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Lot 372: Delage 2.3-Litre AI Skiff

The Beaulieu Sale, Bonhams (7 September 2013)

Louis Delage created an important part of the tradition and heritage of the automotive golden age in France. Delage cars have all that is meant by 'La belle voiture français', together with Bugattis, Hispano-Suiza and, later, Talbot-Lago, which inspired France's coachbuilders to produce moving works of art.' William Stobbs, Les Grandes Routières - France's Classic Grand Tourers. Founded in 1905 by Louis Delage in collaboration with Augustin Legros, a fellow engineer-graduate of an Arts et Métiers college, Automobiles Delage commenced production with a single-cylinder De Dion-engined runabout and within a few years was offering multi-cylinder designs. The publicity value of racing was recognised right from the start, a single-cylinder Delage winning the Coupe Des Voiturettes as early as 1908 and Louis himself taking the 1911 Coupe de l'Auto in a 3-litre four-cylinder. Victories at the Grand Prix du Mans and the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race were achieved prior to WWI, the company going on to become a major force in Grand Prix racing in the 1920s and setting a new World Land Speed Record mark in 1924 with a 10.7-litre overhead-valve V12. Delage's publicity had every right to sing the praises of what - arguably - was the finest French car of its day: 'Delage have to their credit many world's records, including a world's championship, and more awards at the principal Concours d'Elegance than any other car in the world... To these achievements Delage have added a third and greater. They have made the highest known degree of luxury and performance available at the price the average motorist can pay.' In the current ownership for over a decade and now coming to market due to the owner approaching 90 years of age, this delightful car is reportedly in impeccable running condition having covered fewer than 1,000 miles annually for the last 10 years, most of which was on summer trips to Brittany by way of the Plymouth-Roscoff ferry. The car is fitted with a light skiff-style body by little-known coachbuilder Keith Hill of Brecon, one of the early owners being a doctor in South Wales. There is comfortable seating for two up front plus two in the dickey seat making it a genuine four-seater. Period touches abound, there being brass wherever one looks. Wooden artillery wheels are fitted and a spare beaded-edge tyre is carried on the running board. The dashboard mounts a full set of period instruments including a Delage-badged Elliot-style speedometer. We are advised that the car is mechanically superb, having been extensively rebuilt by the previous owner. The 2.3 litre four-cylinder engine starts instantly and runs in near silence, ignition being provided by magneto. Oil pressure when hot is a healthy 30psi and the Boyce motometer temperature gauge mounted atop the radiator never comes close to hot. The gearbox is said to be easy to master with four forward speeds; reverse being found in front of first as on later Delages. The car is said to show a surprising turn of speed considering its age, cantering along in a relaxed manner at 50mph with 60 easily attainable. Steering is light and the whole driving experience a delight, with cheerful acknowledgements from everyone encountered. The delicate skiff bodywork is particularly pretty and suits the car very well. There are tonneau covers for the front and rear together with an easily assembled hood for inclement weather. It is just as well to augment the rear-axle-only braking by employing the handbrake in tandem with the foot brake for more effective stopping. According to the vendor, 'the car is simply a delight to drive and very evocative of Edwardian motoring. The best bit is just how useable it is, easily eating up 200-mile days and not greatly impeding modern traffic. Taxed, MoT'd and offered with Swansea V5C document, the car also comes with a history file containing a VCC dating plaque and various bills for servicing/maintenance over the years.

Lot Details
Auction The Beaulieu Sale
Bonhams, Hampshire, UK
Lot Number372
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price£38000
Hammer Price (inc premium)£43700
Condition rating2
Registration number8656 PE
Chassis number4791
Engine number6775
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors