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Coachwork by Pourtout
From its unveiling at the 1935 Paris Salon de l’Automobile, Delahaye’s Type 135 chassis went on to become the marque’s mainstay for the remainder of its existence.
According to noted automotive historian David Burgess-Wise, the Type 135 was nothing less than “…the keystone of the survival plan which Delahaye, one of France’s oldest car manufacturers, had drawn up to cope with the crisis-hit Thirties.” Indeed, both the Type 135 chassis and its maker managed to survive the difficult 1940s into the 1950s.
Riding a new chassis designed by engineer Jean François with welded box section side members and pressed cross members welded to a ribbed floor pan, the Type 135 was capably powered by a 3,557 cc overhead valve inline “six” as used in the earlier Type 138, from which the transverse leaf-spring independent front suspension was also carried over. Enthusiastically received from launch, the Type 135 was technically advanced and delightful to drive with its light steering feel, independent front suspension, Cotal electro-magnetic preselector gearbox, and large 14" Bendix brakes.
Without doubt, the heart of the 135 was its engine, renowned for smoothness with its counterbalanced reciprocating assembly. The top-specification, triple-carbureted “MS” or “Modifé Speciale” produced a robust 160 hp output, sufficient for a 120 mph top speed depending upon the coachwork specified. Of its performance, editors from the UK’s The Motor wrote, “There are few cars with such superb roadholding and steering, such performance and such instantly responsive controls.” A technical and stylistic tour de force in all respects, the Type 135 in all of its variations remains an unqualified Classic Era high-water mark.
Delahaye had no in-house coachworks, so bodies typically came from the era’s top suppliers, including Franay, Figoni et Falaschi, Saoutchik, Pennock, and Marcel Pourtout. Founded in 1925 by Marcel Pourtout, Carrosserie Pourtout was one of the most successful of France’s celebrated custom coachbuilders of the prewar and immediate postwar years. With an elite clientele including former French Prime Minister Georges Clémenceau, Pourtout produced bespoke coachwork on most of the era’s top luxury chassis, including Ballot, Bugatti, Buick, Delage, Delaunay-Belleville, Hispano-Suiza, Minerva, Peugeot, Talbot-Lago, and Voisin. In particular, Pourtout’s bodies on the Delahaye Type 135 were masterworks of proportion and refnement, perfectly matching the capabilities of the “MS” chassis.
This 1948 Delahaye 135 MS Cabriolet features Pourtout’s extremely rare “Malmaison” body style, so-named after the location of the workshops Pourtout acquired in 1936 located in Rueil-Malmaison outside of Paris, where he also served as mayor from 1941 to 1944, and again from 1947 to 1971. According to the owner, a knowledgeable collector of European cars, this automobile is one of as few as four “Malmaison” Cabriolets built in period, and one of the two examples with this specifc and more desirable frontal styling. Possessed of sheer elegance, the Pourtout Cabriolet is also highly versatile with its top raised, lowered, or in the “Milord” or demi-cabriolet setup, providing additional distinction as a well-crafted hallmark of the 1930s French school of designers.
According to the consignor both the engine and Cotal preselector gearbox were restored only a few thousand miles ago. The restoration also included attention to the paint, interior, and engine bay. Sleek and impressive, this 1948 Delahaye 135 MS Three-Position Cabriolet is a fitting and enduring tribute to the inspired genius of Marcel Pourtout, his designers, and craftsmen. Certainly, it will conjure vivid images of 1930s concours events, exotic locales, and intriguing liaisons everywhere it appears.