Delahaye started manufacturing cars in 1894 and carried on until 1954, making a wide variety of vehicles from small single cylinder cars in the early days through to exotic high performance sports cars, many of which were used in serious competitions including the French Sports Car Grand Prix, the Mille Miglia and the Monte Carlo Rally.
This most charming and very rare VCC dated 12 hp example has very interesting original bodywork which allows it to be used either as a passenger-carrying shooting brake or a load-carrying wagonette as the rear seats fold away to leave a flat floor. This means that in addition to being eligible for Veteran Car Club events it can also take in Historic Commercial Vehicle activities including their London to Brighton Run.
It has a four cylinder 1593cc engine which starts easily on the handle and runs very well indeed, giving more power than you might expect from just over 1.5 litres. It was fairly comprehensively overhauled in 2008 which no doubt accounts for how well it goes and I imagine the car’s very light bodywork also helps to enhance its performance. It is relatively unusual for a side valve engine of this era in that it has a detachable cylinder head which will certainly make maintenance much simpler than the fixed head engines which were prevalent at the time. The design also incorporates a water pump and a cooling fan and I was surprised how it cheerfully sat at tick-over on a warm day without any sign of overheating. The car has a three speed and reverse gearbox though out on the road you only rarely have to drop down to first gear as the engine generates surprising amounts of pulling power at relatively low speeds.
The Delahaye spent some time on display at Beaulieu and the file includes a letter dated March 1954 from the Warden of Beaulieu to its then owner Flight Sergeant (later Flight Lieutenant) J. Noakes regarding the car and there is also a copy of its Montagu Motor Museum catalogue sheet dated 1955 plus a photograph showing it on display. Jack Noakes’ name appears in an original 1952 buff log book which comes with the car and there are also photocopies of other registration papers.
Although IO 802 is an Irish registration number the 1915 Motor Directory for Kildare shows the car as being registered to a lady from Pannal in Yorkshire. This may sound unusual but closer inspection of the rest of the names on Directory shows that most of the cars registered belonged to people who lived in England so for whatever reason many English residents were registering their cars in Ireland.
The car appears to be very sound throughout and is smartly turned out though it does not attempt to hide its age so is not going to win any concours prizes. It is however very useable and you can have fun using it on rallies and events without worrying if it gets a bit wet or muddy on country roads – it is definitely one for people enjoy driving their old cars!