De La Chapelle Parcours

Car of the Day #77: De La Chapelle Parcours

De La Chapelle Parcours
• via De La Chapelle

One of my absolute favourite vehicles, in theory, is the Mercedes-Benz R63 AMG, a 500 horsepower crossover that can do 100 km/h (62 mph) in five seconds flat, factory fresh. 

It’s against my character: it’s excessive, it’s overcomplicated, and few people at the time wanted a polished turd for their driveways at full MSRP. Produced for just one year, it's more a folly and rare than just about any other modern Merc…

…which now, as a big hulking mythical creature, makes the R63 really damn cool.

It's just the latest in a long line of fast people carriers, an idea sparked years ago with big block rear-drive wagons, the Ford Transit Supervan, and other such fast people carriers hauling punch in their trunks.

By the late 1980s, however, the idea of evolving MPVs into a business express for the road was starting to bubble up among Europe's specialist shops. The Cadillac Techniques d'Avant Garde Function Car by Sbarro is a good example, as is today’s car.

Ahead of their time, they were. We now have Maybach-branded vans, an entire segment of China’s market devoted to luxury vans, and a few decades of Japan’s majors producing VIP-worthy door sliders like the Toyota Alphard and Vellfire. All, however, lack the firepower of a true highway burner.

What if, like the R63, one could have it all — luxury and speed?

[ De La Chapelle Parcours enters the chat. ]

• via De La Chapelle

Founded by a great-nephew to the founders of the small, turn of the last Century French automaker Stimula, De La Chapelle began producing neo-classic roadsters as an homage to the family's earlier works — a line of neo-classics in both full-size and kid-sized designs — in the early 1970s.

According to a previous version of its website (yes, De La Chapelle are still in business), the company took on their most monumental task of creating a modern supervan after being approached by a client who, presumably, needed to get up to eight people to 150 mph.

At this time, De La Chapelle and Venturi were tied up, and so you can see why this MPV is a seemingly curious blend of Venturi and Mercedes-Benz.

Most vehicles capable of ridiculous speeds usually seat two, and sometimes up to five; going fast is dangerous, and it takes much more power to get a large, heavy vehicle to its top speed. 

One would assume an alert and experienced driver, clear road, maintained vehicle, and a whole host of other things performing as expected in order to safely drive at that speed, but risk still exists.

In the late 80s, early 90s, I assume we all would have hopped in and cruised at the Parcours' top speed north of 150 mph. In 2024? I'd want to inspect it on a lift first. 😆

• via De La Chapelle

I'm impressed by the Parcours because although it’s a low volume, handbuilt car, it looks like it could have been a production vehicle. Its lines, interior, and technology are perfect for the time it debuted in: 1988. Even better, in many ways it parallels the R63 AMG:

  • All-wheel-drive
  • Automatic transmission
  • Your choice of a quad cam 5.0-litre Mercedes-Benz V8 engine, a Mercedes-Benz V12 or a Jaguar V12
  • Claimed Cd of 0.28
  • Top speed of more than 240 km/h (150 mph)
  • Composite bodywork (likely reinforced fibreglass)
  • Boxed tubular chassis, like a race car
  • Air suspension
  • Between 4 and 8 seats depending on configuration
  • Onboard laptop computer
  • Power seats, dual zone climate control

Not bad for a small, independent automaker, eh? This was in the late-’80s, when many of those features were hard to get on a Mercedes, let alone other luxury vehicles. Based on the interior appointments, it's exactly how De La Chapelle went about making the Parcours: it took a Mercedes-Benz and chopped it up, using its components inside the MPV bodywork made in a big-ass composite mold.

For my more well-heeled readers: reportedly, three were built. One of those should have your name on it. ;)

For the rest of us, follow the absolute best Instagram account, @parcours.v12, which is slowly resurrecting one and posting photos along the way. 


Thank you to my supporting members: Ben B., Brad B., Chris G., Daniel G., Damian S., Daniel P., Drew M., Ingrid P., Karl D., Luis O., Michael J., Michael L., Michelle S., Mike B., Mike L., Mike M., Richard W., Sam L., Wiley H.