Amelia Island

9 March 2013

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Lot 138

1947 Delahaye 135 MS Coupe by Langenthal

  • Chassis no. 800490
  • Engine no. 800490

Sold for $330,000

160 bhp, 3,557 cc OHV inline six-cylinder engine, independent front suspension with transverse leaf spring, live rear axle with quarter elliptic springs, and four-wheel assisted mechanically-actuated Bendix drum brakes. Wheelbase: 114 in.

  • The most desirable Delahaye “Modifie Speciale” chassis
  • One-off Swiss custom coachwork
  • Exceptional original condition, with 14,000 miles

Delahaye’s most famous model remains the 135, introduced at the 1935 Paris Auto Show and produced until 1951. It was the foundation of all Delahaye models to follow and was produced in several different iterations, the most desirable and powerful of which was the 135 MS, or “Modifie Speciale,” introduced in 1938. Equipped with three carburetors, its inline six-cylinder engine produced 135 horsepower. That is not an impressive number today, but in the 1930s, the 135 MS’ top speed of 100 mph ranked it among the fastest automobiles in the world, and it could return up to 25 mpg, making it surprisingly fuel efficient for the time. This efficiency led to racing versions of the chassis, winning many victories, including Le Mans.

The car offered here is an early, post-war 135 MS, and it is also one of two Delahayes with coachwork by Swiss coachbuilder Langenthal. While not widely remembered today, in its time, Langenthal was well-known for the high quality and beautiful design of its work, which on this car includes sweeping “teardrop” fenders and two-tone paintwork set off by audacious curves. Reportedly, this car was originally delivered as a cabriolet. The original owner returned it to the coachbuilder, complaining of poor rear visibility and wind noise. Langenthal responded by fabricating a removable hardtop for the car. Once more, the Delahaye was returned, this time with complaints about the size and weight of the top, and as a result, the roof was permanently fixed to the car. Presumably, the customer was now sated, and the Delahaye was finally enjoyed.

The interior is a classic French Grand Touring of the 1940s, showing the inspiration of other French coachbuilders, with wide dashboard gauges, beautiful leather upholstery, and, naturally, a glass ashtray. All of that, and a large trunk, was everything one required to cross the Alps in high style in 1947. The radiator mascot, a frog poised to leap, adds a pleasant whimsical touch, and it suggests the pent-up power lurking beneath the hood.

The car is believed to have remained in France, in the ownership of a single family for many years. It was acquired there by an American enthusiast and was eventually passed into the hands of noted collector Gordon Apker, in whose ownership it became widely known.

Possessed by its present caretakers for over a decade, the Delahaye was voted Most Photogenic at the Concours d’Elegance of America at St. John’s in 2011, and in 2012, it graced the lawns of Pebble Beach, Palos Verdes, and the Louisville Concours d’Elegance. In addition to its show appearances, the car was featured in the October 2002 issue of Collectible Automobile magazine, as well as in Stuart Leuthner’s book, Wheels: A Passion for Collecting Cars. Importantly, it has made these appearances as it appears today, as one of the most original Delahayes extant. It is believed that the silver paint was redone some time ago, with the blue stripe added to the flanks sometime later. With the exception of that repaint, the car remains in largely unrestored condition, as it was delivered in 1947, and it is still in outstanding form, as it should be with only 14,000 actual miles on the odometer. Mechanical work in the present owner’s care has been limited largely to the replacement of the rear axle and the installation of whitewall tires.

Post-war Delahayes were among the greatest of coachbuilt French automobiles. This car desirably combines low-mileage original condition, unique Swiss bodywork, and a fascinating story that defines the era, when “custom” meant a car tailored, like a suit, to its owner’s whims and fancy.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

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California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

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United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

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Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig

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California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

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United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

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Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

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Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

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California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

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Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

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California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

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United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

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Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

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United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

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United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

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Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

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California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

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United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more