This wonderfully preserved 1949 Delahaye Type 135M Cabriolet by Franay has exceptional original patina and comes offered to potential new ownership with incredibly well researched/documented history…a truly remarkable Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance veteran with the option of continued preservation or restoration
…Circa 1966, Lenora Pope Lytle, Grandmother to current co-owner John L. Butterfield, bought the car from M.L. “Bud” Cohn of Los Angeles. “Bud” Cohn was a close personal friend who had purchased the car himself in 1957. Lenora Pope Lytle acquired the car and showed it a various meets in the San Diego area and participated in rallies with the San Diego Women’s Sports Car Club. Lenora was an avid sports person and lover of automobiles. She was active in the arena of fine cars for many years due in part to the influence of her grandfather, Albert Augustus Pope. The Popes, of Pope automotive and Columbia bicycle fame, were well known for their history of manufacturing about a dozen models of automobiles between 1905 and 1920.
In 1982 Lenora Pope Lytle passed away. Though the car was very special, and she had great plans for it, her only true experiences with the car are were from the few miles she drove it from the time of her original acquisition. Upon her passing the car was placed in careful storage at her home in San Diego. Her son, William Pope Huston, as executor of her estate, put the car into his name. The transfer of ownership was purely due to his mothers passing as the car remained in storage until inherited by the current owners and was never operated by William.
In 1991 John L. Butterfield, Grandson to Lenora and friends with Rob Wilkinson of Santa Barbara were discussing the recent Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. The two shared an appreciation for fine automobiles and especially the history and artistry that accompanied them. Wilkinson became a catalyst for Butterfield’s renewed interest in antique cars and when John told Rob about his Grandmothers 1949 Delahaye, Rob suggested that leaving it stored in a garage, outside the light of day for nearly 9 years, was a crime of the highest order and that the two of them together should set a plan in motion and work to bring the car back into the public eye.
In June of 1992, Butterfield approached his Uncle William and suggested that it was apt and proper to allow him to take possession of the car with the eventual intent of showing it at antique car events just as Lenora had envisioned. William agreed and signed the car over to John as a gift. With the car now assigned to the ownership of John L Butterfield, he and Wilkinson traveled to Chula Vista, Ca to pick up the car and brought it back to Santa Barbara where it was stored in Rob’s garage for another 19 years. During the period when it was stored with Rob in his garage, and admittedly by John due mostly to Rob’s efforts, the car was meticulously cleaned, polished and brought back to operational condition.
In 2011, after a labor of love and research into the wonderful past of this 135M Delahaye by Franay, the car was accepted and shown at the 2011 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in the Post-War Preservation…a fitting place to be displayed and true tribute to the memory of Lenora.
The Car Today
This survivor 1949 Delahaye Type 135M Cabriolet by Franay is striking today in its well aged, exceptionally lovely patina that shows wear throughout but a clear sense that it has not been overrun by time. The car has always been stored indoors under cloth materials in the warmth of California where it has spent the vast majority of it’s life. There is almost no rust to speak of anywhere including the undercarriage, which further speaks to the care it has been shown in storage.
The paint on the car is well patina’d and in some spots flaking or checking (illustrated in the accompanying photos of the car below), but the vast majority of the car remains bright, full of life and presents very well. It is likely that the car received some repainting work on certain panels, but it is also clear from records that this must certainly have occurred prior to the cars purchase by Lenora Pope Lytle in 1966. The chrome enjoys the same story as the paint, perhaps it has been redone from original in spots, but it shows extremely well regardless of whether it was redone prior to 1966 or especially if it is indeed original.
The interior of the car is clearly original and extremely well patina’d. The dash is in exceptional condition, all instruments are clean, functioning and looking exceptional for an extremely original car that is approaching 70 years of age. The seats and leather throughout are cracked in spots and slightly torn in others, but worn nature adds further to the appeal of the originality seen throughout and the suppleness in the seats has not left the car in any substantial way. Of note as replaced regarding the interior, work done and documented by Rob Wilkinson shows a carpeting that has been replaced, and done so correctly and proper for the model. Overall, the interior is a highly original, easy on the eyes for the preservation enthusiast and almost entirely correct according to period pictures of the car while still in France in it’s very early life.
The car runs exceptionally well under power of its original motor. Mr. Wilkinson, during his time with the car since 1992, has painstakingly cleaned the engine components and engine bay. The engine bay is very fresh looking and is as original aside from the caveat of Zenith-Stromberg carburetors (same as used in the 145 Delahaye models, most 135M Delahaye’s had Solex carburetors, this may have been a performance upgrade prior to original commission of the car or shortly thereafter, our research cannot confirm this). Also under the care of Wilkinson, the brake assemblies at all four corners were taken apart, cleaned and reassembled. Of note, the waterpump was removed and rebuilt. As it stands, the car runs very well and drives precisely as it should. Otherwise of note, the undercarriage is well cleaned, detailed and extremely original with no substantive rust issues outside sparse sections and only on the surface. The wheels have been repainted the body color of cream from the original chrome wheel configuration known from new.
Showing only 3700km’s at present, current ownership believes in the possibility that since the only known mileage of any significance had to have come before the ownership of Lenora Pope Lytle in 1966, the mileage may perhaps be original. If the car is indeed an original 3700km example, it would likely be the lowest mileage Delahaye in the world today.
This 135M Delahaye by Franay is a true delight for the preservation enthusiast and could also be an extremely original example worthy of restoration. It is an extraordinary example of a well stored California car brought back to an extremely original condition by true enthusiasts who took great pride in reinvigorating its lost luster and history for the classic car public to enjoy. The car is a show quality preservation candidate and is accident free, rust free and a truely rich experience to drive. It is, in a marque known for being particularly difficult to trace provenance, as well accounted for a 135M Delahaye in existence and is preserved as highly original.