1949 Delahaye 135 MS
Year of manufacture1949
Chassis n° 800514
- One of three Delahaye 135s bodied by Ghia
- Exceptional styling, designed by Boano and Segre
- The Shah of Iran's car
- Ex John O'Quinn collection
- The unique Delahaye 135 bodied by Mario Boano at Ghia Turin
The Delahaye 135, an extremely all-rounder car, was as comfortable on the track and in rallies (it won the Le Mans 24 Hours and the Monte-Carlo Rally) as it was on the lawns of the concours d'élégance, having a chassis that was easily adapted to coachbuilders' varied creations. It appeared at a time when French coachbuilding was still at its peak, and was bodied by the most important names including Antem, Chapron, Figoni, Labourdette, Pourtout ou Saoutchik.
However, after the war, bodywork styles were starting to change and coachbuilders hesitated about the direction to take : to stick with traditional designs influenced by the excesses of the 1930s and characterized by Figoni's 'Narval' styling, that ultimately led to an impasse ; and on the other hand the development of a new style that was evolving on the other side of the Alps. It is generally thought that the Cisitalia 202 Coupéé gave rise to this new direction, designed in 1947 by Pinin Farina, who developed a softer 'ponton' styling that characterized the Turin School for decades to come. Ghia sat at the crossroads of these trends : hesitating between nostalgic pre-war splendour and a new Italian style based on a smaller chassis that was more modern and sportier. At the time, Luigi Segre and Mario Boano were in charge of design at Ghia, and they took on board these different trends and translated them into new designs.
It must be remembered that Mario Felice Boano bought Ghia, the Turin coachbuilder, in 1944, on the death of its founder Giancinto Ghia. Thus, in 1946, a Fiat 1500 was bodied by Ghia Turin in the flamboyant style to be adopted by the Delahaye, with removable wheel fairings, thought to improve the aerodynamics of the car. This very special shape ( produced in collaboration with the designer Capalbi), was also subsequently used on a Talbot Lago Record, an Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 SS and three Delahaye 135s, that Jean-Paul Tissot, president of Club Delahaye France, has given us details of : a cabriolet (n°800488) bodied by Ghia Aigle and exhibited at the 1948 Geneva Motor Show, a Coupéé (n° 800573) also by Ghia Aigle, and the Coupéé presented here, bodied by Ghia Turin. The three cars all exist today, the cabriolet belonging to the Mahy Collection in Belgium.
This Coupéé, built on a 135 MS chassis, is a triple carburettor 120 bhp car that was the most powerful at that time. According to renowned Dutch specialist Vincent van der Vinne, a magazine article from 1965 states that this car was built for the Shah of Iran, who took delivery of it in 1949. A photo taken in the late 1950s shows him next to n° 800514.
The article also says that the Shah of Iran kept the car until 1957, the date it was sold to a KLM pilot, who imported it into Holland. He, in turn, sold the Delahaye in 1964 to a certain Mr. Wiltschut, the owner of a bakery business in Hilversum. The article gives the sale price as 60 000 Dutch florins, which was almost the price of a Ferrari 330 GT at the time. The car then joined the Blackhawk Collection in the US, where it was in 1989. It underwent a thorough and high quality restoration and appeared at an auction in Monaco in 2010, when it belonged to the O'Quinn Collection. This was when the current owner, a very selective French collector, bought the car, seduced by its originality. He has only used it sparingly since.
Today it is presented in superb condition, in metallic light blue which complements the light grey upholstery and the dashboard with pearlized buttons reflecting the level of luxury typical of this type of body. Positioned somewhere between swan song and new wave, this car provides a wonderful tribute to the inventiveness of coachbuilders and the lavishness of a bygone era. It will attract the attention of enthusiasts everywhere, whether being driven on the road or exhibited in a concours d'élégance.