Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Dors and her Delahaye.

Modern cars...


I find modern cars to be absolutely boring in their appearance. This applies to just about every motorized vehicle
out there on the roads, whether it be a family or sports car. However one of few exceptions would be this car below.

Bugatti Veyron - the fastest street-legal production car in the world with the
Super Sport version capable of reaching a mindblowing 432 km/h.
I could rant for hours about my dislike for modern transportation, even including expensive brands like Audi, BMW or Mercedes which most people seem to hold in high regard. Instead I'll summon up my opinions with a short but illustrative quote by Marv, the always battered and bruised fictional character from graphic novel series Sin City:
"Modern cars – they all look like electric shavers"

A car with absolutely nothing boring about is a particular example of the Delahaye 175 S Roadster from 1949.
Sky blue mixed with shiny chrome, 3 meters in length and French - I bet you’ve never seen anything like it.  

Above is just a sneak peak. Much more information on this mechanical wonder will follow
further down as I'll start with an introduction to its famous and equally elegant owner.

Something similarly curvaceous, outlandish and sexy, though in a biological sense, was born on the 23rd of October 1931 in Swindon, England. Diane Mary Fluck, a blonde bombshell of the Monroe type, quickly rose to fame in post-war Britain and Hollywood appearing in numerous television series and headlining several of 67 movies in total between 1947-84. Diane also recorded various singles and a single album entitled 'Swinging Dors'. A cardboard figure of Diane appears on the front cover of The Beatles' legendary album 'Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band' from 1967 while she co-starred in the music video 'Prince Charming' by British cult rock band Adam & The Ants in 1981. 

The full story of Diane's life and career is long and certainly worth a post by itself. However since I also have a car to present I'll take a more efficient, tabloid-like approach to her persona. I've selected some interesting highlights and paired them with vintage glamour-shots of Diane. It seems blonds do have more fun...

Diane became the youngest ever student to join the famous London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA). 
She was just 14 years.


For her first movie appearance in 'The Shop At Sly Corner' an agreement was made between Diane, her father and
the movie company to change her contractual surname from Fluck to Dors (being the maiden name of her maternal grandmother). Diane later commented on her name: They asked me to change my name. I suppose they were afraid that if my real name Diane Fluck was in lights and one of the lights blew…


Ever aware of her public appearance as a sex symbol with appropriate lifestyle attachments, Diane made a lease-deal with Rolls Royce so a headline could be created in the tabloids that at age 20, she was the youngest registered keeper of a Rolls Royce in the UK.

While her boyfriend was in jail, Diane married her first of three husbands after just 5 weeks of dating in 1951. He, Dennis Hamilton, went to great length to advance Diane's career and would even loan her out as a favor to hiring producers and leading actors in Britain, much as in the casting couch practices of Hollywood. He also engaged a photographer to take a number of nude pictures of Diane that were issued as a 'Diane Dors 3D: the ultimate British Sex Symbol' set together with a pair of 3D glasses.

Being a bit of a hell raiser herself, Diane showed an interesting taste in friends like fx Ruth Ellis - the last woman to be hanged in Britain being found guilty of shooting her lover - and the notorious Kray twins, a pair of cruel English gangsters with both arson, armed robberies and murder on their conscience. 

During and after her relationship with Hamilton, Dors regularly held adult parties at her home. Orgies to be frank. There, a number of celebrities, amply supplied with alcohol and drugs, mixed with young starlets against a backdrop of both soft and hardcore porn films. Dors gave all her guests full access to the entire house which, her son Jason Lake later alleged in various media interviews and publications, she had equipped with 8 mm movie cameras.
The young starlets were made aware of the arrangements and were allowed to attend Diane's adult parties for free
in return for making sure that their celebrity partners performed in bed at the right camera angles. Dors would then enjoy watching the films the following morning keeping an archive of the best performances. In desperate need of cash after her separation from Hamilton in 1958, Diane gave an interview in which she described their lives and the adult group parties in full, frank detail. The serialized story ran for 12 weeks in the tabloids causing a media scandal and making the Archbishop of Canterbury denounce Diane as a "wayward hussy". Diane's former lover and party guest, Bob Monkhouse, later commented in an interview after her death: The awkward part about an orgy is that afterwards you're not too sure who to thank.
Meeting Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. To the left of Dors is actress Ava Gardner.

Two years before Diane's death of ovarian cancer in 1984 at age 52, she claimed to have hidden away more than £2 million in banks across Europe. Diane gave her son, Mark Dawson, a sheet of paper on which she told him was a code that revealed the whereabouts of the money. Diane’' 3rd husband, Alan Lake, supposedly had the key to crack the code, but as he committed suicide shortly after Diane's death, Dawson was left with an apparently unsolvable code. He sought out computer forensic specialists Inforenz who recognized the encryption as the mysterious Viginère cipher - a method of encrypting alphabetic text that dates back to the year of 1553. Inforenz then used their own cryptanalysis software to suggest a ten-letter decryption key, DMARYFLUCK. Although Inforenz was able to decode the entire message and link it to a bank statement found in some of Lake's papers, the location of the money is still unknown. British Channel 4 later made a television program about the mystery.

And now the car.


