In June 2001 I visited an MVT show at Thruxton near Andover with no thoughts of owning a second jeep or becoming involved in a challenging restoration project but my passion for French jeeps born of owning an M201 was about to change all of this. In the display lines on the first day I was amazed to see a Delahaye VLR. I had read about them and seen photos in books but never dreamt that I would actually ever see one in the UK or come to own one. The second surprise came the following day when a card in the windscreen announced that it was for sale. The chance to actually own a Delahaye seemed almost too good to be true but there was some serious talking to do with the owner and also some serious thinking to be done. Up until this point in time I had never really considered the complete restoration of a vehicle to be a practical proposition.

The Delahaye was rather tatty but for the most part complete and running (The photographs make it look much better than it actually was - that's me giving it a test drive).


On the plus side it had been dry stored in a barn for many years and had made a brief return to the road a year earlier having had the brakes sorted out. The chassis was good but showed the scars from some serious off-road use in the past. There was a fair amount of rust but it had only perforated the body in a few places. On the down side spares would be unobtainable here and difficult to obtain even in France. Various oil leaks from the engine and dry sump reservoir had recently been joined by a really major leak from the transmission. The gearbox was very noisy, particularly in top and the clutch was absolutely awful. Despite all this I decided to take the vehicle on as a project and bought it.

My first objective was to carry out all of the work that required a lot of space while the weather was warm enough to work on the vehicle outside on the drive. During the winter months work was carried out in my garage which was built to house a family car and little more so it was necessary to work my way round section by section. Although an inefficient way of doing things it did somehow make the whole task more seem more manageable. I could see progress being made which in turn maintained the motivation to continue. It rolled out of the garage in February 2002, still not quite complete but looking a lot better than it had done when I first purchased it as the photos below show.

Click on an image to see a larger version.

Over the next couple of months the finishing touches were added like making a jerrycan bracket as I had been unable to track one down in France. By June the jeep was pretty much complete and ready for showing.

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In the New Forest Dash board First local show
In the New Forest On the Isle of Wight First local show

I did take the jeep back to the Thruxton show in June 2002 (sorry no photos - it just kept on raining all weekend). It received much attention and favourable comment, not least of which came from the judges in awarding it best post-war vehicle in the show.

During Spring 2003 I made contact with Laurent, a VLR owner in France, who helped me source some of the missing parts that I was still looking for. These included the rubber windscreen buffers for the bonnet, the horn button unit for the centre of the steering wheel and two original style 24volt ignition coils. Other hard to find parts he located included repair kits for the fuel pump and carburettor, clutch plate, wire mesh oil filter, and rear lamp unit. Does anyone know where I can get a genuine jerrycan bracket??

Special thanks to Daniel Stoll, a VLRD owner in France, for providing technical assistance via the Internet as and when I needed it during the restoration, to Laurent for his invaluable help locating missing bits and also to my wife, Alison, for her encouragement to go for it from the start and her support throughout the project.

The VLR is slightly larger overall and heavier than the M201 as illustrated is illustrated below.



  Delahaye VLRD Hotchkiss M201
Production run 1951 - 1955 1956* - 1966
Number produced 9623 27,628
Engine type 4 cylinder OHV 4 cylinder side valve
Engine capacity 1995 cc 2199 cc
Lubrication dry sump wet sump
Output 63 bhp at 3800 rpm 52 bhp at 3600 rpm
Transmission 4 speed fully synchro 3 speed synchro 2 & 3
Differential locks yes no
Suspension independent torsion bar leaf spring
Electric’s 24 volt 6 volt   (1956 – 1960)
24 volt (1960 – 1966)
Tyres 7.00 x 16 6.00 x 16
Weight (empty) 1,360 kg 1,160 kg (24 volt model)
Weight (full load) 1,950 kg 1,560 kg (24 volt model)
Trailer towing capacity 750 kg (without brakes) 453 kg (without brakes)
Personnel 3 + driver 2 + driver
Max gradient 70% 60%
Max speed 105 km/h 105 km/h