1938 Peugeot 402
Year of manufacture1938
Dorothy Patten and Baron Rainer von Dorndorf, UK (acquired new in 1938)
Lt. R.J.B. Williams, Chatham, UK (acquired from the above in 1957)
Peter Rose, Brighton, UK (acquired from the above in 1960)
Current Owner (acquired from the above in 2009)
Paris – St. Raphaël Féminin, March 1939, Patten (4th Place)
Montlhéry Sporting Committee Cup Race, May 1939, von Dorndorf (2nd in 2-Litre Class)
The Fastest Sports Car Race, Brooklands, May 1939, Patten
BARC Brooklands, August 1939, von Dorndorf (Last Place)
Born in 1892, Emile Darl’mat shared his formative years with those of the automobile. After a four-year apprenticeship with famed aviation pioneer Clément Ader, and a brief sojourn to the US where he served as a chauffeur, the young Darl’mat returned to Paris to set up a small garage selling and repairing automobiles. In the years that followed, he became a licensed Panhard and Peugeot dealer and, by the early 1930s, he sold only Peugeots.
Determined to sell a unique and sought-after product, Darl’mat continuously experimented with the cars he had on offer. During that time, he also formed working relationships with two of the most prominent names in the French luxury car sector, Marcel Pourtout and Georges Paulin. The earliest collaboration between Darl’mat and Pourtout was displayed at the Salon de l’Automobile in 1927, and Darl’mat and Paulin worked together to create an aerodynamic body on the Peugeot 301 chassis that debuted at the World’s Fair in Chicago. Perhaps the most fruitful of Darl’mat’s early proposals was the Eclipse retracting roof system designed by Paulin, a concept that drew much attention to Peugeot’s new 302 series.
Underlying Darl’mat’s innovative spirit was a desire to elevate the Peugeot brand. By the mid-1930s, Darl’mat had become so respected that the factory gave him the access and resources needed to create his own Peugeot sports car, one that could rekindle the company’s once-sterling reputation in motorsports. With the assistance of Peugeot’s director of mechanical studies, Alfred Geauque, and his longtime collaborators Paulin and Pourtout, Darl’mat created one of the most enigmatic and artfully styled sports cars of all time: the Special Sport.
Built by Pourtout and sold by the Darl’Mat Peugeot dealership in Paris, the design was one of the most ravishing sports car shapes ever devised, combining the lithe grace of a true roadster with the chic stylishness of the Art Deco period, especially evident in the decorative yet functional yo-yo-shaped chrome trim pieces that cascade down the side of the low hood. The Darl’Mat prototype was shown at the Paris Motor Show in 1936, and Darl’Mat roadsters participated in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1937 and 1938, where they performed exceptionally well because of their lightweight and aerodynamic bodies. Just 104 Special Sport Roadsters were built by Pourtout between January 1937 and June 1938. Today, approximately 30 still exist, with chassis 400248 among the survivors. This car has had only four owners from new and was campaigned with gusto by its first owner, Dorothy Patten and Rainer von Dorndorf.
Dorothy Patten purchased the car new in 1938 and promptly took it to the track with her husband-to-be, Baron Rainer von Dorndorf. The first races entered by the blue-blooded couple took place in Paris and Montlhéry, but they soon decided to bring the car to England. By May 1939, chassis 400248 took part in “The Fastest Sports Car Race” at Brooklands, where Patten and her dazzling Darl’Mat charmed reporters and the public alike. The von Dorndorfs continued to race the car until 1948, when it was no longer competitive, but kept it until 1957 when it passed to Lt. R.J.B. Williams in Chatham. Lt. Williams kept 400248 for about three years, before selling it to its next long-term owner, Peter Rose of Brighton.
Peter Rose loved his Darl’Mat and kept his smart little roadster for 49 years, using it regularly. In 2009, the car was sold to the current owner, who commissioned a complete restoration, where great care was taken to retain the originality and authenticity of this exceptional survivor. In 2016, chassis 400248 took pride of place on the Peugeot stand at the posh Rétromobile show in Paris.
This rare Darl’Mat roadster has been loved, cared for, and used as it was intended, since the day it left Carrosserie Pourtout in 1938. It will cut a dashing figure at racing events, major concours, rallies, and tours. The Baroness von Dorndorf summed up the car when she was quoted by Autocar in 1942: “I can truthfully say the Darl’Mat is the most satisfying car I ever owned.”