French automaker Delahaye introduced its 135 model in 1935, and – war years excluded – variations remained in production until 1954. Delahaye 135s were frequently rebodied by French coachbuilders, but one example carried a body from an upstart Italian firm, Carrozzeria Pinin Farina. On March 8, this unique French-Italian hybrid crossed the auction stage at Bonhams Amelia Island sale, selling for $478,000 to set a new auction record for the model.
Of the Delahaye 135 variants, the 135MS (for Modifiée Spéciale, or Modified Special) was the sportiest, aside from the pure competition cars. While the 135M typically got by with a single Solex carburetor and an output of 90 horsepower, the 135MS received three Solex carburetors, enough for 125 hp in road-going trim, and more than 160 hp in racing tune. Despite its age, the 135MS was still winning races on a global stage as late as 1949, though the Second World War had much to due with the slow progression of racing technology.
From the front and the rear, Pinin Farina’s coachwork looks Jaguar-esque in its execution, yet the Italian’s design pre-dates the Jaguar Mark 1 by roughly eight years. Even the slightly similar Jaguar XK120 came a year or so after the Pinin Farina Delahaye, though it isn’t clear if one influenced the other. It’s quite likely that Pininfarina’s design, with its rounded edges, swept-back grille and raked windshield, was simply meant to convey a sense of speed, even when the car was parked. That it actually did reduce drag and increase top speed was incidental, a case of function following form.
The Pinin Farina Delahaye was one of three cars built by the Italian coachbuilder as a demonstration of its capabilities. An Alfa Romeo 6C 2500S cabriolet and a Maserati A6 1500 coupe were also rebodied by Pinin Farina, with all three cars finished in the same silver-gray hue worn by the Delahaye. Though the exact sale date isn’t clear, the first owner of the 135MS was a Belgian citizen.
Years later, it was sold to a Swiss collector who planned to restore the car, but never quite managed to advance the project. Eventually, the partially restored Delahaye was reacquired by its original owner, who finished the work and later sold the car to the consignor, a British collector. Under the consignor’s care, a comprehensive restoration was carried out in Germany, and in 2016 it appeared at Pebble Beach, shown in the Postwar Delahaye class.
Other cars in the top-10 at Bonhams Amelia Island sale included a 2015 McLaren P1, which sold for a fee-inclusive $1.7 million; a 1959 Porsche 356A 1600 Carrera GS coupe, which sold for $632,000; a 1968 Ferrari 330 GTC, which sold for $545,100; a 1936 Horch 853 roadster, which sold for $544,000; a 1933 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental, which sold for $480,200; a 2001 Ferrari 550 Barchetta, which sold for $450,500; a 1957 Porsche 356A 1600 Speedster, which sold for $445,000; a 1995 Porsche 911 Carrera RS 3.8, which sold for $368,000; and a 1992 Porsche 911 Turbo 3.3 coupe, which sold for a record-setting $343,800.
For complete results from Bonhams Amelia Island sale, visit Bonhams.com.