1937 Delage D8-120 Aerosport Coupe

he Delage D8 was a glamorous car with a very imposing radiator that had similarities to Hispano-Suiza. It was fast and had impeccable road holding. Although the Delage D8 series became one of the most desired high-performance cars in

Europe, they were quite expensive. Louis Delage was reluctant to change this image to suit the varying economic climate and after a falling-out with his co-directors, he left the company in 1935. Shortly afterward the firm merged with rival Delahaye. They retained their individuality, but became more selective with their range, and a new Delage D8-120 was introduced in 1937 incorporating hydraulic brakes, a revised Delahaye-style chassis with transverse-leaf independent front suspension and a Cotal electromagnetic gearbox. The engine was an eight-cylinder version of the existing six-cylinder Delahaye with a capacity of 4.3 liters, providing a healthy 95 bhp at 4,000 rpm in its initial form.

Starting in 1937 the D8-100 and D8-120 received several beautifully proportioned bodies by Chapron, Pourtout and Letourner et Marchand. Undoubtedly, the star of the D8-120 range was the stunning Aerosport, which was largely the work of the brilliant young son of Letourner, Marcel. Several journalists rank Marcel Letourner alongside Jean Bugatti as one of the finest young French body designers from the 1930s. The Coach Aerosport was met with huge international acclaim, and although it first appeared during the 1936-37 model year, this design was chosen to represent part of the French government’s automotive display at the 1939 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, New York.

Although historians differ on numbers, it would appear that a maximum of fourteen Aerosports were built and just seven are thought to have survived. Chassis 51018, pictured here, is truly a superb example of the classical Aerosport and was the fourth one built, completed in March 1937. The Aerosport design was shaped by the famous aerodynamicist Andreau and many of the details are borrowed from one of the most fantastic closed racing cars of the pre-war era, the 1937 streamlined Delage Berlinette V12 built for Le Mans. The car pictured is unique and more like the racing Berlinette than the other Aerosport coupes extant. It is thought that 51018 may have been an interim/prototype model for the later series, as it displays design features unique to both the earlier and later Aerosports.

Like all Aerosports, it really needs to be inspected in person to appreciate its outstanding beauty. Classic features include the fastback roof design with a central spine and split rear window. From the side profile the windowsills drop, matching the curve of the speared side moldings. The windows themselves follow the Labourdette Vutotal design, which eliminates conventional pillars by overlapping door and rear-quarter glass. There are fender skirts for the rear wheels and four glorious chrome exhaust pipes which feed into the right fender. Luxurious flowing fender lines and subtle curvatures blend along the whole length of the Delage, producing this rakish extravaganza.