Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Art is Deco

One of the great benefits of the old style of building cars – with a separate chassis containing the engine, drivetrain and suspension – is that you were free to then add the body of your choice to clothe the chassis. This is how many of the classic old cars were sold, before the Second World War especially, and the Art Deco period of the late 20s and all of the 30s was a golden era of car coachwork. 

There were several famous design houses specialising in coachwork for cars, including the French firms Letourner & Marchand, Pourtout & Chapron, and Figoni & Falaschi. It's these cars which I am most interested in collecting, but across the Atlantic some wonderful examples by Cord, Auburn, Packard and several others were also being built, so a collection of all the Art Deco cars could become a very expensive and beautiful obsession. For starters, however, I'm sticking to France.

Delahaye 165, 1938 model with coachwork by Figoni & Falaschi.
The model is by IXO, 1:43.
Powered by an alloy, 4.5 litre, 60° V12, the car was essentially a production
version of the Delahaye 145 V12 race car.
These IXO models aren't expensive, but they look great in the cabinet.
Unfortunately for me, there is another Art Deco Delahaye that I want, but
the models of it cost somewhere north of $300, while my cheap little
IXOs each cost me about $30, more my budget zone. However, I did
find a nice You Tube piece on the Unobtainable Delahaye, and here it is, the
car once owned by British starlet Diana Dors. Car and girl, perfect combo.
(You'll have to endure a little 10-second ad at the start, unfortunately)

Talbot Lago T150 CSS, 1937 to 1939, with bodywork by Figoni & Falaschi.
Like the other cars in today's posting, it's 1:43 by inexpensive IXO.
Powered by a 4-litre in-line OHV straight six, it had the nickname of 'The
Teardop' as its designer said it was based on a drop of water.
As soon as he laid eyes on this car, the Chairman of Bentley, Wolf Barnato,
placed an order for one. I know how he feels. And now, again courtesy of
You Tube, is a walk around this car. I love the little details like the hand-
made set of luggage in the back. What a lovely driving holiday!

Delage D8 120, 1939 model, with bodywork by Letourner & Marchand.
It was powered by a straight eight 4.7 litre OHV engine. The design house
Pourtout & Chapron also made a wonderful Art Deco body for this car.
Tatra weren't the only company putting stylish aerodynamic fins on their cars
– everyone was doing it back then, including this shy little fin by Delage.
Finally, my other little Art Deco car, in a very pretty pale blue-green. While it would have been nowhere near as expensive as the Delage, Delahaye and Talbot Lago at the time, it belongs in their Art Deco company. It's the Peugeot 402 Darl'Mat roadster.

Emile Darl'Mat made special bodies for his souped-up Peugeots all through the
1930s, and then again in the late 40s, with his Peugeot 203 Darl'Mat.
I love the decorative detailing down the side of the bonnet and the flying
wings on the rear wheel covers.
This model is a 1:43 made by Altaya, the Spanish company.

The Darl'Mats distinguished themselves in long-distance racing, such as the
24 hours of Le Mans. This dodgy looking scan is from my book 'Peugeot, sous
le signe du Lion' by Pierre Dumont. It's written in French, but thankfully with
the picture captions also in English, and it's a treasure trove of Peugeot stuff.
Turn over the page, and here's the Darl'Mat team ready
to roll at Le Mans in 1937. If my translation is correct, they
all finished, and came 7th, 8th and 10th in their class in 1937,
at an average speed of 114.2 km/h for the 24 hours.

And so my search goes on for Art Deco cars, as there are many more that I could add to my cabinet, if my budget can stretch that far. Of course many modern car companies still look upon body design for their cars as a form of sculpture, but there's something very feminine and romantic about the Art Deco period that just appeals to me the most – it was a Golden Age of the art of body design for me.


  1. The real Talbot and Delahaye are here. I don't know much about them but I certain do appreciate their art deco-ness. They are magnificent and awe-inspiring in real life.

  2. this art is really awesome.
    so cute!!. little cars!


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