A FINE FRENCH SPORTS CAR
THE 3.5-LITRE COUPE DES ALPS DELAHAYE, AT ONCE LIVELY AND EXTREMELY ROBUST, PULLS A HIGH GEAR, HAS AN ALL-OUT SPEED OF 94 M.P.H. AND IS CONSPICUOUSLY STEADY AT SPEED
During the past twO or three years Delahaye cars have been making a great name for themselves in the hands of private owners, in competitions in France and abroad generally. Encouraged by this the makers decided that for 1936 they would ‘enter the field of racing with
an official team of sports cars. During the present year some really impressive successes have been shared by the private and official entries, the principal ones being the first five plaees ill the Mirimas race, held near Marseilles, second, third, fourth, fifth and seventh places in the French (rand Prix, and the first two places ill eh( unsupercharged class in the Belgian 24—Hour Race. Delahaye cars are now handled in England by Messrs. Selborne (Mayfair) Ltd., of Stratton Street, London, W.1, by whose courtesy we were able to test the car described below. Before starting on the road-test it mightbe worth while giving some description of the sports cars in the Delahaye range. ” Coupe des Alpes ” is the name given to the standard sports tourer, and these cars are fitted with two or four seater coachwork. Then there is the competition model, with higher compression and bark-axle ratio, and finally the Special, which has a shorter and lighter chassis intended for two-seater coachwork and credited with an all-out speed
TI 123 m.p.h. The last-named model of conrse is the one used for road-racing All three have 3.5-litre engines. The car actually lent to us was a 193$
Coupe des Alpes car, which had covered 20,000 miles of Strenuous life abroad as a demonstrator, and had just been sent back by road from Spain, just at the right time judging by the present state of affairs in that country. As will be appreciated from the account which follows, it was none the worse for the work it had performed. The 1936 models differ from the car we drove only in having synchromesh mechanism on second, third, and top gears. Remembering that Freud’ main roads,
if a little rough, are at any rate mostly straight and free from traffic, and that the French sports-car driver is a determined man who hates wasting time along the Routes Nationales, we expected to find a car built to suit its environment, and in this we were not disappointed. We should characterise the Delahaye by saying that it is an extremely hearty and vivid motor-car. The engine, at any rate on the car we drove, is mounted and its urge can be felt M a way
almost forgotten in these days of rubber insulation. Even in a run ” round the houses ” the car leaps forward in a heartening way, and is clearly calling for straight roads and no hedges. The shock-absorbers were wound up
for fast road-work, so as soon as we reached open country we gave the car its head. We had already had considerable satisfaction from shooting up fast but unstable American saloons, an easy task with the extremely rapid gear change, and found the car bounded up to 60 m.p.h.
at the slightest opportunity. At 60 m.p.h. on top gear the engine is doing just under 2,200 r.p.m., a figure one associates
more with the days of the “30-98” than on a 1936 sports car. Needless to say running in this way is extremely restful, and the 3.3-litre engine pulled the high gear without the slightest suggestion of being over-geared. A little more pedal presgure swings the needle round to 73, a really useful cruising speed. Crossing Salisbury Plain we kept the car running at a stead) SO m.p.h., whirli is 2,901) r.m.p., reaching the maximum (wil It screon raise(I) ol 91 m.p.h. on the longer straights and dips in the road. The hanier the car was driven the more it seemed to like it, and with a lighter accelerator spring we should have been tempted to keep it fully don a all the time. Such is the use of a high
top-gear, and we unblushingly admit tO averaging 57 m.p.h. for Some distance on the sweeping deserted roads of Hampshire. On peut filer la-ba !
The brakes gave one confidence, and quickly reduced speed to the 25 m.p.h. appropriate to the narrow villages of the Plain, burbling through gently on top or on the ever-useful silent third. The steering is quite one of the best we have experienced, being very highgeared (11 turns from lock to loct), with sufficient caster to pull the wheel back through the hands after a sharp corner, and, with all that, light to handle. If these qualitiesare the results of independent front suspension, may it, soon become
universal in England ! The springing, as has been said, was just right for fast running, and the car behaved beautifully on the various fast bends on which we tried it. It was in fact almost impossible even to make the tyres squeal, though some of the credit for this must be awarded to the Dunlop ” 00 ” tyres.
