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Delahaye 235 Coupe par Saoutchik (1952)

Delahaye’s final luxury model, the 235, was introduced in 1952, bearing a refined version of the famous 135 chassis and engine, now increased to 160 bhp, and a dramatic new grille courtesy of Philippe Charbonneaux. It proved too little too late, and just 84 examples of this chassis were produced before Delahaye production came to an end in 1954.

Inarguably the most beautiful and audacious 235s were the flamboyant, artistic designs created on a pair of chassis by Carrosserie J. Saoutchik. One of these was this car, chassis no. 818039, a spectacular modern, airy fastback coupe with a large curved rear window, in three sections; headlights integrated into the top of the front fenders, with fog lights mounted below; and a one-piece windshield, providing a light and uncluttered effect. The gorgeous flowing fender lines and elegant chromed “notch” in the rear fins, a nod to Pininfarina styling of the time, combined with pillarless windows and a restrained use of chrome to make an exceptionally well-proportioned and glamorous four-seater coupe.

Saoutchik exhibited the coupe, finished in Velasquez Gray with a blue leather interior, as the literal centerpiece of their stand at the 1952 Paris Salon, then once more at the concours held at the casino in Enghien-les-Bains on 20 June 1953, where it received the Grand Prix d’Honneur.

The car’s first owner is unknown; it is first known to have been registered in 1959 to a Claude Martin, in the department of Seine-et-Oise, as 5678 CX 78; this location’s proximity to Enghien-les-Bains indicates that it was likely sold new there following the concours. It reappeared again in 1979, for sale from Martin at the Château de Bressuire, by which time it had been finished in French Racing Blue! In 1984 it was acquired by Jean-Claude Aubriet, the French racing driver known for his many entrants in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, who retained it for the next three years. By this time it had gained the sliding sunroof, believed to have been a period installation.

The Delahaye was brought to the U.S. in the late 1980s, and was restored by the late Mike Fennel in its present rich metallic aubergine hue, with a supple tan interior; importantly, it is very true to its original form, including the correct chrome “sweep” on the flanks of the body, with no extraneous brightwork or flourishes. Only the original bumpers were removed, and replaced with delicate chrome “bumperettes,” lightening and arguably improving the design. In this form, the car was presented at the 1990 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, winning a class award. It has been kept since in a private collection, and remains in very nice overall condition. The engine block bears its original, correct casting numbers, indicating that it is the original unit, and the car is also believed to retain its original chassis number tag.

Darin Schnabel ©2018 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s