Concours d’Elegance is, after all, a French phrase, so perhaps it’s only fitting that Europe’s newest concours d’elegance was held in France. The inaugural La Rencontre de l’art & de l’Elegance (Chantilly Arts and Elegance Concours d’Elegance) was held in the gardens of the Domaine de Chantilly and attracted some 10,000 visitors who came to see 100 of the world’s most beautiful automobiles.
Classes included Maserati Racing Cars, Great Bodywork on Maseratis, a Tribute to Bugatti, Untouched (unrestored) Cars, Pre-1905 Ancestors, Pre-1976 Endurance Racers, Sports and Racing Cars of the Inter War Period, British chassis with Italian coachwork, Great French Coachwork of the 1920s and ‘30s, and Concept Cars from the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Mirror, mirror on the wall… Judged most beautiful of all was, no surprise, a French car, the 1937 Delahaye 135 M cabriolet by Figoni et Falaschi, which was displayed by its owners, Peter and Merle Mullin. Peter Mullin is founder of the Mullin Automotive Museum and chairman of the Petersen Automobile Museum.
Known as the Star of India, the Delahaye is one of only three surviving with Figoni et Falaschi coachwork. It was commissioned by Figoni’s friend, explorer and businessman Casimir Jourde and was one of 11 cars built by Figoni et Falaschi for the Paris Auto Salons from 1936 through 1939.
In 1939, the car was shipped to India where it was sold to Prince de Berae Mukarran Jah. At some point the car was sold and disappeared.
It wasn’t until 1982 that the car was rediscovered, sitting on wooden blocks inside a garden shed in Jodhpur. A British classic car dealer had it disassembled and shipped in crates to England, where it was restored.
But the restoration was an as-found effort because the dealer didn’t know changes had been made to the car in India.
The car was displayed at Pebble Beach in 1992, and then was purchased by Mullin who restored it to its original configuration, although not with its original red paint.