The Delahaye Saoutchik Roadster - is this the world's most beautiful car?
Held each year since 1950, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance is now the centerpiece of a week-long collector car festival in Monterey each August, and in addition to becoming the world’s foremost classic car event, it is increasingly being preferred by prestige manufacturers as the launch platform for new and concept vehicles. This year the car regarded by some as the most beautiful collector car in the world is to go under the auctioneer’s hammer. The work of prodigiously talented automotive stylist and coachbuilder Jacques Saoutchik, this 1949 Delahaye 175 S Roadster is expected to fetch around US$6 million.
Saoutchik was a cabinet maker when he moved to Paris from his home in Ukraine around 1900, but he didn’t take long to establish himself in the fledgling automotive coachbuilding industry and he showed a consistent flair over the next 50 years which puts him among the very elite of automotive designers.
His designs borrowed little from other designers, and along with names such as Figoni et Falaschi, Chapron, Franay and de Letourner et Marchand, Saoutchik was one of the foremost designers of exquisite Art Deco coachwork during the 20s and 30s.
Saoutchik was commissioned to produce the spectacular work-of-art by flamboyant English collector, Sir John Gaul. The design was based on the first post-war Delahaye chassis from a 175 S Roadster (chassis number 815023) producing 165 bhp from an engine much larger than the pre-war Delahayes ran – a 4,455 cc naturally aspirated overhead valve inline six cylinder engine with four-speed electro-mechanically actuated Cotal Preselector gearbox, Dubonnet coil spring front suspension, De Dion rear axle with semi-elliptic springs, and four-wheel hydraulic finned alloy drum brakes. The wheelbase was a whopping 116 inches.
The car was unveiled sixty one years ago at the 1949 Paris Auto Show, and was exhibited at all the major European concours events that year, from Paris to Monte Carlo to San Remo, scooping the pool wherever it was exhibited. Indeed, whilst it will undoubtedly be the star of the auction this year at the Pebble Beach event, it won best-in-class in the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2006 just a few months after a complete restoration. Just a few months later, the car was honored again, winning People’s Choice at the prestigious Amelia Island Concours d’ Elegance.
Having fulfilled its exhibition duties, it then passed through a succession of other flamboyant owners, including actress Diana Dors.
The final word on this stunning automobile goes to Ian Kelleher, President and Chief Operating Officer, RM Auctions
“Following the financial depression of World War II, there were few collectors with the means, flamboyance and flair to commission a car as exotic as this Saoutchik Roadster. Arguably the most desirable post-war, coachbuilt automobile of all time, it is truly a masterpiece of the coachbuilder’s art. Eye-catching and exotic, it is wonderful to drive and combines superlative styling on a chassis of competition quality.”
The 1949 Delahaye 175 S Saoutchik Roadster will be auctioned at RM Auctions’ ‘Sports & Classics of Monterey’ event on August 13-14.
And if the anticipated price of somewhere between US$4 million and US$6 million is a bit steep for you, there are replica cars available at approximately US$500,000 from Delahaye USA.
Photo Credits: Ron Kimball/Kimball Stock ©2010 Courtesy of RM Auctions / ARCHIVE/ COLLECTION JEAN PIERRE / Darin Schnabel ©2010 Courtesy of RM Auctions