This is a sealed bid auction taking place from January 19 (starting at 8 AM EST) through February 1 (ending at 4 PM EST).
Tabbed the “father” of teardrop styling and design in the automotive landscape, no one, not even Jean Bugatti, was able to master the sweeping, streamlined and voluptuous coachwork quite like Giuseppe Figoni could. A celebrated French designer, Figoni would form a partnership with Italian businessman Ovidio Falaschi in 1935, and the rest is history. Birthed with undeniable and incomparable aesthetics, beauty can often overshadow the function with which these early Delahayes once started. The same is true of this rare short chassis 1936 Delahaye 135M Competition Court Cabriolet, originally constructed to run laps around its opponents on the track. In total, 95 Figoni et Falaschi Delahayes were built in their 20-plus years of business, and according to Andre Vaucourt, former archivist of the Club Delahaye, just 25 short chassis Type 135s were built in order to homologate for racing, and of those 25, a mere six coupes were built in 1936.
As one of only six coupes produced by Figoni et Falaschi in 1936 on a Delahaye Type 135 short chassis, this special Delahaye has a known and rich history that can be traced back to its conception. Built for private clients and seasoned drivers, all six coupes were built on non-standard 2.7m wheelbase chassis and given the option to be fitted with two different engines, a 3.2-litre engine designated the “Coupe des Alpes” or 3.5-litre engine designated the “Compétition.” Chassis 46837, the example at hand, was originally fitted with the 3.5-litre engine, hence its 135 Compétition title.
Precisely, Chassis 46837, body number 572, is one of the six coupes and would be delivered in February 1936 for Mr. Bibal. In the bodybuilder’s register, it is specified: faux cabriolet (another name for the coupe) three seats, two at the front and one at the rear across; it is the only one of the six with this precision. The car was registered new in the Seine Department under the number 3439 RK 3. Mr. Bibal of France did not hold on to this Delahaye for long, as it is noted that Delahaye driver, Jean Tremoulet, took ownership from Bibal in May of 1936, which explains why it was said to have been re-registered in Paris in May of 1936. Tremoulet was a known racer at the time, but the only definite participation with him behind the wheel of this 135M was on September 20th, 1936, in the “Grand Prix of Independent, Autumn Cup” which was organized by the A.G.A.C.I. Tremoulet entered the race with the number “28” pinned to his doors. The Delahaye 135s of Joseph Paul, Louis Villeneuve, Danniell and Chaboud all had Le Mans competition-bodied cars in the race, and Tremoulet’s was the only coupé body in that race. We know he raced this event, as it was documented in A.G.A.C.I.’s September magazine and two photos of the number 28 Delahaye at this event are present. Chassis Number 46837 would be sold in the Spring of 1938 and be registered on April 28th, 1938, and issued the plate number 7109AV2. Its new owner was Dr. Jean-Marie Lefevre, who was a country doctor in the Vrigne aux Bois region. According to recollections of his family, who also showed a photo of the vehicle soon after he took ownership, Dr. Lefevre used this Delahaye to do his rounds throughout the country, at a high rate of speed. This was not the first Delahaye he had owned as he was already a seasoned vet behind the wheel of these types of vehicles. He would partake in a race that started in the Place des Vosges in Paris and finished in the place Ducale in Charleville. Dr. Lefevre also enjoyed this Delahaye on the circuit at Monza after taking part in a stage at Danielo in Venice. Because of the war and growing fear that the Nazi regime would confiscate this Delahaye, the decision was made to have it hidden by a farmer under hay bales in the center of France. Staying there for five years, Dr. Lefevre and his son would return in 1945 to awaken this sleeping beauty. To their surprise, it fired right up and was driven home.
Chassis 46837 was then sold to André Bith in the winter of 1946. Bith was born into wealth and had expensive taste, as well as a love for racing cars. In an interview between Bith and French historian Pierre Abeillon, who has done extensive research on short chassis Delahayes, Bith explained how he had previously owned multiple Delahayes, a Bugatti Type 44 Roadster and 1925 Bugatti Type 35. Among other remarks mentioned during the interview, Abeillon was able to document much of what happened during Bith’s 13 years of ownership. André Bith would race at Montlhéry on April 18th, 1948, which was documented in the May issue of l’Action Automobile et Touristique. Bith and this Delahaye 135M with the number “2” painted on its side can be seen leading the pack at the start of the race in a copy of a vintage photo that captured the event. Before the race, Bith upgraded the car with a 3.8-litre engine, still present in the car today, and De Ram shock absorbers to better his chances at victory. Just a short month later, in May, Bith’s girlfriend at the time wanted a cabriolet for their trips to Deauville. So, he took the car to a coachbuilder in Levallois, who modified it to its present Cabriolet form, while still respecting the Figoni design. The cabriolet was also painted black at this time. Bith wasn’t able to use it for long, as business would send him to South America in 1949. While gone, Delahaye 46837 was tucked away in a heated outbuilding of the Chaumont family château in Yonne, a former residence of the Prince of Condé. Bith wouldn’t return till the latter part of 1957 and shortly after would sell the car in 1959.
