One of the highlights of the Cartier ‘Style et Luxe’ concours at the Festival of Speed this year is a special display dedicated to the cars bodied by Figoni et Falaschi.
Giuseppe Figoni was the artistic genius and Ovidio Falaschi the businessman, and together they created some of the most elegant (and aerodynamic) bodies for the best chassis of the day from their bodyworks in Boulogne-sur-Seine.
With their Figoni bodies, chassis from manufacturers such as Talbot-Lago, Delahaye and Bugatti were turned into France’s supercars of the 1920s and ‘30s, offering both ‘style’ and ‘luxe’ in spades.
Five Figoni-bodied cars will be recalling this era of French Art Deco splendour at FoS – and to many, they are the five best known Figoni cars in the world, as well as among the rarest. All have been brought over to Goodwood by long-time FoS supporter Peter Mullin whose Mullin Automotive Museum in California has around 65 French masterpieces of the ‘20s and ‘30s on permanent display, who we spoke to before the Festival.
Meanwhile, here’s what we are looking forward to on the lawns of the Cartier concours, a must-see sight for sure…
1937 Talbot-Lago T150-C-S ‘Goutte d’Eau’ (Teardrop)
Teardrop by name, teardrop by nature: for many – and certainly its owner Peter Mullin – Figoni’s coupe body is automotive perfection. Says Peter: ‘For me it is the most gorgeous car ever designed; a perfect organic shape with not a bad angle anywhere.’ The car was acclaimed at its unveiling and much favoured by Hollywood stars who had them shipped to the US just prior to the outbreak of war – one reason that of the 14 cars made, 13 of them still exist. The car on show at Goodwood was originally owned by Bentley Boy Woolf Barnato and raced at Le Mans in period before being shipped to the US in the 1960s.
1928 Bugatti Type 43/44 Grand Sport
As hybrids go, this beautiful Bugatti truly offers the best of both worlds. It combines attributes from two of Bugatti’s most acclaimed models with one of Figoni’s first Bugatti coach bodies to spectacular effect – both to look at and, says its owner Peter Mullin, to drive. The car started life as a Type 43 racing car complete with factory-built racing body. It ran in the Ireland TT among other races. In 1929 it was rebodied by Figoni as an open Roadster Luxe, complete with signature flowing fenders and two-tone paint. Then, when the car was restored in 1959, its then-owner upgraded the engine with a brand new 3.0-litre straight six from the Type 44.
1934 Avions Voisin Type C27 Roadster
The yellow and black roadster is one of just two similar cars, and in fact one of only six Voisins that were bodied by Figoni et Falaschi. Voisin didn’t care for French coachbuilders, even ones as aesthetically creative as Figoni. This car was originally owned by the Shah of Persia. The Shah gave it to one of his attachés in Paris and years later it turned up in poor condition in a French barn. It was restored and painted blue, but current owner Peter Mullin’s subsequent restoration returned it to its original colour scheme. Peter had tracked down Giuseppe Figoni’s son, who found the car’s original build sheet. How it looks today – totally stunning, we reckon – is exactly how it looked in 1934!
1937 Delahaye Type 145
Now they’re what you call mudguards! But the Type 145 is not just about highly sculptural looks, it is about performance, too. How about an average speed of 91.3mph over 200km? You can thank a 4.5-litre V12 (made of magnesium!), an aerodynamic shape and low-slung and well-balanced chassis for that. It was storming stuff for almost 80-years-ago, good enough in fact for legendary French racer Rene Dreyfuss to win the French government’s Million Franc Prize. Just four Figoni-bodied T145s were made for the 1937 200km speed challenge. This car was subsequently owned by a Maharajah and lived in India. Peter Mullin purchased it in 1987 and located the original magnesium V12 engine which had been taken out of the car before the war. Rebuilding the engine and re-creating the original racing body were entrusted to Crossthwaite & Gardiner in Sussex…
1939 Delahaye 165 Cabriolet
‘Like a beautiful woman,’ is how Peter Mullin describes his Delahayes, and it’s difficult to disagree. But the 165 – the Figoni-bodied ‘production’ version of the racing 145 – was billed as something more than just beautiful: the car of the future. The aerodynamic cabriolet was chosen to represent France at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. But with the outbreak of war, the car never made it back to Europe and was stored, minus its V12, on a dock in New York harbour. As well as being responsible for its perfect condition today, Peter reunited the car with its Delahaye V12 engine (it had had a Cadillac engine in it!). Only two of these cars were ever made, making it one of the most historically important cars in the Mullin collection. And a complete jaw-dropper to boot. And in case you were wondering how you could steer a car with front wheel spats… just like a regular car! We’re not sure how, but Figoni figured out a way to make those front wheels turn as normal…