Ray Kinney’s 1948 Delahaye 135M Chapron was almost flawless. It just needed the skills of master craftsman Robert Massengale to get it running perfectly.
That meant the three carburetors would have to be rebuilt and synchronized, the brakes were locking up and that needed to be corrected, a bent shaft in the starter had to be straightened, it was past time for the 17-year-old tires to be replaced, so were the battery cables, and then full lubrication for the gear box and rear axle along with oil, coolant, and grease fittings.
So, Robert could then greet the car’s owner with, “Take a look, perfection has been achieved!”
Robert’s highly developed talents have made him a top choice among area collectors of amazing cars. There doesn’t seem to be any challenge he can’t meet. He finds the parts he needs for almost anything that comes his way.
When something is so rare that there’s simply nothing available anywhere, he uses his fabrication skills and machines from scratch whatever is required to produce solutions to almost any mechanical problem or bodywork for just about everything that comes his way.
The greater the challenge, the more motivated he becomes in solving it. A visit to his shop provides an opportunity to see some work in progress and, for someone like me, it’s an observation that produces a response of, “Wow – how do you do that!?” >>>
This amazing classic was designed by French automobile coachbuilder, Henri Chapron, who had developed custom body designs beginning in the 1920s that included special presidential models for the governments of Charles de Gaulle and Georges Pompidou.
Those were four-door convertibles first used for the visit of Queen Elizabeth II to France and continued through the inauguration of Jacques Chirac in 1995, long after Chapron’s death in 1978.
The Delahaye 135 heritage includes winning the Monte Carlo rally in 1937 and the grueling 24 Hours of Le Mans the following year. Two more Delahayes came in second and fourth that year, and a year later, they finished first, second and fourth.
Twelve years later, the first ever Australian Grand Prix, staged over 35 laps of the race track laid out on the runways of a World War II airbase, was run a distance of 150.5 miles. Aussie racing hero John Crouch was in control of the open wheel version of the Delahaye on that occasion and piloted it to a first-place win in just an hour and 49 minutes.
So, the provenance that comes with Kinney’s Delahaye spans three-quarters of a century. Owning one of these classics puts you in rare company and assures the admiration of collectors the world over.
Also known as “Coupe des Alpes” after its success in the Alpine Rally, the Delahaye 135 was first presented in 1935 following the auto maker’s decision to build sportier cars.
Innovations included independent, leaf-sprung front suspension, a live real axle, cable-operated Bendix brakes, 17-inch spoked wheels and a partially synchronized four-speed manual transmission.
Take a look at the shifter on the dashboard and you can imagine the engineering that developed the technology to move the car through the gears with a little more than a nudge of the handy chrome knob.
It is powered by a formidable inline, 6-cylinder engine with those three carburetors producing about 140 horsepower.
The prestigious Classic Driver website recently featured one of these cars and summed it up, “Delahayes have always been remarkable automobiles. They are interesting, quick, easy to control, and astonishing to look at.”
No one would challenge that conclusion because it’s all so very true.