Born on this day, Louis Delâge, a French pioneer automotive engineer and manufacturer

Sunday 22nd March 1874

Born on this day, Louis Delâge, a French pioneer automotive engineer and manufacturer. At the age of sixteen, he went to study at a trade school Arts et Métiers ParisTech in the city of Angers, graduating with an engineering degree in 1893. Delage then fulfilled his military obligation and was stationed in Algeria. Discharged in 1895, he found work with a railway company in the south of France but in 1900 moved to Paris. There, he was employed in the engineering and design department of a motor vehicle manufacturing concern until 1903 when he received an offer to join the fledgling Renault automobile company. Delâge realized the enormous potential for the automobile as demand soon began to outstrip production. Filled with innovative ideas of his own, in 1905 he raised enough money to open his own assembly plant in a converted barn in Levallois at the outskirts of Paris. The Delage Automobile Company grew rapidly and their vehicles soon gained a reputation for their stylish appearance and quality and as a dominant force in motor racing. However, the Great Depression of the 1930s took its toll and car sales plummeted. By 1935 his company was forced into liquidation, the rights to the Delage name auctioned off to the Delahaye car company. The new owners unceremoniously dismissed Delâge with a penurious pension. Louis Delâge was nearly 60 years old when he found himself in a personal financial crisis made worse by his divorce. He sought solace in his Roman Catholic faith, and because he was too poor to afford a car, he often made the pilgrimage on foot or by bicycle to the sacred convent of Saint Thérèse in the city of Lisieux and to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes. In 1947, at the age of 73 and living in near poverty, an almost forgotten Louis Delâge died. He is interred in the local cemetery in Le Pecq, a small town at the far westerly suburbs of Paris. In 1990, in his hometown of Cognac, an industrial school was dedicated as the “Lycée professionnel Louis Delâge” in his memory.

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