier worked very closely with Mr. Claude Figoni, son of Joseph Figoni and curator of the family Figoni Archives, who supervised the car’s nut-and-bolt, body-off restoration. From the running gear to the beautifully re-trimmed upholstery, the mechanical and cosmetic results are spectacular. Since the car’s full concours-level restoration, it has never been shown or enjoyed in any events.
As a result of Mr. Figoni’s instrumental participation based on personal memories and information in his own records, Mr. Tessier was able to determine that chassis 60112 was originally finished and displayed in a light Ivory color, as paint limitations at the time would have never produced a truly white car. According to Mr. Figoni, the light exterior color was complemented by a deep red leather interior. A copy of a photo in the car’s file shows the car with large inboard headlights, driving lights in the fenders, and a handsome, thin vee-shaped bumper.
Of particular interest is the grille, which was restored, along with the bumpers, to their 1938 Paris Salon configuration. According to Mr. Figoni, the grille was finished in the French colors of blue, white, and red. Joseph Figoni, an Italian national who immigrated to France years earlier, elected to show his patriotism toward his adoptive homeland of France, particularly during the tumultuous build-up leading to World War II.
As it has been restored to perfection, precisely the way it was shown at Paris in 1938, it is a perfect entrant for some of the most important concours events the world over. Most significantly, it is being offered here with an invitation to the 2013 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, where it is certainly a contender to take top honors. Figoni et Falaschi teardrop coupés seldom come to market and always attract intense interest wherever they appear. With a combination of intriguing history, flamboyant bodywork, and 100 mph performance, 60112’s new owner can anticipate driving both stylishly and swiftly—carrying trophies.
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