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The brief history of Delahaye 145 V12 chassis no. 48772


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René Dreyfus/Maurice Varet


Delahaye 145




1938 Mille Miglia

René Dreyfus/Maurice Varet, Delahaye 145, 1938 Mille Miglia

This car made its debut at the Marne Grand Prix on July 18, 1937, as car no.14 driven by René Dreyfus, the leading pilot of the Ecurie Bleue, owned by Lucy O’Riley Schell and her husband Laury.

It's a two-seater “sports-racer” with detachable fenders front and rear and full electrical lighting for road use. The all-aluminium riveted body was made by Lecanu, the well-known coachbuilder. The engine was the V12 designed by engineer Jean François, and was of 4.5-litre capacity, developing some 220bhp at 5400rpm.

Delahaye 145, 1938 Mille Miglia

René Dreyfus and Maurice Varet at the 1938 Mille-Miglia (Jean-Maurice Gigleux collection)

The car participated in only 12 races during 1937 and '38, and took part in none in 1939. In its two years of active service it had rather poor results to show for, with only one win at the La Turbie hill climb in 1938.

Delahaye 145, 1938 Le Mans 24 Hours

At the start of the Le Mans 24 Hours (Jean-Maurice Gigleux collection)

date race no. driver place
18/07/37 Marne GP 14 Dreyfus DNF
03/04/38 Mille Miglia 152 Dreyfus/Varet 4th
15/05/38 Tripoli GP 40 Comotti DNF
19/06/38 Le Mans 24 hours 1 Dreyfus/Chiron DNF
24/07/38 German GP 20 Dreyfus 5th
05/08/38 La Turbie hill climb 24 Dreyfus 1st cat sport
06/08/38 Coppa Ciano 58 Comotti DNF
14/08/38 Coppa Acerbo 36 Dreyfus DNF
21/08/38 Swiss GP 20 “Raph” 11th
03/09/38 Tourist Trophy - Dreyfus DNS
11/09/38 Paris 12 hours 2 Dreyfus/Divo DNF
24/09/38 Dunlop Jubilee 1 Dreyfus ? 1st race
3 Dreyfus ? 3rd race
25 Dreyfus 4th 10th.race

Delahaye 145, 1938 Reims 12 Hours

Refuelling at the Paris 12 Hours (Jean-Maurice Gigleux collection)

Discouraged by these poor results, Delahaye did not engage the car for the 1939 season and put it up for sale. However, potential buyers are few and far between and the outbreak of war in September puts an end to this racing car's short career. As a result, it is parked in a shop window in Paris throughout the hostilities, alongside another Delahaye 145 V12 (which will be the subject of the next article).

In 1945, the car is sold to a Belgian, Mr Van Poucke, who orders a “Grand Luxe Coupé”, no. 6351, from famous coachbuilder Henri Chapron, but he disappears without paying the bill!

After several other potential buyers, administrative and legal procedures, the car is registered in Paris in January 1950 as 31 RS3, and in December it is sold to Auguste Veuillet who has it registered 938 R75 on January 3, 1951. First it is registered on the name of Office Commerciale Internationale (OCI), one of his companies, and the next day to Sonauto, another of his companies.

Delahaye 145 48772 at Sonauto

Up for sale at the second-hand car show in Paris by Sonauto/Veuillet.

Veuillet will eventually only use it for a few months before selling it to Max Hoffmann of Briston Motors in New York. Meanwhile, the car has lost its original engine, which is replaced by a 165, the town version of the 145, with only 12 plugs, a single carburettor, and a more modest 165bhp. In 1951, the car is sold on to W.F. Procter who keeps it for a few months before selling it to Robert Greer. When Greer dies, the car is stored in the reserves of the Long Island Automotive museum, owned by Henry Austin Clark, where it stays for 18 years!

This is where Lew Gothainer discovered and purchased it in 1970. After restoring the car, Gothainer sold it to Count Hubertus Von Donhoff in 1977, who in turn sold it to Peter Mullin in 2004. This very elegant coupé was shown at Peeble Beach in 2006 and is now in the California museum of Peter Mullin.

Delahaye 145 48772 in the Peter Mullin collection

The coupe as it is today in the Peter Mullin collection.