Auctions and Brokerage
Coachwork by Pourtout
*Please note this vehicle is titled 1932.
Dax Auto, Dax, France (acquired in 1966)Andre Surmain, Mougins, France (acquired from the above in August 1966)Albert Prost, Paris, France (acquired from the above in June 1978)Current Owner (acquired from the above)
Mougins Concours d’Elegance, 1978 (First Place)
The Delage D8 may be the epitome of Art Deco engineering and styling. Coachbuilders of the period, especially French ones, often selected Delage to showcase their work. Known for unstinting craftsmanship, world speed records, and its racing championships, the sheer allure of the Delage marque was such that celebrities, royal families, and leading businessmen were among the marque’s customers.
Louis Delâge established his marque’s reputation for quality by driving prototypes so that he could identify their faults first. He would lap France, visiting each of his dealers and asking their opinions of the car, covering six or seven hundred miles in a day, which – as Autocar’s continental correspondent W.F. Bradley pointed out – was “about as much as a human being could stand under the road conditions of that time.”
Always associated with the very best in precision engineering, a Delage won the Indianapolis 500 in 1913, held the land speed record in 1923, and swept the 1927 Grand Prix Championship for Makers, the forerunner to modern Formula 1. The D8 is widely considered Delage’s pinnacle road car. Designed by Maurice Gaultier and launched in 1929, it was powered by a four-liter overhead-valve straight eight and, depending upon the body the customer intended to have fitted, was available in three chassis lengths. The D8 S of 1933 used a new cylinder head to deliver improved performance, with the extra 15 hp endowing the D8 S with 100 mph-plus performance.
The D8s set records at Montlhéry between 1931 and 1933, won concours, and was one of the best grand touring cars available. Race driver Robert Sénéchal drove one more than 4,000 miles in just eight days in a colossal round-trip between European capitals. Understandably, company literature described this feat as “The world’s finest road performance … on any car, at any price!”
The body of this Delage D8 S Cabriolet was built by Pourtout for its stand at the 1933 Paris Auto Show. With well-proportioned, balanced lines that are rakish without being overstated, the clean shape of the body is emphasized by the tall, narrow grille with thermostatic shutters and period-correct Marchal headlights. By using a two-color palette, the streamlined shape of the fenders is exaggerated – 38237 looks as good with the roof up as it does down.
Although the details of 38237’s first 30 years have been lost, the car’s provenance since the mid-1960s reads likes something out of an epic novel. War hero and internationally acclaimed restaurateur Andre Surmain bought 38237 from a Peugeot dealer in Dax, France, in 1966, which is still in operation today. Mr. Surmain, who was born in Cairo and grew up in Paris, moved to the US after the fall of France in 1940. He served with the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of today’s CIA, and parachuted into occupied France a few weeks before the Normandy landings of D-Day. After the war, he opened the Lutèce restaurant in 1961; in 1963, it was described in a James Bond story by Ian Fleming as “one of the great restaurants in the world.” A few years later Mr. Surmain returned to France to open another restaurant, Le Relais, in Mougins (near Cannes), which won a remarkable two Michelin stars in under four years.
In 1978, Mr. Surmain sold 38237 to Albert Prost, who won the Mougins Concours d’Elegance at the second international Delage meeting. This stunning Delage – presented with an older restoration that is beginning to show its age – will give its new owner an opportunity to restore it to its former glory, and it would surely be a welcome entry at concours d’elegance events throughout the world. Few cars carry such a combination of fabulous style and excellent provenance as this truly wonderful one-of Delage.