The vehicles for Delahaye’s new strategic direction were the Superluxe and its sports sibling, the Delahaye Type 135. The Superluxe’s and Type 103’s engine, a long-stroke, pushrod-operated, overhead-valve, four-main-bearing, F-head inline-six, was designed by Jean François, under the direction of Delahaye’s technical director, Amédée Varlet, and it would become one of the most versatile, long-lived engine designs in history.
At the same time, Delahaye engineer Jean François was hard at work on a new chassis, the Type 135, which would complement the more powerful engine. The chassis was a particularly advanced assembly for its time, with boxed rectangular rails, a central cross-member, and a welded-in floor, which contributed to additional stiffness and rigidity. The front suspension was independent and used its transverse leaf spring as the lower control arm.
The road going version of the Type 135 was introduced at the 1935 Paris Salon, where it was offered with two engine sizes and two aspiration options, yielding a choice of 95 horsepower, 120 horsepower, and two 110 horsepower configurations. The competition prospects for the Type 135 were embodied in a fifth model, the short-wheelbase Delahaye Type 135 Special, which had a 3,557-cubic centimetre engine with triple carburettors that could produce 160 horsepower. The Type 135 Special was more than just highly tuned, as it also featured additional engine-block cooling passages, a lighter and better-balanced crankshaft that was capable of higher rpms, an 8.4:1 compression ratio cylinder head, a modified valve gear, and a high-lift cam. It breathed through three horizontal Solex carburettors and had six exhaust ports with individual exhaust header pipes.
All the Type 135 Specials were bodied with similar lightweight, two-seat coachwork with removable teardrop wings, making them acceptable in both sports car and grand prix competition. They were aggressively functional, gracefully styled, and effectively aerodynamic, and their rugged, naturally aspirated engines and dual-purpose functionality made the Delahaye Type 135 Special the ideal race car for the 1936 French racing season.
The Automobile Club de France had proposed a series of French races for “sport-competition” cars, which were designed to avoid the dominance of German and Italian marques in grand prix. Included in the ACF’s schedule, in addition to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, was the French Grand Prix, which was the proudest laurel any French auto manufacturer could win.
The French Grand Prix was held at Montlhèry, located just outside of Paris, on 28 June 1936, and it took place over a distance of 1,000 kilometres. The Delahaye Type 135 Specials threw a scare into Bugatti, as they finished 2nd through 5th, behind Wimille and Sommer in an envelope-bodied Bugatti Type 57G. Albert Perrot and co-driver Dhome finished 5th, just behind Laury Schell and René Carrière. Schell had finished 2nd in the 3 Hours of Marseilles, which was held a month before on the Miramas circuit, and it was part of a sweep of the top six positions by Delahaye Type 135 Specials. Two weeks after the French Grand Prix, Schell and Carrière finished 3rd overall at the 24 Hours of Spa. Delahaye’s hopes of adding the victory wreath from the 24 Hours of Le Mans to the company’s history was unfortunately interrupted by 1936’s social and labour unrest in France, which forced the cancellation of the endurance classic.
Chassis 46094 is one of the sixteen Delahaye 135 S Competition models that were built specially for racing by the factory and selected clients. The entire illustrious racing and owner history of this car has been carefully researched and documented by French authority Pierre Abeillon, and its history is well-known all the way back to its date of delivery.