1947 Delahaye 135M Narval Figoni et Falaschi

1947 Delahaye 135M Narval Figoni et Falaschi

France's Delahaye was founded during 1845 in Tours and later relocated to Paris. They were one of the earliest manufacturers, having built their first horseless carriage in 1894. The company later diversified, building commercial vehicles, which led to further success. Perhaps their greatest achievement, however, was the Type 135 which was introduced at the 1935 Paris Salon. Several 135 variants followed, including the 135 (Modifié), and 135 MS (Modifié Speciale). They had a chassis designed by engineer Jean Francois and given an independent front suspension, Bendix cable-operated brakes, 17-inch center-lock wire wheels, and a choice of a partially-synchronized four-speed manual or Cotal pre-selector transmissions. Power was from an inline six-cylinder engine, initially displacing 3.2-liters, and featured modern overhead-valve architecture. The twin carbureted versions developed 95 horsepower while the triple Solex downdraft carburetor versions offered 110 horsepower. Horsepower increased for 1936 when the displacement was enlarged to 3.6 liters.

At the 1936 French Grand Prix, Delahaye 135s took 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th, proof that they were a dominant force in sports-car racing. Labor unrest forced the cancellation of the Le Mans 24 Hours that year. The Delahaye 135 would score second- and third-place podiums the following year at LeMans and finished first, second, and fourth in 1938. Siam's Prince Bira won the 1938 Donington 12-Hour Sports Car Race and Prince Chula victorious at Brooklands' 'Fastest Road Car in England' event. Delahaye 135s would continue to be raced well into the 1950s, with one contesting the 1954 Tour de France.

During World War II, automobile production was postponed, with companies and coachbuilders transitioning over to support wartime efforts. Coachbuilder Figoni et Falasci produced aircraft components during the war; a portion of their facilities was reserved for the production of stoves and home-heating radiators. It is also believed that some clandestine body-design work may have continued as well.

One of their most flamboyant and artistic Figoni et Falaschi designs was the Narval or 'Narwhal', based upon the Delahaye 135M chassis and introduced at the 1946 Salon de Paris. It was named 'Narval' for its prominent front treatment, like a Narwhal or perhaps a Beluga Whale. Seven examples were built, no to two exactly alike.

This particular example, chassis number 800516, was completed in March 1947 and finished in Light Blue Metallic paint with blue leather interior. Its first owner was Mark B. Deitsch, the President of the Prima Company in Ohio, which manufactured fine ladies' footwear. In 1954, it was used in a magazine advertisement for 'Cover Girl Dress Flats by Prima,' earning it the nickname - 'Cover Girl.' From there, it seems to have disappeared from view until the 1970s or early 1980s, when it was owned by Erich Traber in Switzerland. It was given a partial restoration and an engine swap to engine serial number 48482 (the donor car was an Antem-bodied Delahaye 135 convertible). This car, along with the Antem-bodied car (48482) were later sold as a package to R.L. Atwell of Fredericksburg, Texas.

Mr. Atwell sold the Narval with engine 48482 installed to Russ Jackson of Barrett-Jackson collector-car auction fame. His son, Craig Jackson, treated it to a full restoration and painted it black with dark red snakeskin leather upholstery. It was sold at Barrett-Jackson's 1989 auction to Mr. Hata of Japan. It remained in the Hata Collection Museum until February 2013, when it was purchased and sent to California. Meanwhile, Mr. Atwell sold the Antem-bodied car with engine 800516 in it to John McMahan of Houston Texas. Mr. McMahan later sold it to J.A. Paalman of Holland. In February 2013, it was purchased and sent to California, to be re-united with the Narval.

In 2015, the Narval car was offered for sale at Rick Cole's auction in Monterey. Included with the car was the Narval's original engine, and the Antem-bodied Cabriolet. The Antem-bodied car is reported to be in poor condition.

Descriptions & pictures by conceptcarz & mindovermotor & hiveminer & other

Production Start 1947
Country of origin France