Delage Grand Prix
DOHC with roller main and big-end bearings. Roots supercharger.
History of the Delage Marque
Louis Delage was born in 1874, as an infant he lost the sight in one eye. This disability did not prevent him from fashioning some of the most elegant and beautiful automobiles of the pre-World War II era, and into the early 1950s.
His career began at a trade school “Arts & Metiers” in the city of Angers, from where he graduated with an engineering degree in 1893. His employment included work for a railway company in the south of France, but in 1900 he moved to Paris where he was employed in the engineering and design department of Peugeot, from where he was made an offer to join the fledgling Renault in 1903. In 1905 he raised enough money to open his own assembly plant in a converted barn in Levallois on the outskirts of Paris. The Delage Automobile Company grew rapidly and their vehicles soon gained a reputation for their stylish appearance and quality and as a dominant force in motor racing.
Delage had a strong loyalty to France, and he endeavoured to build cars that would bring honour to his country. He began racing in 1906 and gained some early success. By 1913, he had constructed a racing machine worthy of claiming the Grand Prix de France. His racing machines continued to evolve. In 1914, they featured double overhead camshafts and brakes on all four wheels.
René Thomas drove a Delage in the 1914 Indianapolis 500 where he emerged victorious. In 1924, he set a land speed record at just over 143 mph.
During World War 1, the newly built factory in Courbevoie was used for the production of military items.
During the mid-1920s, the ‘Golden Era’ of Delage automobiles, the Delage racing cars were powered by eight cylinder engines displacing 1.5 L. In 1927, Robert Benoist drove a Delage with an in-line eight cylinder engine to a victory in;
- The Grand Prix de France,
- Spanish Grand Prix
- British Grand Prix at Brooklands
- The Grand Prix to Europe at Monza.
After this brilliant accomplishment, Delage announced his retirement from racing.
Delage left the sport on a high note, but there were troubled times ahead. The Great Depression of the 1930s took its toll and car sales plummeted. By 1935 his company was forced into liquidation. A Delage dealer named Walter Whatley purchased the company’s assets. This proved to be a pipedream for him, and soon he was looking for aid from an automotive partner who could help with the costs of engineering, development and manufacturing. Luckily he found the assistance he was looking for — at Delahaye. An agreement was reached which allowed the Delage name to continue.
Louis Delage Epilogue
In 1934 Louis Delâge was nearly 60 years old when he found himself in a personal financial crisis made worse by his divorce. He sought solace in his Roman Catholic faith, and because he was too poor to afford a car, he often made the pilgrimage on foot or by bicycle to the sacred convent of Saint Thérèse in the city of Lisieux and to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes.
In 1947, at the age of 73 and living in near poverty, an almost forgotten Louis Delâge died. He is interred in the local cemetery in Le Pecq, a small town at the far westerly suburbs of Paris.
In 1990, in his hometown of Cognac, an industrial school was dedicated as the “Lycée professionnel Louis Delâge” in his memory.