A few months ago – in March – Greenwich’s Natalie Pray said goodbye to an automobile masterpiece – the 1937 Delahaye. The car had been a life-long passion of her late husband, Malcolm Pray, from the first time he saw the car age 11 on a visit to the 1929 World’s Fair. He made it his own in the early sixties and owned it for over half a century.
Malcolm’s love and pride in the car was sufficient enough to cause wife Natalie to write a book about the Delahaye called “Malcolm’s French Mistress.”
Natalie recalls that March day on Amelia Island, Florida when the Delahaye was auctioned off along with a number of other classic cars of her late husband’s Pray Collection. As the time arrived for the Delahaye to be wheeled out onto the stage for the bidding, Natalie called the atmosphere “electric.”
The bidding on the Delahaye climbed “so high so fast,” she said, that “Malcolm would be proud that his exquisite classic was appreciated by collectors around the world.”
“It was Malcolm’s favorite,” said Natalie,” and Malcolm’s presence was palpable for me as the hammer came down at $6.6 million.” It was the highest price ever paid for a car at auction.
Natalie can reflect back on these summer days on that year in September of 1995 when the Delahaye was invited to visit France for the first time since it left for the World’s Fair in 1939.
“This was a cause for Gallic celebration,” said Natalie. “We drove in the Rallye du Centenaire through vineyards, past chateaux, over ancient stone bridges, to cheers along country roads of ‘belle voiture.’”
“There are so many vivid memories,” she says, “of historic rallies through France, England and Scotland; a trophy winner at over 100 car shows; the only surviving example of body design by Figoni, Falaschi and Geo Ham, like Malcolm – it was one of a kind.”