The Delage marque was always a favourite of George Milligens, who bought this lovely car, with its elegant helmet wings, from that well-known dealer in veteran and vintage cars Cecil Bendall of Hitchin in 1962. Now finished in Georges house colours of RAF blue with red and gold coach lining, it remained close to his heart throughout his 42 years of ownership.
The car was completely overhauled in 1964-65, Milligens records showing that as part of this comprehensive rebuild, which included much work on the transmission, brakes and front axle, the crankshaft and flywheel were balanced, the block was welded and sleeved, the big end and main bearings were remetalled and the valves were built up and reseated. At the same time the body was repaired and repainted by local coachbuilder R.Robinson & Company, the car was reupholstered to match the original trim and the plating was renewed. The Delage was driven to France in the early 1990s after a new distributor was fitted and George Milligen started and ran it just a couple of weeks before his death.
In its day, the Delage D8 was the only French car which could be mentioned in the same breath as the 32CV Hispano-Suiza in terms of elegance and engineering excellence, while the Delage factory at Courbevoie was the most modern in the French industry, equipped with the finest tools that money could buy.
Delage have to their credit many worlds records, including a worlds championship, and more awards at the principal Concours dElegance than any other car in the world, proudly boasted the Delage companys advertising, adding: To these achievements Delage have added a third and greater. They have made the highest known degree of luxury and performance available at the price the average motorist can pay.
Designed by Maurice Gaultier, the D8 was the sensation of the 1929 Paris Salon, with its smooth and silent 4-litre straight-eight pushrod overhead valve engine breathing, in its normal 105 bhp version, through a single Delage-built Smith-Barriquand five-jet carburettor. The chassis was a strong X-braced structure with servo-assisted braking.
The impressive list of D8 owners promoted by the factory as experienced and justifiably demanding folk, men of industry and of the world, businessmen and elegant women - included King Gustav V of Sweden, King Alexander of Yugoslavia and Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia as well as leading businessmen and politicians, while the most glamorous film and cabaret stars of the day like Betty Spell and Josephine Baker added sex appeal to the glorious coachwork that adorned the D8 chassis at the major concours delegance of the day (which a Delage normally won).
Bodywork on this car is by Chapron of Levallois-Perret, Paris, a company founded in 1919 by 33-year-old Henri Chapron, a native of Nouan-le-Fuzelier in the Sologne region of France. Unlike so many fashionable French carrossiers, Chapron carried none of the mental baggage that came from having graduated to cars from building horsecarriages; consequently, his work had a freshness and innate sense of proportion that was well suited to the long-bonneted Delage D8 chassis. The wooden dashboard of this car, with its delicate metal inlay and inset instrument panel, is particularly elegant.
With the centenary of the Delage marque coming up in 2005, what better time to acquire one of the most elegant examples extant of the car that so well typified Louis Delages maxim Only do one thing but do it well?