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.
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.
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.
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).
Gallery credits: coachbuild.com