The general impression was that of a tremendously strong stiff chassis, though as it only weighs ] 8,V cwt. against the 24 of its average contemporary in England, the stiffness must be due to design and not metal. Certainly one never realises on a corner that the wheelbase is nearly ten feet. The gear-change seems tricky at first acquaintance and the clutch heavy. Actually as soon as one realises that only the shortest of double-clutch changes is needed between any of the gears when changing up to 30 all is well, and the long and slightly whippy gear-lever can be snapped through in a flash. At high speeds the change is still exceptionally quick, a point which the sporting driver appreci
ates. Third runs noiselessly and the same applies to second on the latest gear-boxes, which are also fitted with synchro-mesh. Another interesting point is the top
gear performance. The car will run quite happily down to 15 m.p.h. in the direct ratio, but if the accelerator is depressed hard the engine pinks loudly, and as the ignition control is a knob situated on the near side of the facia board one often forgets to retard it when attempting to get away in a hurry. ” Use third gear” is the one answer, of course, but by using the throttle with a little more subtlety the car picks up really well on top, so that even the criticism that the car is not flexible on top, and many sports-car drivers expect this nowadays, is not justified. Tested at Brooklands with the screen raised we found the maximum over a flying half-mile worked out at 91 m.p.h., with the speedometer showing 160 k.p.h. With the screen down it rose to 94 m.p.h., but unfortunately before we could get a timed reading one of the windscreen
securing nuts came of and was lost at the side of the track. This necessitated taking all acceleration figures with the screen up, which means with the high top-gear fitted the loss of one or two seconds at the higher speeds. Another point was the maximum revs. used on the test. For some reason the engine seemed to ease up somewhat at over 3,600 r.p.m., and in the acceleration test was not taken over 3,500. Possibly the plugs were to blame, but we also found
that the engine was running too cold, and we later found it necessary to blank off half the radiator to make it run at 70 degrees. A thermostat in the cooling system would have overcome this fault. Limiting the engine speed to 8,500 r.p.m., as explained above, the maxima in the indirect gears were 28, 43, and 57 m.p.h., while at 3,000 on top the car is doing 82 m.p.h. Except for a. slight period of 200 r.p.m. from 3,200 r.p.m. the engine ran smoothly at all speeds, and in any case the period is not noticed on top
gear. The exhaust note is powerful at low speeds but disappears when under way and the engine is mechanically silent. From 40 m.p.h. the car is brought easily to rest in 58 feet and the brakes work
smoothly and in strict proportion to the pedal pressure.
The driving position is excellent, and though the driver sits low in relation to the bonnet, a man of normal height can see the lamp on the near-side wing. The steering wheel comes nicely into the lap, but a Sprung wheel might have been an advantage in reducing the vibration transmitted to the wrists. The gearlever works in a ball-housing on the top of the gear-box and the hand-brake is short and carried on the right. The horn and the dipping mechanism for the headlights are conveniently controlled by means of levers just below the rim of the steering wheel.
The facia board and trimming of the interior of the car are of polished wood and look particularly well. The facia board is dominated by the six-inch dials of the speedometer and the revcounter, and within the large dials a comprehensive collection of instruments is installed, a volt and an ammeter, oilpressure and temperature gauges, watertemperature and petrol gauges, and clock. Between the big dials are grouped the knobs for operating the choke-starter and other electrical fittings. The standard coachwork is a twoseater drop-head coupe, low-built with rakish sweeping mudguards. The front seats are roomy and well upholstered in leather, and the rear squab can be moved to a limited extent to alter the driving position. The compartment in the tail is intended primarily for carrying luggage but being lined with carpet and of good size could easily be converted into a dickey seat. The top is a little more difficult to erect than a two-seater
hood, but in conjunction with the winding windows gives the protection of a closed car. A four-seater coupe is available at the same price, while an English drop-head foursome by Salmsons is actually cheaper, being priced at f895. The engine is a neat And workmanlike unit with a rated power-output of 110 h.p. The principal feature of the offside is the three large Solex down-draught carburetters feeding into crescent-shaped induction pipes, each of which has a hotspot where the three branches of the exhaust manifold pass underneath. The carburetters are fed by an engine-driven pump, the tank holds 104: gallons and the petrol consumption worked out at just under 14 m.p.g. under full throttle con ditions. The engine runs Satisfactorily on any No. 1 spirit, but seemed smoother
using the ethylised varieties. It starts instantly from hot or cold. Coil ignition is used. The cylinder-head is detachable, but the block and crank-ease are cast as one unit. Vertical overhead valves are operated by the usual rockers and pushrods, and the crank-shaft runs in four main bearings. The oil circulates through a radiator placed below the main one, but when running under wintery conditions
it can be thrown out of circuit. The dynamo and the water-impellor, which carries a fan on the front end of its shaft, is driven from the crank-shaft by means Of a rubber belt.
The gear-box is carried in unit with the engine, and .a single dry-plate clutch is used. The open propeller-shaft has the usual two-universal joints and the back-axle is driven by means of spiral-bevel gears. Independent wheel suspension is still sufficiently novel in this country to provoke interest, and the system fitted to the Delahaye certainly does all that its sponsors claim for it. In this case the lower ends of the king pins are shackled to a transverse leaf-spring and the top ends are steadied by short swinging links from the chassis. Steering and
braking reactions are taken by long radius rods running from the centre of the king pins to pivots well back on the side-members. It is interesting to note that the track of the front wheels is almost five inches less than at the rear. In spite Of this the turning circle is nothing exceptional for a car with a wheelbase of ft. 8 in.
The rear springs are flat semi-elliptics and the chassis is swept over the axle. Friction shock-absorbers are used fore and aft. The brakes are Bendix .semi-servo, operated by means of cased cables.
Looking back on our run on the Delahaye, our impression is of a hearty he-man’s car with a fine turn of speed and a chassis which allows the driver to make the best use of it. It is a car which is thoroughly exhilarating to drive, and all we ask of the manufacturers, or their agents in this country, is that they let us take the wheel of the Special to try Our hand at reaching 125 M.p.h. unblown.