The little-known roadster is a fine piece of French automotive history.
As the Las Vegas Concours d'Elegance wraps up, the jurors have decided that the 1951 Delahaye 235 Roadster should be handed the Best of Show Award above the other 230 cars in attendance belonging to 15 varying classes. The quirky but classy French sports car, limited to just 84 units in the world, was awarded the title because of its impeccable preservation and correct restoration.
There's a big chance that most of you will only be learning about this car for the first time and that's because the brand that built it went defunct three years after building the 235 Roadster. The brand enjoyed relative success from the time it was founded in 1894 by Emile Delahaye, but like many manufacturers of the era, the two World Wars just put too much of a financial strain to keep things going.
This is a pity because Delahaye was known to be a manufacturer who had the coachbuilding skills to compete with the likes of Rolls-Royce and even Bugatti, two of the greatest of all time. If things had gone a different way, we could have been treated to worthy competitors for the Rolls-Royce Phantom and Bentley Continental Flying Spur with the Delahaye badge.
This model is owned by none other than Peter Mullin who appears to have a love for the brand as he recently sent his priceless 1939 Delahaye Type 165 over to The Guggenheim Museum in Spain for an exclusive exhibition. While the 235 Roadster isn't as flashy, we have to appreciate the finer details and how impressive they are considering it is over 70 years old. It was able to rake in the Chairman's Choice award at last year's Concorso d'Eleganza at Villa d'Este.
The 235 makes full use of the enveloped design cues which can be seen on the fenders. An enlarged steering wheel with a chrome rim and crown badge was applied so that the sports car could appeal more to American consumers. This was a cheeky means of mimicking Cadillac's iconic design, but with a French twist.
Although it was a new car, Delahaye built the 235 Roadster on its prewar Type 135 MS chassis and kept the 3.5-liter straight-six. The powertrain was fitted with a new camshaft and carburetors to give it a respectable output of 150 horsepower. Keeping the chassis relatively light was the use of aluminum panels for the front of the body and steel for the rear.
The chassis seen here, identified as 818005, is part of the first few models constructed by Delahaye before the business was sold off to the Brandt organization. It was owned by a French collector for 50 years before being stored in a barn in 1964 once it had stopped functioning.
Jacques "Frenchy" Harguindeguy, an American collector reigning from Walnut Creek, California, discovered the car in France in 2006 and placed it on the fields of the 2007 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance without any restoration. Shortly after this, Mullin took ownership of the car and invested to have it restored as you see it here today.