This snapshot of Dorothy Patten in a Peugeot 402 Darl’mat ‘Spécial Sport’ on Brighton’s Madeira Drive is a rare one. There is a famous picture of Miss Patten sitting on the door of this same car in May 1939, outside Tom Knowles’s garage in London, but as far as we know this is a completely new picture.
Dorothy Patten was otherwise known as Baroness Dorndorf – but there is no information so far on who Baron Dorndorf was. She was a well-known racing driver just before and after World War II – almost certainly always with this Peugeot. She appears in the July 1939 Welsh Rally, queuing up just in front of Betty Streather’s 3½-litre SS100, ready to start a stage, and she turns up again just after the war at the Cockfosters Rally in July – with, however, disappointing results: According to Motor Sport, “Mann’s 3½-litre S.S. ” 100 ” then demonstrated a brisk getaway and was blipped round, and Baroness Dorndorf went round slowly in the “402 ” Le Mans Peugeot, which was sick of ‘Pool.’”
The Darl’mat Special was named after Emile Darl’mat (1892–1970), the founder and owner of a Peugeot distributor with a car body business established in Rue de l’Université in Paris in 1923. At the end of 1933, Darl’mat introduced Georges Paulin to the Parisian coachbuilder Michel Pourtout. Paulin was by training a dentist, but had a passion for designing coachwork – and from that moment became the official designer for Pourtout.
In 1937, three identical Darl’mat Peugeots, bodied by Pourtout, were entered for Le Mans. They were 302s with 402 engines (4 cylinders and 2 litres). That year they did well: 7th, 8th and 10th in the general classification, and in 1938 one of these cars, driven by Cortanze, achieved first place in the under-2 litre category.
Encouraged by this success, Darl’mat and Pourtout produced a series of 106 Peugeot 402 Darl’Mat “Spécial Sport” models, of which Dorothy Patten’s is undoubtedly one example.
Fortunately, this car still exists. It was found as a wreck in Sussex and is now in Holland.
We are grateful to Peter Shrubsall and Allan Crouch, who unearthed the photo, and to Anders Clausager, who identified the car and its famous owner.