You'd have to be passionate about French cars to pay $3,740,000 for a seemingly original 1933 Delage D8S Roadster, as Jim Patterson did at a Monterey auction in 2007 and then, less than three years later, ask RM Restorations to return the car to factory-perfect. But Patterson's that kind of guy. Owner of a number of French classics, including marques like Delage, Delahaye, and Bugatti, Patterson is fascinated by the restoration process. Indeed, before signing off on the job he thoroughly researches each vehicle's history and then ensures that the work is correct to the smallest detail. Thus the Delage D8S, desirable though it may have been in its 2007 form, had to undergo a complete restoration.
The car's provenance was complete and impeccable. Famed coachbuilders DeVillars designed and constructed the body. It was the highlight of the 1934 Paris Auto Salon. Its first owner was Aurelio Lerroux, son of Alejandro Lerroux, then Prime Minister of Spain. The second owner was a Sr. Rico, friend of Aurelio Lerroux and brother of the mayor of Madrid. A third change of ownership, to the Gran hotel Velasquez in Madrid, resulted in the Delage undergoing a rather unseemly occupation (considering the car's rarity) as a VIP shuttle for fortunate guests. Just two at a time, though, as the Roadster's bench seat could only accommodate three, including the driver. Eventually, after careful preparation, it was put into storage where it remained hidden from curious eyes for 40 years.
When the Delage awoke from its lengthy sleep almost everything was as the makers intended, including the engine, transmission, body, chassis, and mechanical components. Everything, that is, except the color. Originally white, the D8S Roadster was now red. That would certainly have to be changed during the restoration process at RM's Chatham, Ontario, workshops, as did a number of minor details. For example, the hood mouldings, as made by the craftsmen of DeVillars, were originally concave in shape. Yet the current mouldings were convex. RM's alert crew noted that the structural wood below the surface of the steel skin included cutouts and grooves placed by the coachbuilder to fit concave mouldings. RM reworked the wood structure and steel surface back to its initial form.
Patterson's Delage D8S has now been returned to its former white finish, a color that is reflected in many of the car's visible features. The frame is white. The brake drums are white. The four-spoke steering wheel is white. The instruments on the chrome-trimmed dashboard are white-faced. When viewing the 120 hp straight-six Delage as rolling sculpture, white seems utterly appropriate. Seen at night, the car takes on a romantic ambiance, perhaps best suited to a top-down cruise along the Grand Corniche of the French Riviera. I'm not sure Jim Patterson intends to take it there unless he shows it at Italy's Villa d'Este, but this beautiful Delage is certain to appear at the 2010 Pebble Beach Concours. Not quite the Mediterranean, but close.
[All Photos: RM Auctions]