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1899 DELAHAYE TYPE 1 9H.P
1899 Delahaye Type 1  9 hp

1899 Delahaye
The 1899 Delahaye
in France 1902

1902 TYPE OF DELAHAYE TYPE OA 8 HP
1902 Type of Delahaye Type OA 8 hp

DELAHAYE

Emile Delahaye was born in 1843 at Tours in the Loire valley. He qualified as a mechanical engineer and worked for industrial enterprises in France and Belgium. Returning to the city of his birth when aged thirty he became a partner in a foundry that made machinery for the brick and ceramic trades.

Delahaye bought the enterprise in 1879 and soon the firm expanded into making stationary petrol engines, an example being exhibited at the Grande Exposition in 1889. The first Delahaye car was completed in 1895 and shown in the automobile section of the Salon du Cycle in Paris. Thus Delahaye was among the first of the French provincial motorcar makers.

Until the turn of the century all Delahaye cars followed the basic design of the original, having a rear-mounted horizontal two-cylinder engine with electric ignition, primary drive by belts, and final drive by side chains. The chassis was tubular and comparatively low slung with a wide track and a long wheelbase and the cars rapidly gained a reputation for stability and durability. This latter feature was undoubtedly aided by adequate water-cooling of the engine, utilising a water pump and a front-mounted horizontal radiator. The cars were not fast, but they took part in most of the early town-to-town races, generally winning the 'six seats occupied' class.

With his health beginning to fail, Delahaye sold his business in a most amicable manner to two Parisian industrialists: the brothers-in-law Leon Desmarais and Georges Morane. They gradually moved production from Tours to Paris during 1898, and two key members of staff were engaged: Amedee Varlet who became chief designer when Delahaye retired in 1901; and Charles Weiffenbach as works manager. Despite the ongoing presence of Desmarais and Morane it was Weiffenbach who came to be known as 'Mister Delahaye' and remained with the company until it merged with Hotchkiss in 1954.

After some 375 vehicles of the original pattern had been made, Varlet was responsible for the design of the first front-engined cars, still with horizontal cylinders and belt driven, these appearing in 1901. The following year he introduced vertical engines and soon took Delahaye into other areas, notably marine engines, lorry manufacture, and established the firm's reputation for its fire-engines.

Never aimed at the mass market, Delahaye vehicles were always recognised for their quality and when the superb Type 135 was introduced in the 1930's it joined the exclusive few who were known as the Grande Marques of the French motor industry.


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