Delage with Hollywood past to make rare UK appearance

| 9 Aug 2018
Delage with Hollywood past to make rare UK appearance

A gorgeous 1939 Delage that played a role in an Oscar-winning movie will make a rare UK appearance at Salon Privé later this month.

The 1939 D8-120 Cabriolet will appear at the Blenheim Palace event on Thursday, 30 August in the Pre-War Luxury Tourers Class of the Chubb Insurance Concours d’Elégance.

The car was delivered new to legendary French coachbuilder Henri Chapron as a rolling chassis, and was duly equipped with an elegant four-seater body, complete with a three-position top and ‘Bustle Back’ outline.

Reportedly commandeered by a Vichy general in WW2 France, it was shipped over to California once the war had finished. However, the general was refused a US visa and instead fled to Argentina, never to see the car again. Instead, he sold it to Hollywood studio RKO Pictures – and there its life really began.

In 1950, bosses at MGM decided it would be perfect for a role in the sumptuous musical An American in Paris – a Gene Kelly picture that went on to win six Oscars.

The Delage was duly given a cosmetic makeover, with modifications made to the taillights and a new green paintjob, and features prominently in a scene in which Kelly is chauffeured around Paris alongside actress Nina Foch. You can see it in action towards the end of the clip below:

With its film career over, it then passed to Thol ‘Si’ Simonson, a special effects expert who worked for RKO and who was given the car in lieu of the pension he was owed.

Now part of the Mullin Automotive Museum collection, it has since been returned to its former splendour and has won awards at concours worldwide.

Not that it's a shoe-in for concours honours at Salon Privé, though: this coachbuilt Lancia Astura ought to give it some stiff competition.

Believed to be the sole survivor of only three fourth-series Asturas bodied by Carrozzeria Boneschi during the late '30s, it features a narrow-angle, three-litre V8 engine in a long-wheelbase chassis.

This ultra-stylish example was originally owned by a Belgian coalmining magnate, and was kept in storage for much of its early life. As a result, it's in near-mint condition, with only a repaint – in its original dark grey – anything other than original.

Salon Privé takes place from 30 August to 1 September. Tickets are available here.


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