Emile Darl'mat set up a small garage selling and repairing automobiles and eventually became a licensed Panhard and Peugeot dealer. By the early 1930s he sold only Peugeots. Determined to sell a unique and sought-after product, Darl'mat continuously experimented with the cars he had on offer. During that time, he also formed working relationships with two of the most prominent names in the French luxury car sector: Marcel Pourtout and Georges Paulin. The earliest collaboration between Darl'mat and Pourtout was displayed at the Salon de l'Automobile in 1927, and Darl'mat and Paulin worked together to create an aerodynamic body on the Peugeot 301 chassis that debuted at the World's Fair in Chicago. Perhaps the most fruitful of Darl'mat's early proposals was the Eclipse retracting roof system designed and patented by Paulin.
Underlying Darl'mat's innovative spirit was a desire to elevate the Peugeot brand. As a young man, he observed the highly advanced Peugeot Grand Prix cars that dominated the circuits of Europe. By the mid-1930s, Emile Darl'mat had become so respected and admired that the factory gave him the access and resources needed to create his own Peugeot sports car. They also allowed him to attach his name to the cars. With the assistance of Peugeot's Director of Mechanical Studies, Alfred Geauque, and his long-time collaborators Georges Paulin and Marcel Pourtout, Darl'mat created one of the most enigmatic and artfully styled sports cars of all-time. In 1936 Peugeot launched the short wheelbase 302 model, which would be the basis for the next Darl'mat, Pourtout and Paulin project. It would be the first time a Peugeot would be seriously raced again since the early teens when the company built some of the most advanced Grand Prix cars of the day.
Pourtout's lightweight bodies were originally mounted atop a thoroughly modified 302 chassis, and later the 402 chassis. One of the most beautiful forms to ever make its way to production, the Paulin-designed bodies - including a coupe, a Roadster and a Cabriolet - were constructed of thin aluminum sheets, hand-formed over wooden bucks. Not only were the bodies unusually aerodynamic, they were like nothing else available at the time. Intended to be as light as possible, the bodies were free of traditional ornamentation found on similarly themed luxury cars, and the distinctive features, such as the characteristic line of button-type air intakes gracefully rolling down the sides of the bonnet, were created specifically for the requirements of the sporting coachwork. Underneath, the chassis received competition-tuned four-cylinder engines, robust Cotal gearboxes and a variety of minor modifications.
These Peugeots ran on modest power, but their efficient coachwork, proven mechanicals and relative simplicity made them remarkably successful on both road and track. In 1937, three Peugeot 302/402 Darl'Mat models successfully entered the Le Mans 24 Hour Race. The next year, the newly designed 402 took a 5th overall and First in Class.
Although they carried a steep $8,600 price, the cars sold quickly and earned a fine reputation for their exciting dynamic characteristics. Sadly, the escalation of WWII put an end to the production of Darl'mat's remarkable sports cars. In all approximately 105 Darl'Mat Specials were built: 53 roadsters, 20 coupes and 32 cabriolets.
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