The 1,500-c.c Grand Prix Delage Cars

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[Alan Burnard Sorted Out the Present Whereabouts of these Historic Racing Cars.Ed.]

There seems no doubt there were four cars built in 1926/27, three cars eventually coming to this country, two owned by Earl Howe, one by Malcolm Campbell, which he sold to W. B. Scott, from whom Capt. J. C. Davis acquired it. The fourth car went to Indianapolis around 1930 and has remained in America and is now in the Briggs-Cunningham collection. This is the only car which is entirely original and unmodified.

Earl Howe had the misfortune to crash one of his two cars at Monza in 1932; this car was salvaged for spare parts and was never rebuilt. He sold his remaining car to Dick Seaman.* During Seaman’s ownership this car was fitted with hydraulic brakes, but retained the solid front axle (rebuilt), and ½-elliptic springs.

*The car which Earl Howe crashed at Monza was the one in which Campbell won the 1927 200 mile Race. Seaman bought Howe’s other car which had won the British G.P. in 1926.—Ed.

Prince Chula bought this car and all the spare parts, arid also bought the only other 1½-litre Delage from Capt. Davis. Having cornered all the parts he commissioned M. Lory, the original designer, to product two new chassis frames with independent front suspension; thus two new cars were born, as surely a car is identified by its chassis frame?

During the early days of the war Reg. Parnell bought four chassis frames and all the parts from Prince Chula. He told me there were no complete cars, only parts thereof, so the identification of any of the original cars becomes extremely difficult. By 1946/47 Parnell had built up three Delages from the parts. One he sold to Habershon (this had the new Chula frame and i.f.s.), another he sold to Capt. Barry Woodall (also with Chula frame and i.f.s.), the remaining car being sold to David Hampshire (which had the original 1927 frame with beam front axle). The sole remaining 1927 frame was sold with the Barry Woodall car as a spare, and passed to John Rowley when he bought the Woodall car. This frame has now been acquired by myself.

As most of us know, the Habershon car was bought by Rob Walker, who fitted the E-type E.R.A. engine, as the straight-eight Delage engine suffered cylinder-block troubles. This car was usually driven by Tony Rolt, and was bought by myself from Rob Walker in 1954. I sold it, rather reluctantly, in 1957 to Joe Goodhew. Goodhew sold it to Geoffrey Kerr, the present owner.

The Woodall car, which had a Chula frame and i.f.s., was sold to Rowley, went from Rowley to Roy Beebee, then to J. S. Woolley and on to M. Bradley, the present owner. This car still retains its Delage engine and has the only Delage body which looks at all original. It also retains the manual gearbox. This car was in the Montagu Motor Museum when bought by Bradley.

Rob Walker bought the David Hampshire car with beam front axle and it has now been painstakingly rebuilt, as the chassis frame has been identified as that of the original Seaman car.

The sole remaining chassis with beam front axle must, therefore, be that of the Campbell, Scott, Davis, Chula car, now in my possession. When I first examined this frame it was fitted with the cable brake attachments, and was obviously never fitted with hydraulics; also the front springs are fitted directly under the chassis frame, with the rear shackles supported from pillars fitted to the underside of the frame, whilst the shock-absorbers are fitted behind the front axle and facing the rear. On the only other beam-axle frame, i.e., the Walker Seaman one, the springs are outside the frame with the shock-absorbers mounted forward of the axle; this arrangement is not original Delage but modifications carried out for Seaman by Ramponi. There is no doubt therefore that my frame is from the Capt. Davis car, which Chula bought when he purchased the Seaman car. The photographs of the original unmodified Delage owned by Briggs-Cunningham show that the front springs are positioned and supported exactly as on my frame.

The new Chula frames are easily identifiable by the side elevation, as they commence the upward run from the rear spring anchor point, whereas the original frames are horizontal to the ground for about 24 in. forward from this anchor point before they start the run up; also there are no holes bored for brake cable levers. The Delage frames are channel-section, whereas the Chula frames are box section.

The identity of the Seaman frame is obvious, as it is 1927 Delage, with the brake cable lever holes blocked up when converted to hydraulics. The only other frame that it could possibly be is my Capt. Davis frame, but this still has brake-cable attachments. The Ramponi front-spring and shock-absorber modifications on Walker’s car also serve as identity. My opinion is that the rear axle and springs now fitted to the Woodall car are from the Seaman car, for two good reasons. There are wood fillings in the rear spring anchor points and the Walker frame has such fillings between the front dumb-irons; also the rear axle casing is attached to the rear springs by an additional bridge piece; this is not original, but in my opinion was fitted by Ramponi for Seaman. The manual gearbox in the Woodall car is probably ex-Seaman,+ as the other two cars in this country have pre-selectors; also, the body is the only one that looks at all like the pictures of Seaman’s car. Rob Walker has had a new body built, to the Seaman shape, for his car.

+Seaman used a gearbox supplied by Delage of Paris, which was a spare tor the 1924 V12 G.P. cars.—Ed.

To the best of my belief, this is the most accurate “pedigree” published to date, but if anyone can make corrections or give me additional information, I shall be glad to hear from them.

 

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