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Founder(s)Emile Delahaye
HeadquartersTours (France)
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This article is about the automobile manufacturer. For other uses, see Delahaye (disambiguation).
Founder(s)Emile Delahaye
HeadquartersTours (France)

Delahaye automobile manufacturing company was started by Emile Delahaye in 1894, in Tours, France. His first cars were belt-driven, with single- or twin-cylinder engines. In January 1901, Delahaye left the company due to his failing health.


Delahaye 135 MS Pourtout cabriolet

Delahaye began experimenting with belt-driven cars while at the Brethon locomotive works, at Tours, in 1894.[1] These experiments encouraged an entry in the 1896 Paris–Marseille–Paris race, held between 24 September-3 October 1896, fielding one car for himself and one for sportsman Ernest Archdeacon.[2] The winning Panhard averaged 15.7 mph (25.3 km/h); Archdeacon came sixth, averaging 14 mph (23 km/h), while Delahaye himself was eighth, averaging 12.5 mph (20.1 km/h).[2]

For the 1897 Paris-Dieppe, the 6 hp (4.5 kW; 6.1 PS) four-cylinder[3] Delahayes ran in four- and six-seater classes, Archdeacon third in the four-seaters behind a De Dion-Bouton and a Panhard, Courtois winning the six-seater class, ahead of the only other car in the class.[2]

In March 1898, 6 hp (4.5 kW; 6.1 PS) Delahayes of Georges Morane and Courtois came sixteenth and twenty-eighth at the Marseilles-Nice rally, while at the Course de Perigeux in May, De Solages finished sixth in a field of ten.[2] The July Paris-Amsterdam-Paris earned a satisfying class win for Giver in his Delahaye; the overall win went to Panhard.[2]

The same year, Société des Automobiles Delahaye moved manufacturing from Tours to Paris and a new factory (a former hydraulic machinery plant), where Delahaye himself was joined by Morane (whose father owned the new facility) and Leon Desmarais, while Charles Weiffenbach was named manager.[2] Delahaye would produce three models there from then until the close of the 19th century: two twins, the 2.2-litre 4.5 hp (3.4 kW; 4.6 PS) Type 1 and 6 hp (4.5 kW; 6.1 PS) Type 2, and the lighter Type 0 (which proved capable of up to 22 mph (35 km/h)), with a 1.4-liter single rated between 5 and 7 hp (3.7 and 5.2 kW; 5.1 and 7.1 PS).[4] All three had bicycle-style steering, water-cooled engines mounted in the rear, automatic valves, surface carburetors, and trembler coil ignition; drive was a combination of belt and chain, with three forward speeds and one reverse.[4]

In 1899, Archdeacon piloted an 8 hp (6.0 kW; 8.1 PS) racer in the Nice-Castellane-Nice rally, coming eighth, while teammate Buissot's 8 hp (6.0 kW; 8.1 PS) was twelfth.[4]

Founder Emile Delahaye retired in 1901, leaving Desmarais and Morane in control; Weiffenbach took over from them in 1906.[4]

The new 10B debuted in 1902.[4] It had a 2,199 cc (134.2 cu in) (100 by 140 mm (3.9 by 5.5 in)) vertical twin rated 12/14 hp by RAC, mounted in front, with removable cylinder head, steering wheel (rather than bicycle handles or tiller), and chain drive.[4] Delahaye also entered the Paris-Vienna rally with a 16 hp (12 kW; 16 PS) four; Pirmez was thirty-seventh in the voiturette class. At the same year's Ardennes event, Perrin's 16 hp (12 kW; 16 PS) four came tenth.[4]

Also in 1902, the singles and twins ceased to be offered except as light vans; before production ceased in 1904, about 850 had been built.[4]

Delahaye's first production four, the Type 13B, with 24/27 hp 4.4-litre, appeared in 1903.[4] The model range expanded in 1904, including the 4.9-litre 28 hp (21 kW; 28 PS) four-cylinder Type 21, the mid-priced Type 16, and the two-cylinder Type 15B.[4] These were joined in 1905 by a chain-driven 8-litre luxury model, one of which was purchased by King Alfonso.[4]

