Model history: Louis Delage celebrated his finest hour when his beautiful eight cylinder engined cars dominated the 1927 Grand Prix World Championship. This success came at a considerable expense and to get a return on his investment, Delage launched a new range of very luxurious eight cylinder production cars at the 1929 Auto Salon in Paris. As he had done on the track, Delage was eager to take on the very best, so the new 'D8' was introduced as a serious competitor for the likes Rolls-Royce and Hispano Suiza.
The Grand Prix 'eight' was an engineering work of art, complete with sophisticated dual overhead camshafts. The production engine was a much simpler design with a single lateral camshaft operating the valves through push-rods. Its displacement was just over 4 litre, which was relatively modest compared the D8's intended rivals. Sporting hemispherical custom chambers and breathing through a single Delage licensed Smith-Barriquand carburettor, the straight eight produced 102 bhp at 3500 rpm. Fitted with five crankshaft bearings and a balancer, the new engine ran very smoothly and more importantly; very quietly.
Delage offered the D8 with a choice of three wheelbases to accommodate a wide variety of body styles. The chassis itself was of a conventional ladder-type design with an 'X-brace' providing additional rigidity. Suspension was by solid axles, semi-elliptic leaf springs and Hartford friction dampers all-round. Drum brakes were fitted on all four corners. They were operated by cables and featured Dewandre servo assistance. A four speed gearbox completed the mechanical package. Third and fourth were so called 'silent' gears. Like almost all European luxury cars of the day, the D8 was available with right hand drive only.
All D8s on display at the Paris Auto Salon debut were fitted with rather sober factory bodies. Fortunately the D8 could also be delivered as a rolling chassis and soon became a popular choice for all major coach-builders. Despite the difficult economic conditions, the eight cylinder Delage was a big hit with a wide variety of prestigious customers, ranging from artists to royals. In 1931 the range was expanded with the D8 S (for 'Spécial'). Using the shortest of three chassis, it featured underslung suspension and a high compression engine, which produced 120 bhp.
Thanks to the underslung suspension, the D8 S was considerably lower than its rivals, which inspired the custom coach-builders to new heights. It provided Louis Delage competition success at completely different events: concours d'elegance. Clothed by the very best coach-builders, the exquisite D8 S reigned supreme at all major concours in France in the early 1930s. The underslung Delage quickly and rightly received the nickname 'King of the Concours.' In addition to taking numerous concours victories, the custom D8 Ss also received universal praise in the French media.
Louis Delage did not stray away from his racing roots completely and regularly prepared special D8s for (long distance) record runs. Robert Sénéchal completed the 7,000 km 'Circuit des Capitales' (Paris - Madrid - Monte Carlo - Rome - Vienna - Berlin - Paris) in just 7 days. A D8 S equipped with a very hot, 170 bhp version of the eight cylinder engine broke six world records in the hands of English experts George Eyston, Kay Don, Ernest Eldridge and Bert Denly. Among them was a three-hour average of 189,588 km/h and a twelve-hour average of 180,256. Unfortunately this very fast D8 S was later completely destroyed in a high speed accident at Monthléry.
Despite the early sales success and acclaim, the Delage D8 was not resistant to the ever growing crisis. By 1933 the already small number of people that could afford it had dwindled even further. Delage responded with the introduction of smaller engined versions but it was in vain and the company was eventually absorbed by Delahaye. Under new ownership, the big 'eight' did return and once again provided an exquisite base for custom coach-builders. Eventually 2,001 examples of the D8 were produced between 1929 and 1934, of which only 99 were of the D8 S variety.
Clothed by Chapron with a rakish Cabriolet body, this Delage D8 S was sold new to Great Britain. Here it received an uprated intake manifold complete with four SU carburettors, effectively upgrading it to 'SS' specification. In this guise, the lovely eight cylinder engine produced around 145 bhp. While still in England, it was photographed for and featured in a 'Profile Publications' booklet. It has since been sold to the United States and today is part of the JWR Automotive Museum. It is seen here during the 2005 and 2007 editions of the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.