Cold, Calm and Shallow are the Waters of the Barrow

DTW takes a longer look back than usual, to the 1948 Antem Delahaye 148. It’s a sample from a rather forgotten niche, the small-scale coachbuilders who survived between 1945 and the onset of monococque construction. 

1948 Antem Delahaye 148L (nee 135): coachbuild.com

The name indicates the car is a coach-built special, based on a chassis by Delahaye. Émile Delahaye founded his eponymous firm in 1894, in Tours, France. It survived until 1955. The model history is rather complex and I simply don’t have the patience to reliably boil it down for you**.

The 148 was a derivative of the 135, introduced before the war. The postwar 135 had styling by none other than Philipe Charbonneaux.  A 3.6 litre in-line six powered the car, sending its efforts to the rear wheels. The car had three states of tune with one, two or three carburettors. The 148 had a 3.1m wheelbase, this wheelbase being intended for less sporty variants.

Antem chose this wheelbase to use for his version shown here. Carrossier Antem in Courbevoie had most of their success between WWI and WWII. They didn’t last long after 1945. The company was founded in 1919 and  produced bodies for Aries, Licorne (mostly) plus Bentley, Bugatti, Delahaye (they did a version of the 135) and Talbot Lago.

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This particular car is something of an Octane car: there’s only one and it has an odd history. Originally the body sat on a 135 chassis. In 1978 the owner transferred the coachwork to the 148L chassis which had had another special-order body on it. Aspects of the car are rather modern. Antem must have worked fast to duplicate the flush body, inspired by the 1947 Cisitalia 202 designed by Pininfarina.

One the other hand there is a soupcon of Lancia Aurelia B20 (1951). However, side by side comparison makes the visual connection somewhat tenuous. Antem could not manage a complex curved window – hence the four panes glass needed on this car. The outboard edges of the bonnet and the panel gap running down to the grille make an unfortunately sinuous shape. Other than that it’s quite a tantalising car and there’s only one.

1952 Worblaufen Lancia Aurelia: coachbuild.com

Coachbuilt cars aren’t really my bag – there’s a world of them found here from whence the images come. Some of the names are quite familiar: Vignale, Ghia, Touring and Scaglietti. Others like Antem and Worblaufen have been closed for a long time and produced cars in very small numbers.

This makes them very much a specialised interest. Occasionally they produced cars that were unusual and good. Most of them simply made something different in an indifferent way, hence their inability to survive long after the shift to unibody construction. For some collectors their rarity is their appeal rather than their inherent design value.

About seven or eight years ago I twigged that small production scotch whiskey is usually not better (as in more palatable) than a well-crafted mainsteam product. Having blown a fair amount of money on single malts I discovered that Johnny Walker Black Label is on the whole much more enjoyable than an unbalanced and harsh (but “different”) single malt.

Now and again there might be a single malt that is different and better than JW Black but I don’t want to pay the kind of money required to find it. Something similar goes for these cars: they cost an awful lot but their coachwork seldom does anything better than was achieved by the full-time professionals at the larger carrozeria or that done in-house.

In a way this issue provokes a question of a philosophical nature: is the pleasure experienced by Mr Mainstream really less than the pleasure experienced by he or she who dares to go further away from what experience and custom has determined is the middle ground?

I am fairly certain that people who stick with instant coffee and Nespresso are missing something obtainable for a little more effort and money; I think the supermarket sherries*** and vermouths are not much fun and, again, paying a shade more reaps dividends. I have found that to get much more out of wine and whiskey than is available around the median price is unlikely.

And with these cars I doubt that those who splurge 230,000 euro for a one-off coachbuilt car from Sodomka, for example, or a Gangloff are really getting anything better than the “mass produced” cars from Mulliners, for example, or indeed the line-produced cars from the chassis-builders.

** The past is another country. They numbered their cars differently. Delahaye had a blizzard of three digit cars which had long runs and were renamed and had variants e.g. (hypothetically) the 105 which was revived as the 105M and had a saloon variant the 112 and the hearse variant 113 and 114. The 113 was shortened to become a 134 but this then came in a 3.2 and 3.4 litre variant known as the 113B etc etc).

*** Exception: Tesco Finest sell fino, manzanilla, amontillado and oloroso which are sourced from Barbadillo and they are uncommonly good for the money.

Gallery credits: coachbuild.com

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

18 thoughts on “Cold, Calm and Shallow are the Waters of the Barrow”

  1. I guess the value of a custom built car for the original owner isn’t necessarily that it’s ‘better’ or better made than a standard car. I can see two reasons for this:
    a) To show that you can afford a handbuilt car
    b) To better suit your needs or stylistic preferences than the mass-produced car which is, after all, always a compromise.

    For the collector today, the reason probably tends more towards a).

    1. I can’t disagree with your argument. For some people the high cost is an advantage and having a token of the purchase is better than just burning the same money. My feeling is that many coachbuilt cars were not a whole lot different than the standard car; some had exceptional merit. This car is among the more interesting yet not better than a standard Lancia or Alfa or Alvis on a series-produced coachbuilt body.

