1939 Delage D8-120S Saoutchik Cabriolet. Collection of John W. Rich, Jr. Photograph © 2013 Peter Harholdt

1939 Delage D8-120S Saoutchik Cabriolet
Collection of John W. Rich, Jr., Gilberton, PA

La Belle Voiture Francaise: The Beautiful French Car. Coined by the French public to describe the automobiles created by Louis Delage, these words became the slogan for one of France’s oldest and most renowned automobile companies. Coachbuilders favored the Delage chassis to showcase their designs, winning numerous concours d’elegance. 

The Delage D8-120S, a new model for 1938, offered a lowered chassis, (“S” stood for Surbaisse) and the 3.5-liter straight 8’s output was increased. The bare chassis could be purchased for 105,000 French francs. The custom coachwork is estimated to have cost an additional 45,000 French francs, making the D8-120S one of France’s most expensive luxury cars.

This car was commissioned for the 1939 Paris Auto Salon by the French government, which was promoting French cars in Europe and the United States. Jacques Saoutchik, one of France’s premier coachbuilders, created its coachwork, which includes patented sliding parallel doors that opened outward with a pantograph mechanism, then slid rearward, permitting easy access.
The completed cabriolet was hidden away by the workshop prior to the German invasion of France. After World War II, the D8-120S was used by the Provisional Government of the French Republic for official duties. It was sold in 1949 and the buyer installed faired-in headlights and a postwar Delage grille. The D8-120S passed through several more owners before it was restored to its original condition, with the exception of its modern faired-in headlights.

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