1930 Delage D8N
Why am I an Automotive Masterpiece?
The Delage D8 was launched at the 1929 Paris Salon to rapturous praise from the motoring press. Designed by Louis Delâge’s long-term associate Maurice Gaultier, the D8 was powered by a smooth and silent 4.0-litre straight-eight overhead-valve engine breathing, in its normal 105bhp version, through a single Delage-built Smith-Barriquand five-jet carburettor. The chassis was a strong X-braced structure with servo-assisted braking. It was available in three chassis types: Normal (“that can accommodate very comfortable five/six-seater bodywork”); Long and Sport. Uniquely, each new model that Delage produced had the personal stamp of approval of Le Patron, Louis Delâge. The D8 owners included members of royal families – King Gustav V of Sweden, King Alexander of Yugoslavia, Prince George of Greece and Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia among them – as well as leading businessmen and politicians. Among the D8’s celebrity owners were aviation’s most celebrated partnership, Jim and Amy Mollison. The most glamorous film, stage and cabaret stars of the day, like Josephine Baker and Betty Spell, added sex appeal to the glorious coachwork that adorned the D8 chassis at the major concours d’elegance of the day. Also great actor Sir Peter Ustinov was an estimator of the Marque. France’s top carrossiers vied with one another to create beautiful bodywork on the D8 chassis, and among the most distinguished of these was Henri Chapron of Levallois-Perret, Paris. His work had a freshness and innate sense of proportion that was well suited to the long-bonneted Delage D8 chassis.
That instinctive elegance is well-illustrated by the handsome “Mouette” saloon bodywork on this car, with its fashionable forward sweep at the foot of the A-pillar, accentuated by the tasteful dark blue and mid-grey colour scheme, attested in a 1964 letter from no less than Henri Chapron himself to be the identical colour scheme applied to this car – chassis 34410 – when it left his coachworks on 9 March 1931, bound for Delage’s London agency J. (Jack) Smith & Co of 28 Albemarle Street, London W1. While its early history is unknown, a surviving registration document indicates that during the war years it served as a hackney carriage in the service of the Gordon Omnibus Company. After a couple of Londoners owners the car was purchased in 1964 by the renowned restaurateur André Surmain, founder of New York's Lutèce. He had the car shipped back to its native France by the French Line in May 1969. In 1980 the D8N was acquired by the “collectionneur avisé” José Lesur of Hardelot, former president of the marque club Les Amis de Delage. It was auctioned in 1989 and purchased by the dealer Bruno Vendiesse, who sold it to the present Italian owner in 1990.