Delahaye 145

Delahaye 145 1930s French classic car

The Delahaye 145 was launched in '46. The mastermind behind it was Henri Chapron. Born in '86, he had been on the steel-crafting scene since he was a kid. Come the close of the First World War, he had begun his own company - in Neuilly, France. Its core business was to import Ford T ambulances from America - and re-cast them into saloon cars. The custom bodies Chapron created were nothing if not impressive. So much so, that he was recruited by Delage.

Chapron's entrée into automotive greatness came courtesy of Delahaye. In the mid-'40s, streamlining was all the rage. Fine, until the end of the Second World War. By then, though, even some upper-crust belts were starting to tighten. Automotive haute couture, it seemed, was no longer as firm a fit!

The 145 combined Chapron bodywork and a Delahaye chassis. A V12 engine was duly inserted. The resulting coupé was bespoke to its core. The 145's luscious exterior was matched only by its luxury interior. Suffice to say, leather and walnut abounded. With rationing now all the rage, Chapron was tossed a commercial lifeline. This time, it was Citroën who came calling. His first brief was a cabriolet - the DS 19. Subsequently, Chapron was transferred to development of the Citroën SM. At some point, Chapron was made coachbuilder to the President. Of France, that is. He also helped turn some of Phillipe Charbonneaux's exotic drafts into roadgoing reality. Chapron's last legacy to Citroën's oeuvre was the DS 23 Prestige. Always classy, then - never outré - Henri Chapron had nailed it down as a designer. From young apprentice - to superstar stylist - he was never less than a credit to his profession. Proof of that? The Delahaye 145 … amongst many others!

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