#0065 - Delahaye 135 M Competition Cabriolet by Figoni et Falaschi, 1938
Photographed: Saint Michaels Concours d'Elegance, 2009. Owner: J. W. Marriott, Jr.
Morphology: Jumping straight at the beast, this 1938 Competition Cabriolet is among the most extravagent of the open Figoni et Falaschi cars. Although not so dramatic as the Cabriolet Torpedo, there's more chrome on the flanks and fenders, and more of a pretentious air in the way the car seems contentedly planted on the ground. The long tail and low deck line make the overall shape look a bit portly in the middle, a pronounced effect when the extra seat is opened. And compared to something like the Competition Court Coupe there's surely a lot of extra weight in both this rumble seat and the disappearing top mechanism. Even so, there's a heavy feeling about the car with the fenders stuck onto the sides in typical classic era fashion, absent of the sort of light touch Figoni et Falaschi were known for.
Of particular note, there's a bit of readjustment to the proportions of the car in order to accomodate that hidden, second bench. As this is a 135, the chassis should be of the same wheelbase as on the other examples in this collection, or 1,350 mm. However, the arc of the rear fender on most other contemporary examples starts immediately after the door, while the rear bulkhead of the passenger compartment extends back and up into the rear deck. The rear skirts then run up under and along this swell, creating a sporting tuck in the middle of the car. Not so for this example. Two points: First, the compartment ends abruptly after the bench seat, and second, the rear fender begins well after of the door. There's extra separation between the two elements—just look at how far back from the seat the rear fender appears—but there's no change in chassis size. It's just a matter of space management.
That said, the proportions are still quite good, particularly at the front, where the Delahaye grille is beautifully presented. Whereas the wild enveloppants and sweeping French curves devour attention on the Cabriolet Torpedo, here, the black finish and conventional platform let the shape of the grille stand out. It's a well known mark of high fashion—brightwork looks great on black paint. And, as I've mentioned before, dark shades also help to blend complex contours together, which promotes a singular, fluid form. But perhaps that's neither here nor there. The red leather interior trim turns this presentation into an exciting livery, not just another black car.
One last conventional attribute is the single-piece windscreen, although this element varies among examples of more sporting and less sporting intentions; it isn't really a viable indication of purpose.
Coachbuilt.com: Custom coachbuilder history.
"Motorcars of the Classic Era" by Michael Furman, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, New York, 2004, p.186-189 - Furman is short on content here, but show's why he's the man in automotive graphic arts.
Ultimatecarpage.com: Featuring a similar version, chassis #46864.
"Delahaye Styling and Design" by Richard Adatto and Diana Meredith, Photography by Michael Furman - It's generally better to go with Furman's Coachbuilt Press books because they pair his photography with well written history, making the finished product much more than mere eye candy.
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