Chapron: rather more prolific than just DS chop-tops

| 19 Feb 2013

One of the fascinating aspects of the classic car world is becoming obsessed with unearthing additional history on characters who are known primarily for one thing.

Take Henri Chapron. He is a household name (well, in my household anyway), but ask most enthusiasts what he did beyond his hand-built and highly desirable DS Décapotable and pretty soon they fall silent.

They might know a bit more than that – more than likely his SM Présidential, Opéra and Mylord for example – but that is still just the tip of the iceberg.

By the time these cars came out – and the CXs that the Chapron company produced after Le Patron's death – the vast majority of his career was already behind him.

This encapsulated restrained yet classy coachwork for all the great Continental pre-war marques including Hispano-Suiza, Talbot-Lago, Delage and Delahaye.

One of the beauties of Rétromobile is that it is precisely the sort of place where fascinating nuggets of Chapron history turn up around every corner and, as you walk the halls, you soon find a 'theme' developing.

Inevitably, on Lukas Hüni's huge homage to the DS, there was a Concorde, a notchback DS curiosity in a dreadful state (the fascinating story of which will be told elsewhere!).

As usual there was a Chapron Delage to drool over, but for me the most interesting of his designs this year was a wonderful Delahaye 235 coupé (main image).

I didn't expect that to be topped, to be honest, but when we wandered across to the magnificent Grand Palais to peruse the Bonhams auction, it was nearly upstaged by the most unlikely candidate.

There, in an eye-catching black-and-bronze colour scheme, nestled among the rows of glamour machines, was a Peugeot 504 cabrio with a beautifully alluring hard-top.

Commissioned by British diplomat Hugh Ross, the modifications to the 1982 car doubled its cost and the tinsel included a tan leather interior, a custom hood and the, er, interesting paintjob.

And then, so to speak, the wheels came off my discovery.

Obviously Mr Chapron couldn't have personally added much to a car that was built four years after his death, but it was also a bit of a comedown to find out that the car's most alluring feature – its hard-top – was actually created by a previous owner, Marc de Coninck.

It didn't sell on the day, but apparently mustered half its estimate post-auction to make a little over £20k, less cash than Artcurial raised for a non-Chapron 504 the same week.

That's a very curious result and makes it cheap for such a distinctive car I reckon.