The Saoutchik Delahaye 175S Roadster, 1 of only 51 S-chassis made, was originally ordered by Englishman Sir John Gaul in 1948. However Gaul wanted a long series of esthetic changes implied to the car and so he had the car's entire bodywork custom built by Parisian master coachbuilder, Jacques Saoutchik. The result is truly unique and said to be especially influenced by Gaul’s obsession with Lockheed’s Constellation airliner:


After competing with the car at various concourse events, Gaul brought the car from Paris to his garage in London. Only 5 years after its completion Gaul sold the car to a then 17 year old Diane not even having a driver's license yet! The price was £5000 – a considerable sum at the time. A few sources on the Net claim that Gaul presented the car as a gift to Diane, however I haven't been able to confirm this. True or not, I wouldn't hesitate to confirm the supposed intentions of such gallantry…


In my opinion this car contains as much beauty as its four wheels can possibly carry. Presumably during Diane's ownership, its stunning appearance won top honors at the Grand Castle du Bois de Boulogne in Paris, the Monte Carlo Concourse and Coup de l'Automobile in San Remo. 


As is the case with most landmark examples of coachbuilt cars, much of this Delahaye's beauty is especially evident in the extravagent details. Notice the chrome accents that highlight the curves, the embedded turn signals or the thin strips flanking the sides while adding grace, lenght and a sense of speed while cleverly hiding the door handles. The astonishing interior is remarkably contemporary, incorporating a stylized eagle on each door panel and bracketing an expansive dash panel that seems aircraft-inspired with its rows of knobs, displays and stunning transparent Lucite steering wheel.


Dors eventually sold the car and it since changed owners several times before ending up in Colorado, USA during the 1970s. From here details about the car's whereabouts seem to disappear ...


... at least from the Internet, but the car suddenly hits the radar again in the early 2000s when the present owner commissioned a complete restoration led by Fran Roxas, a leading restorer. The restoration lasted until 2007 when the car was finally revealed in its original glory at the renowned Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance show winning
one of many 1st places that year.


The only thing making the car short of being 100% complete was its original engine, which had been replaced by a former owner some 30 years prior by a more reliable engine due to constant maintenance issues. Having searched
for the original missing engine ever since the restoration began, the present owner followed a lead and miraculously located the engine in 2010. It had fortunately never been rebuilt or reinstalled in another car and was thus nearly complete. It was left in its original state as the restoration had already involved a very costly renovation of the car’s current engine.


When the same owner decided to put the Saoutchik Delahaye 175S Roadster up for auction at California-based RM Auctions in 2010, the newly discovered original engine accompanied the sale. Auctioneer Alain Squindo then said: This car was made when the custom-built era was almost at an end, but this one is one of the most spectacular and outrageous examples. Indeed, collectors of vintage cars from all over the world bid vigorously to gain possession of the motorized masterpiece and it was lastly sold to an anonymous buyer with a final bid of $3.300.000.


The company of Delahaye was founded in 1898 by French engineer Emile Delahaye. Until it closed in 1954, Delahaye manufactured not only civilian cars but also fire fighting equipment, racing boats and light reconnaissance vehicles for the French army. Quality was a top priority at Delahaye regardless of the product so the company name quickly became synonymous with solidity and stamina. Today the company's legend revolves around the late 1930s where Delahaye produced strikingly beautiful luxury cars as well as achieving great successes on the European race tracks.


The best of Delahaye's cars were designed by the Italian coachbuilding firm Figoni et Falaschi based in Paris.
Its co-founder and head designer, Giuseppe Figoni, worked almost as a automotive sculptor causing several public sensations with his motorized embodiments of elegance and gracefulness. He showed immense attention to detail and at least 2.000 hours were usually spent in the workshop before the overall idea of a new bodywork could be completed. Whenever new work was revealed at the annual, international automobile shows, Figoni loved working with haute couture fashion designers in creating gowns, shoes and hats for the female models so they'd perfectly match the car being presented. Beside Delahaye you’ll also find Renault, Citroën, Bugatti and Alfa Romeo among the company's customers. Figoni et Falaschi (F&F) became especially known for their tear drop shapes which are a prominent design feature in most of their creations.

Even the base of the gas cap is tear shaped on this Delahaye 135M from 1937.

You’'l note that the first three cars all have the same model name despite their different looks and production years. They were simply continuously named after their 'no. 135' engine with an added M or MS to count for production differences. Hence, no letter meant the standard version while the M edition were built specifically for competition. The MS edition (standing for Modifie Speciale) were the definitive and fastest version of each type of car.
As a common practice in the golden age of coach-building, each car could be further modified to fulfill the customer's needs which was a frequent request by those wishing to participate in rally driving. For those just wanting to spoil themselves, you could have the entire interior fitted in thick leather with matching luggage made of crocodile skin by French fashion house Hermès.

While the cars below were undoubtedly heavy with loads of luxurious materials and excessive styling making them look almost too graceful for anything else than a sunny Sunday stroll, some were fitted with powerful V12 engines reaching more than 170 km/per hour. And this was in the late 1930s! 


The Delahaye 135M from 1936 by F&F.

The Delahaye 135MS Torpedo Roadster from 1937 by F&F (and illustrator George Hamel).

This particular car, named The French Mistress, was sold at RM Auctions in March 2014 for $6.600.000.

Made in only 13 examples with each having its own unique characteristics.
Today just 2 short-chassis examples exists.

The Delahaye 135MS Roadster from 1937 by F&F.

Would look great in any color, I'd imagine.

The Delahaye 165MS Roadster from 1938.

The car below is not a original Delahaye but rather a modern interpretation from 2010 created by American company 'Delahaye USA' as a tribute to Emile Delahaye. It was designed by the legendary Californian coachbuilder Chip Foose and named the Bella Figura Bugnotti 57S Roadster:




I'll end with my favorite photo from the old era of speed, dare and sometimes plane insanity.

Did you notice the lion?

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