At the beginning of 1939, Delage decided to create a works team. That April of 1939, Paul Pinier supervised the design, research and construction of two factory cars, bearing respectively the chassis numbers 51820 and 51821. The name of the two cars, Elage Olympic, is quickly abandoned for Delage D6 three-liter. By the end of 1939, the construction of the two cars is finished. The designated drivers are Louis Gerard and Georges Monneret.
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- Chassis no. 51820
This example is chassis number 51820 that completed in the following races:
– Grand Prix D’Anvers in April of 1939
– 24 Hours of LeMans in June of 1939
– Grand Prix Du Comminges in August of 1939
– Mille Miglia in April of 1940
Throughout the years, Delage had many successes in the racing arena. Sadly, it was not enough. In 1935, their fortunes change. The company closed due to bankruptcy and was bought by Walter Watney, the owner of used Delage car dealerships in Paris. A machine tool company purchased the main factory in Courdevoie. Delahaye, another famous automobile manufacture of the time, bought the rights to manufacture cars under the Delage name. The Delage models that followed were based on the six and eight-cylinder Delahayes, though many retained unique Delage qualities, styling, and abilities.
The Delage marque’s first visit to the 24 Hours of LeMans was in 1923, the inaugural running of the event. Under Delahaye’s care, a revisit to the event was planned for 1936. Delahaye realized the importance of racing and how it promotes brand recognition and wanted to continue the legacy of the Delage marque on the racing circuit. Monoposto racing was deemed to competitive and expensive as government backed teams were battling it out for ultimate supremacy. The idea to return to LeMans was approved, and Delahaye supplied Louis Delage with a chassis and three-liter engine. Delage outsourced the body to Joseph Figoni, a noted stylists and aerodynamicist who carefully clothed the capable rolling chassis in a wind-defiant body. It was given the name, D6-70 Speciale and expectations were high for the nimble machine. Unfortunately, the car would have to wait to prove its potential, as a strike across Europe cause the event to be postponed.
All was not a complete loss; the car was shown on the concours circuit where its elegant body impressed and amazed onlookers. It was brought to sprints races, hill climbs, and various other races where it enjoyed its intended purpose. It was driven in the Rallye Monte Carlo and Rallye Du Maroc before being brought to the June edition of the LeMans race. The car did well, finishing Fourth overall and First in Class.
After the race, the Figoni coupe body was removed and given a roadster body with coachwork by Figoni & Falaschi. The racing pedigree for the machine continued, acquiring a victory in the 1938 Tourist Trophy. The success at this venue inspired the creation of two similar cars. Much attention was given to reducing the vehicles weight as much as possible. They were given lightweight chassis and other improvements and brought to the LeMan where they were driven to a Second place finish, and First in Class.
The outbreak of World War II brought the program to a temporary close, which resumed when peace was re-establish. Five more cars, based on the successful LeMan entries, were commissioned. The cars were given three-liter engines that now produced just over 140 horsepower. Cycle-fendered bodies, that were both lightweight and attractive, were fitted and completed the ensemble. The cars were driven with some success beginning in 1946. In 1949, four cars were brought to LeMans. Again, the cars did rather well by securing a second and fourth finish overall, and First and Second in Class. A Ferrari 166MM emerged the victor. A year later, a Delage finish in seventh overall. By now, it was showing its age and being outclassed by the competition. Its glory days were coming to a close. The Delahaye marque was facing other challenges which prohibited an updated racer from being constructed. Bankruptcy concerns and the demise of the company were Delahaye’s main focus. The company managed to stay afloat for a couple of years, finally closing its doors in 1953 and bringing production to a halt.