Recently Austar screened an episode of the “Behind the Headlights” series about the Delahaye 145.
It was an interesting account of the car, its driver Rene Dreyfus and the circumstances of the time.

In the late 1930’s Germany was determined to show the world its superiority in engineering and sporting events. This determination extended to motor racing.
The Mercedes and Auto Union racing teams were nationalized and given vast amounts of money for development. The resultant “Silver Arrow” cars were dominant in GP racing.

To raise national moral the French Government in conjunction with the Automobile Club of France offered a prize of one million francs for the first French car manufacturer to produce a car adhering to the 1938 GP rules that could better the Italian endurance speed record at the Montlhery circuit.

Delahaye, Bugatti and another manufacturer developed cars for the challenge.
In the end the competition was between Delahaye and Bugatti.
Both manufacturers held off their record attempt till near the deadline.
Delahaye went first and with Rene Dreyfus at the wheel the 145 broke the record.
Dreyfus became a national hero overnight.
Bugatti made their record attempt four days before the deadline and Dreyfus and the 145 ran again.
Unfortunately for Bugatti their car suffered piston problems and withdrew.

The engine in the 145 was a V12 based on the design of the company’s 6 cylinder engines.
It was however made of magnesium and aluminium alloy, had 3 camshafts ( one in the V operating the inlet valves of both banks) and three Stromberg carburetors
In contrast the Mercedes and Auto Union engines used fuel injection and ran on nitrobenzene, a carcinogenic chemical banned in many industrial operations today.
The exhaust fumes emitted were so noxious that drivers of other cars could not follow too closely otherwise they became physically sick.

In the first race of the 1938 GP season at Pau, Rene Dreyfus used the 145’s lighter weight and lower fuel consumption to beat the German and Italian cars.
It was doubly humiliating for the Germans.
Not only had they been beaten by a French car but one driven by a Jewish driver.

A very interesting program to watch with a lot of good information and a welcome change from the “recap the last five minutes every 10 minutes” style of program we see so much of these days.

Some pictures and more detail here:
http://www.supercars.net/cars/3533.html

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Paul

“A straight is merely the distance between two corners.”

Current: Peugeot 205 GTi Mi16 1987
Peugeot 205 Si, one red one silver, both 1991.
Peugeot 504 Wagon, V6 and 5 speed gearbox.
Isuzu (Holden) Rodeo, 4WD dual cab, extended chassis.
Past: Goliath, Isuzu Bellett, Austin A30, Peugeot 203, 403, 404, 504,505.