Beautiful but unlucky

With the valuable support of Prof. Massimo Grandi's depth of knowledge and illustrative talent

Photo credit: Some images are taken from the book Asi Service "Quando le disegnava il vento" by Massimo Grandi

Louis Delage brought together an extraordinary team to build a car to race in the 1931 French Gran Prix. The vehicle was designed by renowned engineer Jean Andreau, and the engine, a 4.5-liter V12, by Albert Lory, who had built the 1926 and 1927 Delage single-seaters. Finally, the construction of the bodywork was entrusted to Labourdette, whose panoramic windows offered excellent visibility for racing.

After having to pull out of the 1931 French Gran Prix, the Delage V12 Labourdette was a real hit at the Paris Motor Show

The general layout was very similar to that of the Peugeot 402 N4X, which was also designed by Andreau (see our last piece in this section). With this new design, however, everything was taken to extremes: this two-door car was low and incredibly sleek with its teardrop shape and large rear fin. In this case, too, meticulous attention was paid to every feature: the deep-set headlights, the tapered fenders and the rear wheel fairing.

It is very easy to spot the hand of Jean Andreau in the designs of the Peugeot 402 N4X (above) and Delage V12 (below)

But this Labourdette Delage turned out to be a very unlucky car. Unforeseen technical problems prevented it from taking its place in the line-up at the Gran Prix. Success at the Paris Motor Show brought some consolation, but then, after being transformed into a “barchetta”, the car was involved in a violent racetrack crash in which its driver, Jamieson Murray, one of the creators of the ERA brand, lost his life.

Note the magnificent and carefully studied lines of the Delage V12, built in 1931 and painted in classic Blue France

After this, it was resurrected a further three times, without winning any accolades, before finally disappearing from sight. The life of this car, however, was not in vain as it became the design model of the Thunderbolt, the record-breaking single-seater built by George Eyston in the late 1930s that, on 27 August 1938 to be precise, set a new world land speed record of 556.03 km / hour on the Bonneville Salt Flats.

The Delage design provided the basis for George Eyston’s Thunderbolt, which set a new world land speed record of 556.03 km / hour