1908 Delaunay-Belleville Type H4 Double Phaeton
Coachwork by Henri Labourdette
Chassis no. 2587
Engine no. 2587
The French Delaunay-Belleville was an internationally coveted prestige car in the first decade of the 20th century. Produced under the exacting direction of manufacturing magnate Louis Delaunay-Belleville, the marque made its debut at the 1904 Paris Salon. The chassis, engineered by former Benz designer Marius Barbarou, featured a distinctive round radiator, patterned after the steam boilers the car's parent firm had long supplied for naval use.
An expensive car of obviously high quality, the Delaunay-Belleville was quickly embraced by aristocrats of numerous nationalities. By 1912, owners included King Alphonso XIII of Spain and King George I of Greece. Czar Nicholas II of Russia had several.
Production of the Type H4, such as offered here, occurred during 1908-1910 at the Delaunay-Belleville works, located near Paris in St Denis sur Seine. The H4's four-cylinder engine was rated at 15 taxable horsepower and featured an advanced pressurized proprietary oiling system originally developed for steam engines. A four-speed transmission was utilized.
One of France's most prominent carrossiers, Henri Labourdette, created the double phaeton coachwork seen on the offered Type H4. A four-passenger design, it is of the type favored at the time by exceedingly well-to-do motorists with sporting inclinations. Many Delaunay-Belleville chassis were saddled with heavy and conservative formal bodies, making this example's gracefully intimate bodywork all the more desirable.
The Type H4 is offered from the estate of the late Bud Ekins. A Hollywood native, Ekins was an internationally renowned motorcycle racer in the 1950s. Ekins later owned a Triumph dealership, where he educated a youthful Steve McQueen in the arts of off-road bike racing. The enduring friendship that ensued led to a second career as a movie and TV vehicle stuntman and coordinator that would span three decades. Ekins early credits include the famous motorcycle jump in The Great Escape. He also doubled for McQueen in some of the famous car chase scenes shot for Bullitt. An avid vintage motorcycle collector and restorer in his later years, Ekins also acquired the occasional antique car, one of them being the Delaunay-Belleville offered here.
The legendary Von Dutch (Kenny Howard), a custom car and bike pin-striper and artist in both metal and paint, repainted the H4 and recreated its pin striping during the period he worked with Bud Ekins at the latter's North Hollywood shop.
Exhibiting matching numbers on its engine and chassis, this Delaunay-Belleville is equipped with correct brass Blériot head and auxiliary lamps. It also sports a marvelous period searchlight. The car's striking serpent horn wonderfully represents Edwardian-era motorist attitudes.
Here is a fine and especially attractive "brass-era" car that was considered one of the world's best automobiles when it was produced more than a century ago.
The Delaunay-Belleville is not currently operational and its mechanical condition is unknown.
- The chassis number listed in the catalog is incomplete. The complete chassis number is 2587V.
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