1936 Delahaye Type 135 Special

Delahaye had an enviable competition record, though most successes came either when the Germans didn’t show up or when they broke

Emile Delahaye built his first automobile in 1895 and in 1896 drove one of his cars to sixth place in the Paris-Marseilles-Paris race. Sporting ambition lurked in the background as his truck business was crippled by a glut of WWI surplus U.S. trucks.

Delahaye hung on, aided by a marriage of convenience with Chenard et Walcker and F.A.R. Tractor, until the 1930s when Ettore Bugatti urged him to rediscover his performance image.

The vehicle for Delahaye’s new direction was the Superluxe and its sports sibling, the Delahaye Type 135. The Type 135 engine was an OHV six with a cross-flow head and four main-bearing crank. It proved to be one of the most durable engines in racing history.

Delahaye’s sporting history in the 1930s is embodied by Laury and Lucy O’Reilly Schell. Lucy was the only child of an Irish-American millionaire who met Laury Schell in France. The two cut a swath through French society and the racing community.

Their team, Ecurie Bleue, eventually became the proxy for the Delahaye factory. Their son, Harry Schell, became a noted grand prix driver after the war. It was Ecurie Bleue and its driver, René Dreyfus, who won the famous “Million Franc Prize” for Delahaye in 1937.

IDEAL FOR THE 1936 RACING SEASON

The competition prospects for the Type 135 were embodied in the short wheelbase, 3,557-cc tri-carburetor, 160-horsepower, Delahaye Type 135 Special. The Type 135 Special featured additional engine cooling passages, a lighter and better balanced crankshaft, an 8.4:1 compression ratio, modified valve gear, and a high-lift cam. It breathed through six exhaust ports with individual headers.

All Type 135 Specials were bodied with lightweight two-seat coachwork with removable teardrop fenders, making them acceptable in both sports car and grand prix competition. Aggressively functional, gracefully styled, and effectively aerodynamic, the Type 135 Special was ideal for the 1936 French racing season.

At the conclusion of the 1936 season, Delahaye disbanded the factory team and sold this Type 135 Special to the Schells’ Ecurie Bleue, where it joined two others, chassis numbers 46835 and 47193. This car was modified for 1937 with the addition of doors and campaigned by Laury Schell.

He recorded a number of excellent results; third in the Mille Miglia with Carrière, third in the Tunis GP, and fifth in the GP de la Marne with René Dreyfus. Lucy O’Reilly Schell and a co-driver captured third overall in the Monte Carlo Rally. While it is believed that Dreyfus regularly raced chassis 47193, no satisfactory records or other evidence have been uncovered to identify specific race appearances for chassis 47189 other than the fifth place at the GP de la Marne.

After the war, 47189 raced in September 1945 in one of the first postwar events, the Coupe des Prisonniers race in the Bois de Boulogne, driven by Roger Wormser. Later, it was exported to Argentina through Harry Schell’s friend Georges Gath, where it was raced by a number of owners as late as 1966. It was acquired by Rudolfo Iriate “well-used,” with a Chevrolet engine and Fiat gearbox.

The body was rebuilt using the original coachwork as the templates and Iriate raced 47189 regularly into the late 1980s, when he sold it to Peter Agg in England. Agg sold it to Hugh Taylor in 1993, who passed it to Anthony Bamford, then Nicolas Springer in Germany. It was restored by Lukas Hüni in the mid-1990s.

The history of the Delahaye Type 135 was featured in Automobile Quarterly (volume 39, number 2, July 1999) and this car was singled out for the “Coda” spotlight as a “True Bleue Delahaye.”
Twelve of the 16 original Delahaye Type 135 Specials are believed to survive. The best performing were the two factory cars of the 1936 season and the Ecurie Bleue, which mounted a challenge to Mercedes-Benz, Auto Union and Enzo Ferrari’s Alfa Romeos. Type 135 Specials-and perhaps this very car-scored points in grands prix, sports car, and endurance events, driven by racing legends.