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D8-85 Clabot Roadster
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  Delage D8-85 Clabot Roadster      

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Country of origin:France
Produced in:1935
Numbers built:Less than 100
Designed by:Clabot
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:January 08, 2012
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Click here to download printer friendly versionLuxury manufacturers like Delage were, not surprisingly, hard hit by the great depression of the late 1920s and early 1930s. With an ever dwindling number of people able to afford lavish cars, one company after another went out of business. Delage came very close in 1933 when some of its creditors demanded that the company was liquified. Fortunately, the ever flamboyant Louis Delage managed to maintain control and quickly started work on a range of more affordable models.

To design what would most likely be the 'make or break' model series, Louis Delage convinced the gifted engineer Arthur-Léon Michelat to return. At his previous spell at Delage, Michelat designed among many other models, the 1911 Coupe de l'Auto winning Type X. He was now tasked by Louis Delage to develop six and eight cylinder production cars that would appeal to a much broader audience than the existing range. The original plan was to offer this new generation of six and eight cylinder engined Delages alongside the much more exotic D8 introduced back in 1929.

For the new eight cylinder model, Michelat designed a new overhead valve unit. Like most engines of the day, it had the engine and head cast into one piece to allow for higher compression pistons. At just under 3.6 litre, the displacement of the Delage 'eight' was relatively modest. It was available with 85 bhp on tap in the suitably named D8-85 and with 105 bhp in the D8-105. Among the upgrades featured on the more powerful variant were twin-plug ignition and even higher compression. Both engines made do with just a single carburettor.

While some compromises were made to cut costs, the chassis used for the new Delage was nevertheless state-of-the-art. It used a sturdy steel ladder frame with an independently sprung front axle through double wishbones and a transverse leaf spring. The superb servo-assisted drum brakes of the original D8 were also carried over to ensure the new cars had plenty of stopping power. A manual gearbox was fitted as standard but like most French luxury cars of the day, the D8-85 and D8-105 could be ordered with the Cotal preselector four speed.

Along with Michelat's six cylinder D6-65, the two new D8s were introduced at the Paris Auto Salon in October of 1934. Both were available as a rolling chassis to allow the customer to pick the coach-builder of choice, but the Delage catalog also included various 'standard' designs by the likes of Letourneur & Marchand and Chapron. The D8's standard wheelbase was 3340 mm with a 'long' 3540 mm chassis available for the D8-85 engine. The D8-105 was also available in two versions; the 'Léger' or light and the top-of-the-range 'Sport'.

Production of the two cars commenced soon after the Paris debut but it proved too little, too late for the ailing company. The creditors lost patience early in 1935 and Delage was liquidated soon after. Eventually the assets were acquired by rival Delahaye, who picked up production in 1936 with models closely based on Michelat's D6 and D8. By the time of the liquidation just a handful of D8-105s were built and less than 100 D8-85s. They, along with the closely related D6, remain as the last Delages developed with the company's founder still at the helm.

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  Article Image gallery (9) 40168 Specifications