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Delahaye

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Defunct

The Delahaye automobile manufacturing company was started by Emile Delahaye in 1894, in Tours, France. His first cars were belt driven, with single or twin cylinder engines. In 1900, Delahaye left the company for unknown reasons.

In 1901, the Société des Automobiles Delahaye constructed a factory in Paris, where they continued to manufacture automobiles and trucks. In 1908, they began producing four cylinder engines, in sizes of 1.5 and 2.1 liters, as well as a 2.6 liter V6. As well, they licensed their designs to manufacturers in the United States and Germany. By the end of World War I, their major income was from their truck business.

In 1934 they introduced the 12cv automobile model, with a 2.15 liter four cylinder engine, and the 18cv automobile model powered by a 3.2 liter six, both engines derived from their successful truck engines. In 1935 the introduction of the Coupe des Alpes automobile model and the model 135 automobile brought success to their automotive business as well, while the truck business continued to thrive.

Delahayes of this period are recognized to be some of the most beautiful automobiles ever built. Some of the great coachbuilders who provided bodies for Delahayes include Figoni et Falaschi, Chapron, and Letourneur et Marchand.

As was customary for automobile manufacturers in this period, Delahaye also tried its hand in racing in the middle of the 1930s after the American heiress Lucy O'Reilly Schell approached the company with an offer to pay the development costs to build cars to her specifications for rally racing. In 1937, René Le Bègue and Julio Quinlin won the Monte Carlo Rally driving a Delahaye. This was the time when the German Nazi party, in an attempt to establish the dominance of their party, nation, and philosophy, nationalized the Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union racing teams and spared no expense to create some of the most advanced competition cars ever, whose raw speed was to be unequaled for the next 50 years. Against this juggernaut, Delahaye brought out the model 145, the so called 'Million Franc Delahaye' after its victory in the Million Franc Race, which was driven by René Dreyfus to victory at Pau in 1938; doubly humiliating the Nazis by having a Jewish driver in a French car beat their vaunted, state of the art, Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrows. This competition victory combined with French patriotism to create a wave of demand for Dalahaye cars, up until the German occupation of France during World War II.

After the war, in 1948, production of the 135 was continued and the 4.5 liter model 175 was introduced. Sales slowed, however, and the last new model, a 3.5 liter Jeep-like vehicle, was released in 1951. In 1954, Delahaye was taken over by Hotchkiss, who shut down automobile production and, after producing trucks with the Hotchkiss-Delahaye nameplate for a few more months, dropped the Delahaye name and closed this chapter of automotive history.

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