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GL Labourdette Skiff
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  Delage GL Labourdette Skiff
 

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Country of origin:France
Produced from:1924 - 1928
Numbers built:180 (all versions)
Designed by:Henri Labourdette
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:September 29, 2008
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Click here to download printer friendly versionLouis Delage's ability to build fantastic cars is without question. Unfortunately his business sense regularly came second to his flamboyance. His costly racing efforts, for example, brought great successes, but also put the company on the edge of bankruptcy. During the Great War, Delage earned a considerable fortune by supplying vehicles to the French military. Immediately after, sales for the latest Delage road cars and did not pick up until the four cylinder engined 'DE' model was launched. Instead of investing the earnings wisely, Louis Delage's flamboyance took over as he announced the development of a brand new Delage that would rival the likes of Rolls-Royce and Hispano Suiza. Delage, manufacturer of 'The beautiful French car,' was now to build the 'Best car in the world.'

Former Hotchkiss engineer Maurice Sainturat was given full responsibility for the ambitious project. He worked alone and made good use of the experience and information gathered at his former employer. The biggest task was the engine, which had to be powerful enough to match those of the competition. Sainturat drew up a brand new straight six engine with a single overhead camshaft. Breathing threw a single Carburetor; the engine produced a hefty 100 bhp. Although it does not sound like much today, it compared well to the larger six cylinder engines produced by Hispano Suiza and Rolls-Royce. For the more demanding customers, Delage also offered a 'Grand Sport' version with a twin-cam head. This added another 30 bhp to the engine's output.

Mated to four speed gearbox, the engine was fitted into a very conventional ladder frame. Suspension was by live axles, semi-elliptic leaf springs and friction dampers on both ends. State of the art servo-assisted, cable operated drum brakes were fitted to all four wheels. The new Delage was available in three chassis lenghts; the 3620mm Normal, the 3850mm Sleeping and the 3400mm Sport. The Grand Sport engine was bolted in an even shorter and narrower frame. Aptly dubbed the 'Grand Luxe,' or the GL, the new Delage was introduced at the Paris Salon in 1924. At 85,000 Francs for the chassis, the GL was very competitively priced and considerably 'cheaper' than a comparable Hispano or Farman. Like all luxury cars of the day, the Delage GL was offered as a rolling chassis to be bodied by a coachbuilder of the customer's choice.

Louis Delage achieved what he set out to do, but at an incredible cost. Not surprisingly the niche market GL did not sell in enough numbers to earn back the huge investment. With his once vast funds now fully dried up Louis Delage was forced to go public and offer his company on the Paris stock exchange. The GL remained in production until 1928 and only sold in very limited numbers. It is estimated that 180 examples were built and a further 20 Grand Sports. Already a rare sight in their day, it is believed that 6 'regular' GLs and a single Grand Sport have survived. Those few survivors do offer a first hand look at one of the finest road cars built in the 1920s.

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  Article Image gallery (13) 15427 Specifications