All 1907 models featured half-elliptic springs at the rear as well as transverse leaf springs, and while shaft drive appeared that year, chain drive was retained on luxury models until 1911.[5] In 1908, the Type 32 was the company's first to offer an L-head monoblock engine.[6]

Protos began licence production of Delahayes in Germany in 1907, while in 1909, h. M. Hobson began importing Delahayes to Britain.[5] Also in 1909, White pirated the Delahaye design; the First World War interrupted any efforts to recover damages.[5]

Delahaye pioneered the V6 engine in 1911, with a 30° 3.2-litre twin-cam, in the Type 44; the model was not a success and production stopped in 1914.[5]

At the Paris factory, Delahaye continued to manufacture cars and trucks. By the end of World War I, their major income was from their truck business.

After the war, Delahaye switched to assembly line production, following the example of Ford, hampered by the "extensive and not particularly standardised range".[5] Collaboration with FAR Tractor Company and Chenard-Walcker did not last.[5]

At the 1933 Paris Salon, Delahaye showed the Superluxe, with a 3.2-litre six, transverse independent front suspension, and Cotal preselector or synchromesh-equipped manual transmission.[5] It would be accompanied in the model range by a 2,150 cc (131 cu in) four (essentially a cut-down six), and a sporting variant, the 18 Sport.[5]

In 1934, Delahaye set eighteen class records at Montlhéry, in a specially-prepared, stripped and streamlined 18 Sport.[5] They also introduced the 134N, a 12cv car with a 2.15-litre four-cylinder engine, and the 18cv Type 138, powered by a 3.2-litre six — both engines derived from their successful truck engines. In 1935, success in the Alpine Trial led to the introduction of the sporting Type 135 "Coupe des Alpes". By the end of 1935, Delahaye had won eighteen minor French sports car events and a number of hill-climbs, and came fifth at Le Mans.[7]

Racing success brought success to their car business as well, enough for Delahaye to buy Delage in 1935, and keep Delages successfully in production for a period,[5] while the truck business also continued to thrive. Some of the great coachbuilders who provided bodies for Delahayes include Figoni et Falaschi, Chapron, and Letourneur et Marchand.

Delahaye ran four 160 hp (120 kW; 160 PS) cars (based on the Type 135)[8] in the 1936 Ulster TT, placing second to Bugatti, and entered four at the Belgian 24 Hours, coming 2-3-4-5 behind an Alfa Romeo.[7]

American heiress Lucy O'Reilly Schell approached the company with an offer to pay the development costs to build cars to her specifications for rallying. In 1937, René Le Bègue and Julio Quinlin won the Monte Carlo Rally driving a Delahaye. Delahaye also ran first and second at Le Mans.[4] Against the government-sponsored juggernauts Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union, Delahaye brought out the Type 145, powered by a new, complicated 4½-liter V12 with three camshafts, pushrod-actuated valves, dual ignition, and triple carburettors.[4] Called "Million Franc Delahaye" after a victory in the Million Franc Race, it was driven by René Dreyfus to an average speed 91.07 mph (146.56 km/h) over 200 kilometres (120 mi) at Montlhéry in 1937, earning a Fr200,000 prize from the government.[7] Dreyfus also scored a victory in the Ecurie Bleu Type 145 at Pau, relying on superior fuel economy to beat the more powerful Mercedes-Benz W154, in 1938.[7] Type 135s also won the Paris-Nice and Monte Carlo Rallys, and Le Mans, that year, while a V12 model was fourth in the Mille Miglia.[7] These victories combined with French patriotism to create a wave of demand for Delahaye cars, up until the German occupation of France during World War II. The Type 145 was also the basis for a small number of touring Type 165s.[7]

In early 1940, over 100 cars of the Type 134N, Type 175, and Type 168 (Renault-bodied) types were built for the French government. Private sales effectively ceased around June, but small numbers of cars continued to be built for the occupying forces until at least 1942.

