1937 Delage V12 Labourdette Aerodynamique Spark - S2713 (resin)
Louis Delage founded Delage in 1905, in Levallois-Perret near Paris. His first model was the Type A of 1906, a voiturette powered by a one-cylinder De Dion-Bouton engine. Like many manufacturers of the time, Delage soon got into racing as a form of promoting his cars. The company prospered and after WWI they introduced bigger and more luxurious models. Though shifting focus to luxury cars, racing was still a priority for the company. However, that production shift came at a cost. Luxury cars meant slower sales, and the company became economically unstable. That being so, Louis Delage had to seek financial backup. So he went to Delahaye, at the time an important French manufacturer. As a result from 1935 onward Delage became essentially a division of Delahaye. But despite the financial situation, Delage still produced racing cars.
By the mid-30s German Silberpfeile dominated racing in Europe. So despite his uncertain finances, Louis Delage came up with the idea of creating a car to standup to the Germans. He wanted a closed-cockpit car with a V12 engine for the Automobile Club de France’s (ACF) Sport Formula. Work began in 1936, with Albert Lory responsible for the engine. Lory created the 4 D12, a 4500 cm³ 60° V12 prototype, rated at around 150 to 200 hp. For the transmission, Lory used a very interesting unit, the Cotal MAAG. The MAAG was an electromagnetic 4-speed gearbox with the remote control in the steering column. In contrast to the innovative transmission and engine, the chassis was pretty conventional. It was a steel-ladder type with independent leaf spring suspension up front and a rigid axle with longitudinal semi-elliptic leaf springs on the rear.
At the time aerodynamics was the new rage in car design, so Delage contracted John Andreau. Specialized in aerodynamics, Andreau designed an elegant and streamlined body. Almost a wingless airplane, with a tail fin. To reduce drag, his design had a totally closed underbody and the car was all flowing lines. As a result, it produced an astonishing Cx coefficient of only 0.25. Using Andreau’s design, Labourdette coach-builders were responsible for the body. To help with the aerodynamics, they used their “Vutotal” windscreen design. It offered the pilot an unobstructed field of view with the bonus of low drag. The new car became known as the Delage V12 Labourdette Aerodynamique, and was ready in mid 1937. With a total weight of 1,575 kg, it could reach around 230 km/h.
Delage’s new car should have raced at the French Grand Prix of the ACF. The race would take place at Monthléry, on July 4th. However, fate was against the Labourdette Aerodynamique. While testing, it crashed and sustained serious damage. The car was in a very bad shape, almost a total loss. It went back to Labourdette that basically had to make a new body for it. When finished, they gave it a two tone paint job and displayed it at the Paris Auto Show. But unfortunately, sometime after the auto show it was dismantled! Consequently it never actually raced. With that the world lost one of the best-looking cars of the era.
In 1:43rd, however, Spark allows us to revisit this masterpiece. As usual, Spark did a beautiful job on the Labourdette Aerodynamique. They recreated the car as it was before the Monthléry test sessions. That being so, this is the pre-Paris show version. Detail level is superb, and the model looks overall fantastic. What caught my eye about this car is its gorgeous lines. It looks like a plane without wings! Though I generally don’t go for pre-WWII cars, this one looks too beautiful. So here it is ✈.