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The one-off Delahaye that won Magneto’s Art of Bespoke Award


Magneto introduced a special new award at the 2023 The Quail, A Motorsport Gathering event during Monterey Car Week. The Magneto Art of Bespoke Award was presented to the one-off or low-volume car that best demonstrated the unique attributes and appeal of coachbuilt automobiles, and gifted a stunning new trophy created by CALLUM Designs to the winner.

That winner for the inaugural year of the award was the 1953 Delahaye 135MS CL Spéciale Faget-Varnet owned by Anthony Collé of Switzerland. The Delahaye was represented at the show by Mathias Doutreleau, founder of the Concours d’Elégance Suisse and, appropriately, an early member of the organising team for The Quail, A Motorsport Gathering – which this year celebrated its 20th anniversary.

The Art of Bespoke Award, created by CALLUM Designs.

The Delahaye was a unique prototype design by Faget-Varnet Carrosserie Levallois, built with the intention of presenting it at the 1953 Paris Motor Show. After the demise of both the Delahaye company and the coachbuilder Faget-Varnet in 1954, this one-off car was instead kept by Jean Faget for his personal use.

Several decades later, the Delahaye was bought from the estate of Faget and licenced for the first time in 1981. It was eventually sold at auction to its third and current owner, Anthony Collé, in 2017 with just 9898 km showing on the odometer. After commissioning a thorough research paper on the car’s history published by historian Wilfrid Leroy Prost, and discussions with other Delahaye experts, Collé decided to have the car fully restored by one of the most renowned specialists in historic Delahayes, Dominique Tessier of Tours, France.

The lengthy restoration process, accompanied by the historic research, unveiled very interesting design and engineering specificities that make this car so special. These include strong styling orientations and design cues that are found in Jean Daninos’ one-off Bentley 41/2 Litre Cresta II built by Facel Métallon, and later on in the Facel Vega production cars. In terms of style, the vertical headlamp cluster, the chrome moulding of the flared wheelarches, the panoramic one-piece rear window, and the lines around the rear boot mostly exemplify this avant-garde design. 

Magento‘s David Lillywhite and Geoff Love present the Art of Bespoke Award.

From an engineering standpoint, this prototype let go of the traditional wooden body and frame construction for a steel unibody design patented by Jean Faget around 1948, to which were added lightweight aluminium floor panels. These advanced boxed-in sections would cut cost and production time, as well as offer a higher versatility of use towards a variety of body shapes. Furthermore, this car also included several mechanical components taken from the upcoming Delahaye 235, as well as the very advanced twin-circuit hydraulic-brake system used by Delage.

This unique car, which intertwines three legacies of French automotive icons – Delahaye, Faget-Varnet and Facel Vega – raises the opportunity to ask many questions, one of which being what were the possible ambitions of Jean Faget and even of Delahaye had both companies survived?

With this history and its superb presentation, it was thought to be a worthy winner of the new annual Magneto Art of Bespoke Award, which was presented on stage at The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering by Magneto founders Geoff Love and David Lillywhite.

As for the trophy itself, it was designed and created by CALLUM Designs, the British design and engineering consultancy named after co-founder Ian Callum, and known for creating and crafting bespoke products – from an updated version of the Aston Martin Vanquish to a Martini Mixer produced in collaboration with British Airways, luxury British watchmaker Bremont and award-winning mixologist Mr Lyan.