By Rod Ward
This Auto Review mini-series describes three French car marques whose names resonate with style and quality: Delahaye, Delage and Hotchkiss. They were competitors for many years, but they were thrown together by economic adversity. Delage was taken over by Delahaye in 1935, and Delahaye eventually would merge with Hotchkiss in the 1950s, shortly before all three marques disappeared into oblivion. There will be three titles in this Auto Review mini-series of publications, each devoted to one of these companies.
This first publication in the mini-series is the Delahaye Album.
Emile Delahaye produced his first car in 1894, but by 1901 he had sold his shareholding in the company he founded, and he died in 1905. Charles Weiffenbach took effective control of the firm, with Amadée Varlet looking after design and engineering. They established Delahaye as a profitable maker of cars, commercial vehicles and fire appliances, though by the 1930s the company was finding it hard to turn a profit from sales of its rather dull, if dependable, vehicles. In a dramatic change of direction, Delahaye became makers of prestige cars with exotic bodywork from all the great coachbuilders of the period. The firm also enjoyed competition successes, thanks to an injection of capital from Lucy O’Reilly Schell, a millionaire racing enthusiast. The postwar years were difficult for all makers of expensive cars; Delahaye was no exception, so in another attempted change of direction, Delahaye produced the VLRD field car for the French armed forces. It was too complex, however, and production was terminated before fewer than 10,000 had been delivered.
The last desperate move was a 1954 merger with Hotchkiss, but by 1957 the combined firm had been taken over by a white goods manufacturer, and had ceased making vehicles.