1926 Delage Grand Prix – Car Profile Page Two
According to Delage expert, the late Alan Burnard, this car, chassis number four, was later raced by Robert Senechal, then by Lord Howe, before being purchased by Briton John Richard “Dick” Beattie Seaman.
Towards the end of 1935, Dick Seaman put the Delage into the hands of his erstwhile mechanic, Giulio Ramponi, with instructions to overhaul, improve and lighten the entire car.
Ramponi “upped” the compression, utilizing dome-shaped pistons, and carefully weighed, balanced, and tuned valves, rocker arms and camshafts, resulting in 185 bhp at 8,000 rpm. Ramponi also removed some 250 pounds from the car, resulting in a scale weight of 1,650 pounds.
Ramponi also did what he could to stiffen the flexible chassis, by the addition of two pieces of hard oak to the front frame rails under the radiator shell. This marginally improved the rigidity of the frame. Today the oak has been replaced by New Zealand beech wood.
Brakes were also upgraded to hydraulic, and an original five-speed transmission (a carry over from the earlier V12 Delage) was installed, replacing the Howe fitted heavy pre-selector gearbox.
Seaman, and his friend, Whitney Straight, considered that the only proper color for a race car was black. Hence the Seaman Black Delage.
Ramponi’s excellent preparation paid off, as the Delage, skillfully driven by Seaman, made quick work of the competition throughout the UK and Europe. Seaman’s string of major wins during the 1936 season brought him to the attention of Alfred Neubauer at Mercedes-Benz, which led to a ride on the famed Silver Arrows team. (See Richard Seaman – Driver Profile).
When Seaman left the amateur gentleman’s driver circle to become a factory Mercedes-Benz driver, he sold the Delage to Prince Chula of Siam. By the end of the World War II, Reg Parnell had acquired the Black Delage, along with most of the other 15-S-8 Delages and spares.
Sometime in the fifties Rob Walker acquired the Seaman Delage. Over the next 14 years Walker’s mechanic, John Chisman, restored it. Walker often entered the Delage for other drivers in VSCC events, while also driving it himself in various speed trials.
In 1968 Walker’s Formula 1 garage, with the Black Delage inside, burnt to the ground. Miraculously, the engine (which still turned over), chassis axles, steering box/column, springs, hubs, fuel tank, among other parts, remained virtually intact. However, the body, several of the aluminium castings and plumbing were lost. Nevertheless, Walker and Chisman once again restored the Delage and brought it back to life. From period automotive magazine and news reports it appears this restoration was close to a British national project with help coming from all parts of Britain.
December 1970 saw the reborn Black Delage reappear for the Jacky Ickx Motor Racing Show in Brussels. When it was started up, the exhibition center emptied: the deafening high C scream of the engine had driven exhibitors and fans alike from the hall.
From the Walker years until the present, this 1926 Delage Grand Prix 15-S-8 has seen few miles on any track. Recently rebuilt to full Seaman specification by Auto Restorations of New Zealand, we can now look forward to it becoming a frequent star at vintage and historic automobile events around the world.
1926 Delage Grand Prix – Photo Gallery (click image for larger picture and description)
[Source: Dennis Gray; Peter Giddings]