This week I experienced a VERY SPECIAL day! My first time driving a classic car and not just a classic car, but one of our lovely BIG Delahayes (the 1938 two tone blue coloured 135M cabriolet with Henri Chapron coachwork). Most people say you need to start small and I will follow that advice in my search for my first own classic car, but starting BIG is really more my kind of doing things… ; )
The very first moment of driving away was really strange! Steering on the right hand side appears not really to be so weird and soon it starts to feel quite natural, but steering and braking is not anything like in a modern BMW! Steering round on a roundabout is much harder work than I am used to. The cable brakes on this heavy car (about 1700 kg) work extremely well but you need to put the pedal DOWN, not just tip it a bit with your foot like in a modern car with power assistance and ABS. Changing gears is not like in any other car, because both Delahayes have an electromagnetic Cotal gearbox (will be featured on CRANKHANDLEBLOG in an upcoming article soon). But it works very smoothly and easy, with the tiny handle which you can operate with your finger tips while keeping both hands on the steering wheel.
One of the most important things I learned while driving for the first time is to take your time and relax! I felt the pressure of driving such an important machine, but that is something you need to let go and sit back. Focus and most of all anticipate, because the braking distance is not like that of a modern car of course, so is the steering (without power steering of course). This makes it a TRUE driving experience in a REAL car. By comparison modern cars are more like driven by computers… which is still great, especially for long journeys! Long journeys also suit the Delahayes very well, because they are extremely comfortable cars for touring. I can confirm that after the journey I made with my dad to Chantilly, about 425 km distance! No cruise control and warmed seats and airco, but instead you get a fantastic driving experience…!
To really get to know a Delahaye (same of course with any other classic car), you need to do as many kilometers as possible. Feel how this master piece works and get to know it. That is something I hope to learn as well, i.e. getting to know how the engine works, etc. This will be a long journey on itself, which I of course will report about on CHB! A LOT of plans are still waiting to be tackled!
For sure it was a day to never to forget! And just the beginning of something that I enjoy MOST! I am very thankful to my dad, he gives me such GREAT opportunities and a chance to get to know an INCREDIBLY interesting and FANTASTIC world, the world of vintage and classic cars! : ) I feel blessed! Of course I need to do most of it without the help of my dad, but some help is always great! It took me a while to find out in life what I want and where my destination is and I am sure I have finally found IT!
Written by Rosemarijn Atalante Veenenbos