During the early years of the automobile, a French luxury and racecar manufacturer by the name of Delage was consistently producing competitive grand prix cars year after year, with only a brief pause in production during World War I to instead produce munitions to assist the war effort, making the company’s early endeavours a prominent piece of automotive history.
The company continued to have fairly healthy production numbers in the years following the war (and after being bought out by Delahaye in 1935), but ultimately the company had to shut its doors for good in 1953, as the French economy struggled to recover after the Second World War.
With many of the early racecars produced by the company being lost to time or melted down during the war, what little remains is considered priceless to vehicle collectors. With only three units being produced for the 1914 French Grand Prix, the Delage Type-S was all but lost to the world, with the exception of a single unit that made its way to Australia for a race in the 1920s and never left. Today, that priceless piece of automotive racing history spends its days just northwest of Melbourne, Australia — in Castlemaine — with its owner Stuart Murdoch.
The same Type-S owned by Murdoch competing in the 1914 French Grand Prix, a true piece of racing and automotive history. Photo courtesy of Philip Guilfoyle.
So, being the only Type-S left in the entire world, when a water jacket failed on the century-old, 4.5-liter four-cylinder engine during a test run in 2014, just how exactly was Murdoch able to get this priceless artifact back on the road without any technical drawings or replacement parts in existence, and the engineers who designed it passing away decades ago?
Melbourne’s local ABC News station caught wind of the project and really helped bring this mostly forgotten piece of history to light when they interviewed Murdoch to better understand exactly how it was done.
The 103 year old Delage casting with a cutaway to inspect the damage.
Using Modern Technology To Recreate Antique Designs
The answer is some collective thinking, great skill, and a knowledge of modern CAD and 3D printing tools. With some help from vintage car restoration specialist Grant Cowie, owner of Up The Creek Workshop, and industrial designer Philip Guilfoyle, a unique combination of modern design technology and antique knowledge was harnessed in order to keep this one-of-a-kind piece of automotive history out of the gallows.
The now 103 year old damaged block was first reconstructed using a FaroArm portable coordinate measuring machine (CMM) and CAD modeling to create a complete 3D rendering of the engine, inside and out. From there the reverse engineered CAD data was reviewed by a team at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) “Lab 22,” where sand molds were 3D printed using a Voxeljet VX1000 and were then used to cast the block at a local iron foundry — saving this unique 16-valve engine.
Laser scanning the damaged factory casting using a FaroArm. Photo courtesy of Voxeljet.
“With reverse engineering, we were able to generate all of the required 3D data sets in a short time period. The re-manufacture of such a unique and exotic racing engine would not be feasible without digital measurement, CAD modelling and 3D printing technology,” explains Guilfoyle.
According to a statement on the Voxeljet website, “The process that was used offered a high degree of resolution and perfect detail, which allowed for a final assessment and optimization of the test molds. Since sand molds are created directly from the specified CAD data, they set the trend in terms of richness of detail and precision due to the high resolution of the printers. With this project, the Australian team and CSIRO specialists have given the racing legend Delage Type-S another lease on life, which will hopefully take it through another century.”
The new Delage casting next to the damaged factory block. Photo courtesy of Voxeljet.