Heveningham Hall, Suffolk, UK - Heveningham Hall Concours d’Elegance announced that Peter & Merle Mullin’s 1939 Delage D8-120 Cabriolet, the car that appeared in 1951 Hollywood movie 'An American in Paris’ starring the legendary Gene Kelly, will make its UK debut at this year’s event on Saturday, June 30th & Sunday, July 1st.
The Delage, which has recently taken top honors at the 21 Gun Salute Concours in India and will appear at Villa d’Este later this month, makes its way to Heveningham Hall from The Mullin Automotive Museum in California.
Chassis No. 51760 was delivered new to its owner Henri Chapron on June 2,1939. The second series of the model, it has a lower and lighter chassis than its predecessor. The engine of the Type D8-120 has aluminum pistons with four rings, steel connecting rods and overhead valves. The car possesses a single two-barrel downdraft carburetor and a Cotal electric planetary transmission.
The car was designed by Chapron as a four-seater cabriolet with a three-position top. The instruments on the dashboard are well-balanced and surrounded by wood trim. The rear of the car is in the “bustle back” style, with a covered spare tire and a top-loading boot, or trunk.
Chassis No. 51760 has a fascinating history from the very start. Reportedly commandeered by a collaborating French general of the Vichy government during the early stages of the Second World War, in 1946, once war had ended, the general sent the car to California when he was unable to obtain a visa for himself (he fled to Argentina). He subsequently sold the car to RKO Studios, one of the ‘Big Five’ studios of Hollywood’s Golden Age.
In Hollywood, the car’s graceful and conservative styling earned it a role in 1951’s MGM classic ‘An American in Paris’. For the film, the producers commissioned changes to the car’s design, including taillight modifications and a new green paint job. The film showed Gene Kelly being chauffeured around the City of Lights in the Delage with actress Nina Foch.
After the movie, the car was returned to Los Angeles where it was acquired in 1955 by Thol “Si” Simonson, a member of the RKO Studios production team. He took the car in lieu of pension he was owed by RKO after the studios were taken over by Howard Hughes. Si drove the Delage around Arizona before putting it up for auction in 1987, when it was purchased by Peter Mullin, its current owner.
Chassis No. 51760 has since been adventured in major concours d’elegance with great success and, today, the car, with its beautiful proportions and elegant Chapron touch, is an example of French automotive elegance and excellence.
Commenting on the inclusion of the Delage in this year’s concours, Max Hunt, chairman of judges, said: “With its amazing history, elegant lines and stunning condition, this car is sure to be a standout exhibitor at this year’s concours.”
For more information about the concours, visit: www.heveninghamconcours.com For further information about the country fair which takes place at the same time as the concours, including ticketing, visit: www.countryfair.co.uk