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  Delage DF 'La Torpille'
 

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Country of origin:France
Produced in:1922
Numbers built:one-off
Designed by:Henry Toutee
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:January 22, 2007
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Click here to download printer friendly versionJust before the Great War raged over Europe, Delage's racing cars were very successful. Particularly in the United States where the local Grand Prix at Indianapolis was won by driver Rene Thomas. The winning Delage Type Y was powered by a highly advanced four cylinder engine with twin overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. After the War the competition department was in dissarray when Type Y designer Arthur Michelat left the company.

Indy-winner Thomas was allowed to keep both the prize money and the winning machine to sell. This one victory made him both rich and famous. When Delage's interest in racing returned, Thomas was hired to head the competition department. While the ultimate goal was Grand Prix racing one of the first project was a one-off sprint car built specifically for Thomas. It was derived the latest Type GS road car and designed by Henry Toutee.

The Type GS was the top of the line model with a short wheelbase chassis and a six cylinder engine. For the Type DF racing car Toutee enlarged the bore from 80 to 85 mm, increasing the displacement from 4.5 to 5.1 litres. The ladder frame was retained, suspended by live axles on both ends with cable operated drum brakes on all around. A striking machine-turned torpedo body was fitted with an oval radiator, which quickly earned it the nickname 'La Torpille' or The Torpedo.

The Delage Type DF 'La Torpille' was ready in time for the 1922 French hill-climb championship. Thomas dominated the season taking victory after victory, often with a course record time. Among the many wins was one at the legendary Mont Ventoux in the South of France, which he ascended with an average speed of nearly 70 km/h. He continued adding to the unique car's tally the next season and when Thomas replaced the DF with the V12 engined DH, Albert Divo and Robert Benoist continued winning with 'La Torpille'.

Thomas' new 10.5 litre V12 engined DH was without equal and in 1925 Benoist broke a variety of world speed records at the high speed Montlhery track. The highest speed was achieved in the 5 km run with a flying start averaging at 221 km/h. That year a second 'La Torpille' was also constructed with a larger, twin cam six cylinder engine, but it was not as successful as the original car constructed in 1922. In 1926 and 1927, Delage also dominated international racing with the highly advanced 15 S8 single seater.

With 44 victories and 37 new records, the Delage DF 'La Torpille' is one of the most successful racing cars of its era. Amazingly the hard raced machine has survived and has been restored to its original condition. Now in the United States, it sees regular action at events like the Monterey Historic Races where it is pictured above in 2006.

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  Article Image gallery (15) Specifications