1936 Delage D6-70 Figoni & Falaschi Competition Coupe

  • Brand: Delage
  • Car Code: 210952

1936 Delage D6-70 Figoni & Falaschi Competition Coupe

Not long after the automobile was introduced, drivers discovered the fun of racing their horse-less carriages. For manufacturers it was a particularly powerful marketing tool; a customer could buy Sunday's race winner in the showroom on Monday. Louis Delage understood this concept very well and shortly after establishing his company in 1905, he started racing his cars. Within a year his De Dion powered 'voiturettes' were racking up great results in French races like the 1906 Coupe de Voiturettes.

Over the next years the racing cars grew in performance and complexity. All of this work culminated in the legendary 15 S8, which debuted in 1926. As its name suggests, it was powered by a 1.5 litre straight eight engine. Helped by a Supercharger this sophisticated twin cam unit produced around 170 bhp. In its 1927 specification the sleek Delage won the World Constructor's Championship with a series of victories, including a 1-2-3 in the French Grand Prix at Monthlery. The exceptional success had come at a big price, and Delage was forced to withdraw from racing at the end of the season. The four 15 S8s produced went on to race competitively for another two decades.

While the racing cars continued to be successful, the Delage's situation was slowly deteriorating. When the recession hit in the early 1930s, the company was dealt a final blow; the demand for high quality, sophisticated vehicles was at an all time low. In 1935 the company was liquidated and in a series of complex transactions all assets were picked up by competitor Delahaye. Fortunately Delahaye saw a future still for Delage and with Louis Delage on board as an 'advisor' two new road cars were introduced in 1936. Although the six and eight cylinder models were based on Delahayes, they were sufficiently different to silence the critics. Delahaye also recognised the importance of racing and set out to prepare a new Delage competition car.

Single seater racing was not a viable option with costs quickly spiralling as a result of the German and Italian government backed factory efforts. This left the French and British manufacturers to concentrate mainly on endurance races like the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Delage only competed in the inaugural 1923 running, but looked set to return in 1936. Just a few months before the race Delahaye approved of the competition car and supplied Louis Delage with Delahaye chassis and engine. Together with Paris Delage distributor Walter Watney, Delage prepared the three litre six cylinder engine and Delahaye 135 chassis. Joseph Figoni was commissioned to construct an aerodynamic body to complete the package.

Dubbed the Delage D6-70 Speciale, the new racer was ready in time, but the race was cancelled due to strikes across the country. Remarkably the racing car was then shown at a series of Concours d'Elegance where its compact dimensions and stunning Figoni body impressed all that came to see it. Early in 1937 production based Delage D6-70s impressed in the Rallye Monte Carlo and Rallye du Maroc, strengthening Delage's reputation for durability. In June the Figoni bodied Delage finally made its delayed competition debut at Le Mans. Behind a Bugatti and two Delahayes it finished fourth and first in class. Sadly the Figoni coupe body was removed in 1938 and replaced with a Figoni & Falaschi roadster body.

In roadster form the 'Speciale' continued to impress, highlighted by a victory in the 1938 Tourist Trophy. Inspired by this success two similar cars were constructed in 1939, but with a lightweight chassis to further increase the performance. At Le Mans the result of two years earlier was eclipsed with a second place overall and another first in class. After the War Watney commisioned the construction of another five racers similar to the two lightweight cars of 1939. Performance was slightly increased and the three litre engine now produced 142 bhp compared to the 130 bhp of the Speciale. Simple and lightweight cycle fender bodies were constructed and Delage was ready for racing again as early as 1946.

Remarkably the first post-War win for Delage was scored by the twenty year old 15 S8 in the 1947 Ulster Trophy. The five new cars and the old 'Speciale' were used frequently in those years racking up several podium finishes and the odd victory. Four cars were entered in the 1949 24 Hours of Le Mans; the first since 1939. Delage continued its good form with a first and second in class and a second and fourth overall behind the victorious Ferrari 166 MM. With other manufacturers coming back up to speed the six-cylinder Delage was finally showing its age. One car was entered at Le Mans in 1950, but did not impress with a seventh overall.

Funds to develop a new racer were not available as Delahaye was fighting an inevitable bankruptcy now as well. The fight was lost and production ceased in 1953. While many feared the Delahaye take-over would mean the end for Delage, it resulted in some of the finest road and racing cars ever produced by the marque. The striking Le Mans racers might not have been as sophisticated as the single seaters of the 1920s, they were equally successful and once again put Delage at the forefront of motor racing.

Looking back at the Delage late 1930s racing effort today, the saddest chapter could very well be the removal of the Figoni & Falaschi coupe body in 1938. It was arguably one of the best looking cars to ever hit the Le Mans track. Fortunately the d'Ieteren company in Belgium has taken up the gauntlet and reconstructed the gorgeous black coachwork and fitted it to a similar D6-70 chassis. Usually these modern 'interpretations' are not allowed to compete in vintage racing, but the organizers of the 2006 Le Mans Classic understandably made an exception for this stunning racing car.

Descriptions & pictures by ultimatecarpage & luiscezar.blogspot & hiveminer

Production Start 1936
Country of origin France