Delage D8 120: The Best Of Best Which Was At Dinard
Images: Daniel Cabart, Louis Monnier & Quedillac
The Peninsula Classics’ Best of the Best is a competition where the winners from the most prestigious concours are grouped together, and then some 25-odd judges decide which is the most exceptional amongst them. The jury includes the likes of Jay Leno, Ralph Lauren, Henry Ford III, Nick Mason, as well as designer Fabio Filippini.
The car they chose this year was Delage D8 with de Villars coachwork, which had won the recent Dinard Elegance concours d’elegance a la francaise in June last.
The Delage, incidentally, has a remarkable history. The 1930s, during the period which we refer to as the golden age of the Concours d'Élégance in France, prestigious carmakers, master coachbuilders and fashion designers collaborated to compete and present their latest creations at several concours across the country.
Delage D8s were very rare cars and owners such as King Gustav V of Sweden, King Alexander of Yugoslavia or Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia added to the exclusivity and uniqueness of this model.
Delage decided to further develop the model and presented its new D8 120 S to the regulatory body in France on 8th November 1937. Its engine capacity was increased to 4737 cc and its chassis was lowered. The D8 120 S with chassis # 51626 was ordered by Mrs Richer Delavau, who entrusted the coachbuilding of the body to coachbuilder de Villars.
The fashionable Madame Richer Delavau was a regular at major elegance concours and her driving skills made her a star in such competitions, which she would mostly participate in Delages. Her husband owned a concessionaire of the brand at rue Bayard in the 8th arrondissement (district) of Paris.
The coachbuilding outfit of de Villars was a small set-up, established in 1925 by Frank Jay Gould, an American billionaire, the son of an American railroad magnate. He entrusted the management of the company to his son-in-law, Roland de Graffenried de Villars, therefore the branding.
The workforce was compact: four sheet metal workers, two painters, two saddlers and a draftsman. Specialized in ‘clothing’ long chassis cars from luxury brands, the bodywork almost always were unique, and celebrities such as Ali Khan or the Grimaldi family from Monaco were part of its clientele.
At the very first concours that this Delage D8 de Villars was presented by Madame Richer Delavau, the car won the Grand Prix d’honneur de l’Auto des Voitures Ouvertes, in Paris. The competition for this 17th edition of this concours was tough, yet the car did seduce the jury and the public.
The stylistic codes of the Delage brand were respected thanks to the taut lines of the bonnet, but the design was enhanced by a sloping windscreen and flowing riveted fenders, decorated with crests. The line was slender and harmonious, a marvel of balance and dynamism. The blades and rivets, perhaps inspired by the Bugatti Atlantic presented shortly before, reinforced its personality, and made the car a unique and totally new style.
Madame Richet Delavau next went on to win the Dinard Concours d'Élégance two months later in another Delage D8.
Chassis # 5I626 was sold shortly afterwards to Monsieur de Montesquiou, a notable from Gers, in the south-west of France. Armand Berressi, a publisher in Paris, went on to own the car until the mid-1960s.
The car was then exported to the United States and Otto Zipper, a famous dealer of foreign cars in Santa Monica, kept it for around three years.
Sold to Vojta F. Mashek, from Chicago, the car was repainted a two-tone and underwent major work aimed at bringing it closer to the original configuration. Bought in 1976, Bernt of Milwaukee kept the car until his passing, after which his widow sold the car to the famous collector Sam Mann, who undertook a high-level restoration worthy of the car’s concours history.
In 2016, this de Villars D8 120 S found its way back into the Concours d'Élégance circuit, appearing at Pebble Beach, where it won the Best of Show. It is now part of the very special and highly recognisable closed circle of iconic pre-war cars.
Swiss enthusiast Fritz Burkard, who is one of Europe’s preeminent collectors, bought the beautiful D8 and won Class B at Villa d'Este in 2021 and then the Best of Show at Hampton Court Palace, in London, in 2022.
And then the Delage won the Best of Show at Dinard Elegance last June, the final consecration, before it went on to win the prestigious Peninsula Classics Best of Best Award.
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