  2. Do you source your coffee from La Cabra then, Richard? They are one of the regular suppliers of one of the finest coffee bars here in Hamburg (Tornqvist). These beans have as much to do with Nespresso (or, shudder, Tchibo & Melitta) as a Trabant 601S does with a Rolls-Royce Corniche Coupé MPW.

    1. Hi: I have reviewed my coffee sourcing. It´s a mix of things – there´s the violently costly fairtrade eco beans from my local organic shop. Regular consumption of that amounts to spending like your are saving for a pension. I sometimes get beans from a coffee shop locally (also horribly costly). Less costly is Dallmayr from Munich and Arvid Norquist from Sweden (who are also Fair Trade, organic and even carbon neutral). I have not been to La Cabra. The last time I was in Hamburg central I had a terrible time trying to find a nice place to sit and eat (I was on my own). I was hunting for a beer hall/brewery pub that sold Schweinhaxe, for example. I ended up eating in a half-nice, half-bland cafe near the rail station after walking for an hour or more (starting at the rail station).

    2. You can find La Cabra at Graven 20 in Aarhus. Tell me how you like their brew!

      You can get a decent (albeit overpriced) cup of coffee within walking distance of Hauptbahnhof at Mutterland (Ernst-Merck-Str. 9). For considerably better coffee, I recommend a ride on the U3 metro line to Rödingsmarkt (Nordcoast Coffee), Feldstraße (Tornqvist) or Hoheluftbrücke (Balz & Balz). Blackline are also a favourite of mine, but they’re a bit off the beaten path from Hauptbahnhof, as are Playground Coffee.

      I would avoid the popular, but very touristy Speicherstadt Rösterei.

  3. The first thing anyone with even marginal cognitive ability when reading about liquorous spirits is that the Scots spell whisky without the Americanized extra “e”; even something as mundane and mass-market as Johnny Walker Black Label hooch is whisky.

    The bulk of your remarks on single malt whisky should perhaps be poured down the sink, but keep a bit of Black Label around to combat the flu and for a quick hiccup.

    Always amazes me that people who are intensely into a hobby, say car design in this case, then tend to airily dismiss people with taste/knowledge in other fields as possessing essentially unanchored juvenile sensibilies if they happen to possess conclusions different from the everyday expert on everything. To say that Black Label with its fair proportion of grain alcohol is all one needs in a whisky is about the same as everyman saying a Qashqai is all the vehicle anyone could possibly need, ever.

    As for coffee beans, never heard of any of your brands. I buy mine from a roaster here in Halifax NS who travels the world looking for quality fair trade beans and roasts them here. Buying warm beans freshly roasted is something I manage every couple of weeks. So there are niche “manufacturers” even in the coffee field untroubled by any change from separate chassis to unibody or vacuum-sealed plastic bags in the case of mass-producers.

    http://javablendcoffee.com/

    Being a peasant myself, I also bake my own bread, so that I can avoid everything from super fluff to “artisanal” single rise concoctions. However, I do not advise the world to follow my lead, nor say my tastes are superior. They are simply my preferences, not to be wielded as a high-handed put-down of others.

    1. I don’t think the whiskey/whisky distinction matters. The word is a based on attempts to capture Gaelic sounds using English orthography and the rules of that orthography are flexible enuff to allow four sevral waze to interpret the sounn with know loss of meenin..
      As to the rest: these are my views about my tastes not a prescription. I found I was wasting money on a disappointing experience and JW sufficed for fun with whiskey. If someone else can extract pleasure from a €75 bottle I am not stopping them. Ditto these cars: I can’t see a whole lot of connection between the price and the quality but go ahead and buy one if that’s what floats your boat. I do think a lot of them aren’t that great – production cars often were better resolved.

    2. Robertas: good reference especially at the rear. Playing car dominos may I match the front of the Lagonda to the 1999 Skoda Fabia (the headlamps mostly)?

    3. ” is all the vehicle anyone could possibly need, ever.” I’ve just seen an Alfa Stevio in the flesh. And that describes it perfectly.

  4. Richard – those headlights – did they inspire the Lancia Kappa first. The Ghia / Vignale / Callum Lagonda is a splendid and strange piece of work. Was it influental? I think it may have informed the steampunk excesses of the Rover 75, and somehow made them seem excusable.

  5. Here’s another speculation prompted by the Worblaufen Aurelia. I see a lot of MG Magnette ZA in it.

    The rear window anticipates the Varitone Magnette ZB by at least four years.

    The chronology miltates against the notion. The Swiss-bodied Aurelia appeared in 1952, the Magnette in late 1953. Possible so far, but David Knowles claims that Gerald Palmer had produced sketches recognisable as the Magnette in 1949, not long after he had left Jowett to return to the Nuffield Organisation.

    There is a roundabout Worblaufen / Palmer connection in this Jowett Javelin cabrio shown at the 1951 Geneva Salon.

  6. Sorry, I misread the pix; MG door handles are right under the windows.
    But Touring’s 1900 is a lovely car in its own right.

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