M. Louis Delage died last December, sadly enough in poverty, at the age of 74. He commenced building cars in 1905, after having attained the position of chief draughtsman at Peugeot. At first he used de Dion engines, later Ballot, but he went over to his own engines in 1912, when the Courbevoie factory was opened. There is little need to state that Delage enjoyed numerous racing successes. From initial victory in the Coupe de l’Auto event, Delage evolved Grand Prix cars, those for 1911 having push-rod operated horizontal valves. His 1913 G.P. cars finished 1st and 3rd at Indianapolis in 1914, Rene Thomas winning at 82.47 m.p.h. After the war. the V12 2-litre car of 1924 led to the famous 1 1/2-litre straight-eight Lory-designed Delage racing cars which swept all before them in 1925 and 1926, and which Seaman rendered immortal by being almost as successful in 1 1/2-litre racing ten years later with one of these cars. It is worth recording that the B.B.C. paid tribute to this aspect of Louis Delage’s career in a recent news broadcast.
In this country the 11-h.p. four-cylinder Delage proved a very sound and deservedly popular small car before the 1914-18 war and several are still in existence. In the post-war era the ” 14/40 ” 4-cylinder model became very well known and was endowed with some very handsome bodywork. In later years Delage carried on his reputation for high-performance quality cars with an elaborate range of six-cylinder and straight-eight cars. Alas, the slump hit Delage so badly in 1936 that he sold out to Walter Watney and his cars were built at the Delahaye works, where, at the age of 62, Louis Delage accepted a position as a minor employee, selling all he had to pay his creditors.
We have also received the following appreciation of M. Delage from our contributor “Baladeur”:—
Assuredly 1947 will go down as a mournful year in motoring history, and for more reasons than one. As if it was not enough to lose Ettore Bugatti, before the year was out his death had been followed by that of the other great champion of France in the 1920’s — Louis Delage. Of the great names among the builders of racing cars, few indeed are left.
Delage’s career provides a sharp contrast to that of Bugatti. He was somewhat the older of the two, having been born in 1874, Bugatti not until 1881; but whereas Bugatti was designing cars, or at least tricycles, before the end of the nineteenth century, the first Delage did not appear until 1905 or 1906. And yet while Bugatti had to wait until after the Kaiser War for his real racing successes, Delage had secured second place in the Coupe de l’Auto in 1906 and won the Grand Prix des Voiturettes in 1908, the year in which the first genuine Bugattis emerged from the Molsheim factory.
While Bugatti, in his early years, expended much of his energy in designing cars for other makers such as De Dietrich, Mathis, Hermes and Peugeot, Delage, on the contrary, was content to let others build engines for him. The successes of 1906, 1907 and 1908 were achieved by Delage cars with one and two-cylinder de Dion engines, and were celebrated in 1909 by the abandonment of these primitive power-units in favour of 4-cylinder engines made by Ballot. By the time that Delage scored his next outstanding success, however, which was in the Coupe de l’Auto of 1911, he was building his own engines and making his characteristic contribution to engine design in the shape of horizontal valves. Narrowly beaten by Peugeot in the Grand Prix in 1913, he had the satisfaction of beating Mercedes in the Grand Prix de France later in the year, and of winning the Indianapolis ” 500 ” in 1914.
His adoption of positively-closed valves for the Grand Prix that same year may have contributed to the famous Mercedes victory — in any case, it was an experiment that was not repeated — and further success had to await the brilliant racers designed by Lory, the 12-cylinder 2-litre of 1924-25 and the. 1,500-c.c. straight-eight of 1926-27. After their victories, Delage was content to leave the racing field to Bugatti.
There was a strange contrast, too, in the economic fortunes of the two men. Delage, while producing a series of most eligible sports-cars, was content to build them on less enterprising lines than those employed in his racers. Bugatti, on the other hand, adhered most firmly to the formula of “we sell what we race and we race what we sell.” Undoubtedly the latter would appear to be the more speculative policy, but it was Delage who, in 1936, was overtaken by economic disaster. Determined to pay his creditors in full, he reduced himself to virtual penury, and died as poor or poorer than he had been when he set out on his career 40 years ago. It was a dismal end to a great figure in French motoring circles; and it would seem no more than a fitting gesture if Lory’s new production were allowed to drop its clumsy title of CTA Arsenal and adopt the time-honoured name of Delage.
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Bertram Ronald Martin
Members of the Chain Gang and the many other readers of MOTOR SPORT who knew him will be very sorry to hear of the death of Mr. B. R. Martin, which occurred on December 5th, 1947, after a short illness.
Martin was 36 years old. He was educated at Windsor Grammar School and graduated B.Sc. from King’s College, London. He was a senior member of the Scientific Staff of the G.P.O. Research Station, where he did important work during the late war. Latterly he had contributed largely to technical developments involved in outside television broadcasting. He was an associate member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers.
Martin was a great “Nash” enthusiast. He was responsible to a large extent for the Register of Frazer-Nash cars, and he was a member of the temporary committee of the recently formed “Nash” Section of the V.S.C.C. He was a very competent engineer and had a great store of technical and historical knowledge concerning “Nashes” from which he gave freely to all who consulted him.
His charming and modest manner, and the wise counsel which came from his first-class mind will be greatly missed by everyone who knew him. He leaves a widow and young daughter to whom we extend our sincerest sympathy in their great loss. — R.J.