1922 Delage CO2
Year of manufacture1922
1922 Delage CO2 4½-Litre Dual Cowl Tourer
Registration no. NNU 313
Chassis no. 12868
Introduced in 1921 as the Grand Sport, the Delage CO2 was the overhead-valve version of the lacklustre CO sidevalve and suffered somewhat by association with its dowdier progenitor. Fitted with a cross-flow cylinder head, the CO2's 4½-litre six-cylinder engine produced ample power, which was transmitted to the rear wheels via a four-speed gearbox. With a sturdy and stiff chassis and excellent four-wheel brakes, it was one of the most beautifully engineered and technologically advanced cars of the era. Only some 300 (including Grand Sport models) were produced.
Only a few Delage CO2s are known to have survived worldwide, which is perhaps unsurprising given the low production numbers. Another reason for the low survival rate was the cars' high aluminium content, which, unfortunately, meant that many European examples were scrapped during WW2 to cater for the demands of military aircraft production. Some CO2s were sold new in Australia through agents Joubert & Joubert and, without a war being waged on the doorstep, a few survived intact. On 15th February 1923, a CO2 broke the Melbourne to Sydney record with a time of 13 hours and 47 minutes, impressive when that same journey still takes at least nine hours on tarmac roads! Latterly, Owen Platt Hepworth competed with a CO2 in the Vintage Sports Car Club of Australia speed events, regularly ruffling the feathers of the Vauxhall and Bentley owners.
The early history of this fine CO2 is not known, the model's factory records having been destroyed, along with many of the cars, during WW2. The previous owner purchased this Delage, together with another, in the western district of Victoria, Australia. Both cars were dismantled but largely mechanically complete including radiators and bulkheads, but no coachwork was present.
The previous owner is a leading authority on Delage, and owned and managed one of Australia's foremost restoration companies: The Delage Garage, which restored this car between 2009 and 2012. Mechanical work was carried out in house under the watchful eye of the owner, with Ken Styles, a former toolmaker and meticulous engineer, responsible for machining and assembly. In the absence of any original coachwork, respected coachbuilder Richard Stanley constructed a torpedo body similar in style to those offered for the Delage chassis in period. Upholstery of the dual-cowl coachwork was entrusted to Blackmans & Melbourne, and is finished in ostrich hide rather than traditional leather.
In 2014 the Delage was imported into the UK and subsequently purchased by the current owner. Since purchasing the CO2, he and his wife have enjoyed numerous events with the car, both in the UK and on Malta where they have another residence. The Delage's first event post-purchase was The Royal Concours at Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh in 2015, where the car completed the pre-concours tour and was very well received. A copy of the event book containing the Delage's entry is in the file accompanying the car.
After the Royal Concours, and following a period of the engine running rich, a piston picked up as a result of the associated carbon build-up. Luckily the issue was diagnosed extremely quickly and practically no damage was caused apart from a shallow scoring of one cylinder bore. All of the repair work was entrusted to Barry Owen, a talented and experienced Vintage motor engineer, who at the time was based in Malta. While in his care, the CO2's engine was dismantled and de-coked, the cylinder bore honed, and new piston rings and a cylinder head gasket sourced. The engine was then carefully reassembled and tuned to perfection, with the triple Solex carburettors carefully balanced. Barry Owen commented that he was extremely impressed with the quality of the work carried out on the engine internals in Australia. All subsequent work has been entrusted to Barry Owen, who in recent years has moved his workshops from Malta back home to Anglesey.
Further works have included an overhaul of the electrical charging system to ensure that it works perfectly, while more recently the two sets of high-tension leads have been replaced. As well as the aforementioned Royal Concours, this fine Delage has also been a feature car at the Borders Vintage Automobile Club's annual Classic Festival at Thirlestane Castle, one of Scotland's biggest Vintage car events. Furthermore, it has also picked up numerous prizes at the Concours d'Élégance held for the Mdina Grand Prix on Malta.
Sold only due to the current owner's desire for a slightly more 'modern' 1930s touring car, this magnificent and rare Vintage sports-tourer is ideally suited to long-distance rallies and tours, being both comfortable and effortlessly fast from low revs.
The late Bill Boddy perhaps best sums up the CO2 when, in concluding an article about the CO Delages in Motor Sport (August 1997 edition, copy on file) he states: "So, among the great cars of the past, let us not forget this masterpiece of Monsieur Delage."