Bith sold this special Competition Court Delahaye to a dealer in Porte de Paris. Before the dealer took ownership, the car was re-registered by Bith on November 25th, 1959, with the new plate 5874JJ75. It is believed he did this to be able to sell the car. The Porte de Paris dealer would hold on to this Delahaye for less than a year before selling it to a Delahaye enthusiast in Paris. Baron Henri de-Robert Nègre du Clat of 50 Avenue de Wagram, Paris added this example to his collection on February 24th, 1960. Simply known as Robert de Nègre by most, he was in the real estate profession and was quite good at it, which allowed him to have the financial resources to own a few other Delahayes like a Guilloré Coupé, Chassis 46625. By 1966, Nègre had gotten married, and the real estate market had taken a turn for the worse. These two factors would lead him to sell Chassis 46837 on January 28th, 1966.
Monsieur Landis, a draughtsman and engineer took ownership of this example from Nègre in 1966 but kept the 1959 Parisian registration plate 5874JJ75 attached to it. Shortly after the deal, Landis would take this Delahaye to Henri Chapron Carrossier to have the engine and mechanics gone through, which is documented by invoices on file that range from 1966 to 1968. Landis would enjoy this Delahaye for some time before undertaking a personal restoration. Documented by a letter written by Roger Tainguy, Landis had only completed the work on the chassis, but had all the parts neatly and nicely stored.
Landis would keep the car until 1985. Mr. Roger Tainguy, a noted and highly regarded Delahaye collector, would then be its next caretaker. While under Tainguy’s care, he would discover a plaque engraved with the name “Dr J-M LEFEVRE Vigne aux Bois (Ardennes)” in the car. Armed with this precious information, Tainguy tracked down the son of Dr. Jean-Marie Lefevre, the owner between 1938-1946. His son would be the one to find and provide a photo of chassis 46837 between 1938-1939. Showing the same car that Tremoulet drove at Montlhéry in 1936 with a registration plate that reads 7109AV2. After ensuring all the parts were collected from Landis, Tainguy would entrust a full restoration to a young coachbuilder who had just begun to make a name for himself, Jean-Luc Bonnefoy, who today is regarded as one of the top Delahaye restorers in the world. In a conversation with Jean-Luc Bonnefoy that took place in 2023, he provided four copies of vintage photos of Chassis 46837 in his shop during the restoration. Mr. Bonnefoy would also go on to say, “Regarding Mr. Tainguy’s Delahaye, we have indeed done the job. This car arrived in our workshop disassembled and incomplete. It is very likely that this car was originally a coupe because the doors and the rear unit were cut off at the height of the windows when it was delivered to us.” Along with the vintage photos, we also have a stack of invoice forms from J. Luc Bonnefoy Carrossier on file.
In 1992, shortly after the restoration was finished, Mr. Hervé Ogliastro would fall in love with this Delahaye 135M and bought it from Roger Tainguy. Ogliastro built a great relationship with the car and took part in numerous rallies behind the wheel, exhibited it at the Centre International de l’Automobile de Pantin, and even returned it to Montlhéry in March of 1994 to take a few laps on the track. Among his collection of rare and highly sought-after vehicles, it stayed in his climate-controlled garage and was maintained and looked after by his caretaker Francis Courteix. Parting ways with it in the latter part of 2017, the current consignor proudly took ownership of it and welcomed it into his own impressive, and award-winning car collection.
In a report written and provided to Worldwide Auctioneers by the President of Club Delahaye, Jean-Paul Tissot on January 9th of 2023, Tissot further confirms the history of this Delahaye and states, “Precisely, chassis # 46837 will be one of the six coupes, bearing the body number # 572,” The full report by Jean-Paul Tissot is on file.
Today, 46837, a genuine masterpiece born of race-bred engineering, still wears its restoration by expert Jean-Luc Bonnefoy. As is, it stands eligible for respected concours, shows, and tours throughout Europe and North America. From the minds of some of the greatest designers in automotive history and having been touched and examined by some of the top Delahaye experts, this one-of-only-six masterfully built Figoni et Falaschi-bodied 1936 Delahaye 135M Competition Court examples with documented known history dating back to its conception truly is a rare treasure and an important piece of automotive history.