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Delahaye 135 Competition Court Torpedo Roadster by Figoni et Falaschi, #48667, 1937

  • One of two original surviving cars of its kind, chassis #48667 is perhaps the most noteworthy of many ostentatious Figoni et Falaschi roadsters. The design originated on the advertising pages of Geo Ham, born Georges Hamel, a French illustrator whose eye for depicting motion we now think upon as classically representative of Art Deco style. Ham threatened a lawsuit over a conspicuous lack of credit for his ideas—he had drafted concept sketches for what became the first Torpedo Roadster, chassis #47247, which debuted at the 1936 Paris Motor Show—leading to an agreement with Figoni. With a number of chassis already bodied in this style, the next three cars to use the Geo Ham style—the sixth, seventh, and eighth in the series—would be given brass plates identifying his contribution to the design. This car, #48667, still wears it's original plate—which you will see is the small rectangle behind the door—and it reads: "Creation Figoni-Falaschi-Geo Ham modele depose No. 7."
  • The two defining features of the Torpedo Roadster are, first, the fully enclosed fender pods, which Figoni described as "enveloppantes," and second, the French curve as a body styling device. Together with the elliptical paint overtop the wheels and the era's requisite dorsal fin, these features were popularized through printed media. Here, Figoni et Falaschi bring these lines to life on the right chassis with the correct proportions.
  • According to RM Auctions, it is possible Delahaye commissioned chassis #48667 for themselves. No owner was listed, and the car was retained by the factory. Noting that the motor is the high-compression MS specification, RM also suggest that it was the factory to have made the upgrade in 1939, as the motor still wears matching numbers. Various sites and sources will often list this car as a 135 M, and that isn't far from correct, either. Chassis #48667 was originally stamped as a 135 M, though strictly speaking it is a non-production model.
  • Chassis #48667 came to New York later in 1939, where it was displayed at the World's Fair in Flushing Meadow. Photographer Bob Grier purchased this car from the show stands, along with a Delage D8-120 Cabriolet Deltasport. In the post-War years, Grier made steady use of the car as a hill-climb special. RM report that Grier and his Delahaye were photographed at speed from 1947 to 1950, appearing in Road & Track, MoToR, and Motor Trend magazine. To keep the car in fine fettle, Grier purchased a stock of spare parts directly from Delahaye in 1948. He kept the car until 1963.
  • In 1964, one Malcolm Pray, Jr. visited a used car market on Jerome Avenue near High Bridge in Brooklyn. There he found chassis #48667, now painted red and black. Remarkably, Mr. Pray had seen the same car at the New York World's Fair in 1939. During that first encounter, Pray was eleven years old, but already keen enough on automobiles to have fallen for the design, sketching it out afterward. He kept the sketch, and—red and black livery notwithstanding—recognized the car 25 years later.
  • So it was that the late Mr. Pray came to own one of the finest examples of the Figoni-bodied Delahaye—not through recognition of provenance or obsession with market value, but by the genuine affectations of childhood wonder. Like the car's previous owner, Malcolm Jr. also enjoyed the car for its sporting character and open touring potential, driving it well on weekends and vacations for 30 years. Not until 1994 did the car attend concours events, but even so it remained a runner first, and a show car second.

 

Last Updated: Oct 1, 2017