Pebble Beach 2006
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2005 Pebble Beach event
10th August, 2006
More than six decades after it faded from view after World War II, an icon of French racing has been rediscovered and will be unveiled at the 2006 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elégance during the 20th August salute to Delahaye as a featured marque.
“The Pebble Beach Concours serves as an automotive time capsule” said Sandra Kasky Button, chairman of the Pebble Beach Concours. “Having this very special, historic Delahaye displayed on the lawn at Pebble Beach will be one of the highlights of the day.”
In 1937, with the Germans dominating grand prix racing, the French government and the French Automobile Club offered one million francs (the equivalent of $959,264 U.S. dollars today) to any French-made car that could break the record set in 1934 by Alfa Romeo: an average speed of 146.508 km/h over 200 kms. It was a Delahaye Type 145 V-12 driven by René Dreyfus that ultimately set the new mark, averaging 146.654 km/h. Delahaye’s triumph was celebrated throughout France and was capped soon afterwards when Dreyfus, at the wheel of the same car, won the 1938 race at Pau, France, over the German Mercedes-Benz Type W 154 (one of the Silver Arrows) and then beat the Italian Maserati at the Cork track in Ireland. Until recently though, the famous car was thought to be lost forever.
During the research for their new book Delahaye Styling and Design, authors Richard S. Adatto and Diana E. Meredith became intrigued by this mystery. “For years, the Million Franc car had been written about extensively, but no one knew which chassis it was or where it could be found,” says Adatto, a Delahaye expert and member of the Pebble Beach Selection Committee. “We traveled to France and during a visit to the French National Archives were able to confirm that the chassis of the Million Franc car was number 48771.
With copies of the official documents in hand, the authors returned to the United States. “Clues were provided by René Dreyfus himself,” says Meredith. “He was very clear that every effort had been made to lighten each piece of the winning chassis, resulting in unique physical characteristics.”
Four of the Type 145 V-12 chassis had been built. Of those four possible candidates, only one Delahaye 145 fit the bill, but that car had been known for many years (wrongly as it turned out) by the number on its firewall plate, number 48775.
As this automobile was being restored for the forthcoming Pebble Beach Concours, Adatto was able to examine the disassembled pieces and he found the number 48771 engraved on the top surface of the left frame rail. The restored and authenticated car, now owned by Peter Mullin who lives in Los Angeles, California, will be unveiled on 20th August on the field at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elégance.
Like so many of France’s automotive treasures, the Million Franc Prize-winning Delahaye was disassembled and carefully stored to prevent its destruction during World War II. After the war, it was retrieved and raced again in 1946, but it could no longer compete. The car was later sold and shipped to the United States well after its history had been forgotten.
“They made four 145 chassis, but only one performed exceptionally well,” says Adatto. “Peter’s car is the one with the magic chassis.”
First conducted in 1950, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance is an international gathering of automotive enthusiasts for “a celebration of the automobile” at The Lodge at Pebble Beach on the Monterey Peninsula. The Concours, which in 2005 attracted entrants from 26 states and 15 countries and raised over $800,000 for charity, combines a scenic location - the famed 18th fairway at Pebble Beach Golf Links along the Pacific Ocean - with the opportunity to view rarely seen examples of automotive style, performance and history. The annual event also includes a series of auxiliary activities, including the Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance along the coast and through Carmel, RetroAuto and The Pebble Beach Auction. The 2006 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance will be held Sunday, 20th August.
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