After the Second World War[edit]

After World War II, in late 1945, production of the Type 135 was resumed, all with new styling by Philippe Charbonneaux.[7] The Type 175, with a 4.5-litre six, was introduced in 1948; this, and the related Type 180, proved unsuccessful.[7] The Type 175 was replaced by the Type 235 in 1951, with an uprated 135 engine producing 152 hp (113 kW; 154 PS).[7] After the war, the depressed French economy and an increasingly punitive tax regime aimed at motoring in general and at cars with engines above 2-litres in particular made life difficult for luxury auto-makers. Like all the principal French automakers, Delahaye complied with government requirements in allocating the majority of its vehicles for export, and in 1947 88% of Delahaye production was exported (compared to 87% of Peugeot and 80% of Talbot output), primarily to French colonies. Nevertheless, Delahaye volumes, with 573 cars produced in 1948 (against 34,164 by the market leader, Citroen), were unsustainably low.[9]

Until the early 1950s a continuing demand for military vehicles enabled the company to operate at volumes, primarily thanks to demand for the Type 163 trucks, sufficient to keep the business afloat.[10]

A 1-ton capacity light truck sharing its 3.5-litre engine with the company's luxury cars (albeit with lower compression ratios and power output) made its debut at the 1949 Paris Motor Show.[10] During the next twelve months, this vehicle, the Type 171, spawned several brake-bodied versions, the most interesting of which were the ambulance and 9-seater familiale variant. The vehicle's large wheels and high ground clearance suggest it was targeted at markets where many roads were largely dust and mud, and the 171 was, like the contemporary Renault Colorale which it in some respects resembled, intended for use in France's African colonies. The vehicle also enjoyed some export success in Brazil, and by 1952 the Type 171 was being produced at the rate of approximately 30 per month.

As passenger car sales slowed further the last new model, a 2.0-litre Jeep-like vehicle known as VLRD (Véhicule Léger de Reconnaissance (Delahaye)), sometimes known as the VRD, was released in 1951.[10] The French army believed that this vehicle offered a number of advantages over the "traditional" American built Jeep of the period. During 1953 the company shipped 1,847 VRDs as well as 537 "special" military vehicles: the number of Delahaye- or Delage-badged passenger cars registered in the same year was in that context near negligible at 36.

Financial difficulties created by an acute shortage of wealthy car buyers intensified. In August 1953 the company laid off more than 200 workers and salaried employees.[11] Rumours of management discussions with Hotchkiss over some sort of coming together proved well founded. Hotchkiss were struggling with the same problems, but it was hoped that the two businesses might prove more resilient together than separately, and an agreement was signed by the company presidents, Pierre Peigney for Delahaye and Paul Richard for Hotchkiss, on 19 March 1954.[11] Delahaye shareholders agreed the protocol, which amounted to a take over of Delahaye by Hotchkiss, less than three months later, on 9 June.[11] Hotchkiss shut down Delahaye car production by at the end of 1954, for a brief period selling trucks with the Hotchkiss-Delahaye nameplate. The combined firm was eventually itself taken over by Brandt, and by 1956, the Delahaye name disappeared.[7]


1899 built vehicle in 2006

Picture gallery[edit]


  1. ^ Hull, Peter. "Delahaye: Famous on Road and Race Track", in Ward, Ian, executive editor. World of Automobiles (London: Orbis, 1974), Volume 5, p.521.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Hull, p.521.
  3. ^ Hull, p.521 caption.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Hull, p.522.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Hull, p.523.
  6. ^ Hull, p.522 caption.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Hull, p.524.
  8. ^ Hull, p.523 caption.
  9. ^ "Automobilia". Toutes les voitures françaises 1948 (salon Paris oct 1947) (Paris: Histoire & collections). Nr. 7: Page 26. 1998. 
  10. ^ a b c "Automobilia". Toutes les voitures françaises 1953 (salon Paris oct 1952) (Paris: Histoire & collections). Nr. 19: Page 23. 2000. 
  11. ^ a b c "Automobilia". Toutes les voitures françaises 1954 (salon [Oct] 1953) (Paris: Histoire & collections). Nr. 24: p. 24. 2002. 

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