Deco
Rides

Terry Cook, President
PO Drawer G
14 Schooley's Mt. Rd.
Long Valley, NJ 07853
908 876-9100
fax 908 876-1692

Delahaye/Bugatti Construction


Reproducing a complete car from scratch is a mammoth undertaking. After years of yearning, we are transforming a dream into reality. Using the "Dream Team" mentioned on http://www.decorides.com/delahaye.htm , with the support of a customer with confidence in DECO RIDES, Terry Cook began "Project Passion" in earnest in August 2005. At Sean Halpin's direction, DECO RIDES took a number of resin and die cast models, as well as one of Stanley Wanlass's "PURSANG" bronze sculptures of the Shah of Persia Bugatti to CAPTURE 3D in Novi, MI, www.captured3d.com . There the objects were scanned with a laser, digitizing the shapes in three dimensions. Cook purchased and scanned a real Type 57 Bugatti grille and shell to serve as a true size comparison on the project. In addition, a 1937 Ford light duty truck shell was scanned for possible use to be transformed into a Delahaye nose and grille.

The data from CAPTURE 3D was delivered to Sean Halpin of www.halpindesign.com in Utica, MI. Working with Terry Cook, Mark Kennison and Steve Pierce, Sean and his design team plugged that data into their system. In a matter of a few hours the digitized scale model car had been blown up to full scale, matching up to the real Bugatti grille shell. The "Dream Team" then set about the tedious process of manipulating the data. Over the next seven months the exterior surface of the car and chassis beneath it was lovingly generated and groomed.

One advantage of developing the car on the computer was that the frame and running gear could be designed to match up with the body. This included using GM computer data, courtesy of SEMA, to drop a C5 Corvette front and rear suspension assembly, including rear transmission and enclosed torque tube, into the plans. After the initial design was generated, Steve Pierce worked with Rick Hewitt of Hewitt's Welding in Gilford, NH, to generate two identical frames. Two pair of main frame rails of 2 x 6 and 2 x 4 .180 wall carbon box steel were bent to the desired curvature.

Using two C5 Corvette front and rear suspensions, transmissions and torque tubes, two identical frames were built. The Delahaye and Bugatti variants would share essentially the same aluminum body with design differences in the front fenders, grille shell, nose and headlight areas. The Delahaye would have a normally aspirated BMW V-12 while the Bugatti, following the lead of the Shah of Persia car, would have a supercharged BMW V-12. Both would use the same aluminum engine block, drive train and suspension. With two identical rolling frames, one could be placed under the buck at D & D Classic Automobile Restoration in Covington, OH serving as a rolling platform for the wood body form. The second rolling chassis could remain in Gilford, NH where Steve Pierce of One Off Technologies could sort out the engine mounts, engine coupling, exhaust system, gas tanks, brake and fuel lines, design the removable cowl assembly, etc. In late July 2006 the OH and NH chassis were swapped so the exhaust system, fuel tanks, etc could be added to the other chassis. The two identical chassis approach allowed progress and development to happen in two towns simultaneously. When the first rolling chassis was developed, before being delivered to D & D in OH in January 2006, it was taken to CAPTURE 3D in Novi, MI where it was laser scanned so that data of the actual chassis could be inserted into the design program at Halpin Design. The wood body buck was then computer designed to sit on the car's frame.

Using Halpin Design to sort out many of the design challenges on the computer is thought to have saved many trial and error mistakes and struggling that would have occurred when it came time to build the actual car. Aside from getting the exterior styling right, one major challenge had to do with packaging the passengers with adequate leg room, etc. The "Project Passion" cars will have unique features which impose a number of demands on the design which do not encumber "normal" cars. Because the Delahaye and Bugatti will have a rumble seat, this involves a ton of challenges concerning how to fit the rumble seat passenger's torso, knees, legs and feet in the same constricted space where the folding convertible top, the retractable rumble seat rear windshield and the rear dashboard will reside. Rather than having the rumble seat passenger's climb up the exterior body as they did on the original Delahaye and likewise do on Mercedes 500K and 540K's, we borrowed a far more civilized idea from an early 30's Rolls Royce Henley roadster on a Phantom II chassis. The idea is to create one small "occasional" door immediately behind the passenger's door jamb and B-pillar. On the computer we discovered this was a constricted opening for people to negotiate, so we stretched the door opening five inches at this point, switching from a 130-inch to 135-inch wheelbase.

By March 2006 the majority of the computer design had been sorted out at Halpin Design and the challenge of designing and cutting the wood bulkheads was the task at hand. Mark Kennison and Sean worked to design the wood buck. Then wood bulkheads were CNC cut by Copeland-Gibson of Troy, MI using their waterjet milling technique, assuring symmetrical panels.

In April the pieces of the buck were cut and delivered to D & D in OH. Mark Kennison and his able team assembled it on the rolling chassis. With the Dayton wire wheels and correct size tires on the rolling chassis, we could roll the entire buck and chassis outside to stand back and see what the computer design has wrought. One of the first problems we detected was that the size (both width and height) of the front fenders was on the big side. It was decided to put them on a diet, narrowing the front end and reducing the radius of the front fenders about two inches. We may have been able to avoid this had we decided to have a scale model of the body whittled by a CNC machine before we cut the buck, but the constant desire to keep costs under control precluded that direction. After working on the project for a year and a half it became apparent that the 875 mile distance between the two shops involved in the project was an impediment, so it was decided to transfer all of the alloy body building responsibility to Joe Stafford's PANEL CRAFT which was a close 75 miles to Steve Pierce's ONE OFF TECHNOLOGIES. As of mid March 2007, Stafford will be responsible for all of the exterior body shaping and fabrication on the Delahaye and "Shah of NJ" Bugatti projects.

With the wood buck on the rolling chassis, Mark began cutting out the passenger's compartment, the rumble seat area, etc. so we could be sure the occupants had room to fit in comfort, as well as being able to easily climb in and out of the car. People packaging is a priority. Other challenges such as the location of the door openings, the trunk and rumble seat openings, the spare tire compartment, the hinging of the rumble seat, the folding top mechanism, the retractable front and rear dual windshields, the curved door glass and the occasional door are all issues that now could be addressed. The project had evolved from a 2 dimensional computer screen to a physical, hands-on 3-D solid object.

NOTE: At the top of this page I said this was a mammoth undertaking. This is an understatement. It could easily be the pinnacle of Steve's, Joe's and my life and career in the car realm. All team members are passionate about the once in a lifetime opportunity to be involved. It's a dream becoming reality. -Terry Cook