Hooniversal Dream Girl – Hellé Nice

Hellé Nice – I'd say so!

Luckily for the racing masses, Mariette Hélène Delangle, or as she was later known, Hellé Nice, was born on December 15th, 1900 in France to some pretty unassuming parents. Mom was a home maker, dad the local postman. This lovely woman didn’t start out as a racecar driver; in fact she was the polar opposite, dancing across Europe in racy cabarets. She lived an exciting (if not risqué) life as a dancer and model from about 1916 to roughly 1929 and did so well for herself that she was able to buy her own home and yacht, something women of that day just didn’t do. Rock on, girlfriend!

The lovely Ms. Nice

Hellé’s fast lifestyle, love of (and uncanny ability to handle) high-strung cars and prestige as a top cabaret dancer landed her in the inner circle of some of the day’s most powerful automobile magnates and by 1929 she was seated in an Omega-Six, smack dab in the middle of the winner’s circle of the Autodrome de Montlhéry all female Grand Prix. She took her fame across the pond in 1930 and raced at various U.S. tracks in a Miller. In 1931 she tore up quite a few Grand Prix tracks in her bright blue Bugatti 35C thanks to her friend and backer, Ettore Bugatti, who felt that her confidence and outspoken nature were a perfect fit to his team.
But wait! There’s more…
Over the next several years she accumulated racing accolades behind some of the day’s most accomplished – and notorious – racers including European driving champions, Rudolf Caracciola and Robert Benoist. She also stepped outside the Grand Prix circuit to tackle both European hill climbs and rallies to keep busy. Hellé was also a member of the deadly 1933 Italian Grand Prix where she raced against three of the most respected racers who were killed in wrecks during the race. Thankfully she walked away unscathed.
Her lack of injuries only lasted three more years. In 1936, while she and her Alfa Romeo were fighting for the lead spot in the Sao Paolo Grand Prix she reportedly rammed a bale of hay at over 100 miles per hour. Her car was launched into the air, where it flipped a number of times and landed in the grandstands killing four, injuring 30 and almost ending her life and her racing career.
This girl had no fear

As was her fashion, Hellé fought hard to come back from her injuries and ended up as part of the female endurance trials at the Montlhéry racetrack in France within a year of the accident. She drove, alternating along with four other women, for 10 straight days and nights setting records that to this day have not been touched. Hellé’s dream was to rejoin the Bugatti team but this dream was destroyed when her good friend, and Ettore’s son, Jean Bugatti was killed in his test vehicle in a bizarre accident involving a drunk bicyclist on the roadway near the Bugatti plant in Duppigheim, in north-eastern France. World War II halted Grand Prix racing shortly thereafter and in turn her racing career.
Hellé’s final years may have been riddled with problems due to war related accusations by a fellow racer, but she was an amazing racer and a powerful woman in an unpopular time. I respect her for her drive, tenacity and ability to use her smarts and femininity to her advantage. That said, I am hella proud to present to you, Hellé Nice, as yet another of our smart, sexy and ridiculously good behind the wheel, Hooniversal Dream Girls.
Image Source: [The Helle Nice Foundation and Hemmings]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 64 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop files here

  1. Van Sarockin Avatar
    Van Sarockin

    Hella nice article, Amber!

    1. Ambersand Avatar

      Why thank you, kind sir! There was a book about her written in 2004 called Bugatti Queen. I just ordered it and hear it's an amazing biography. Can't wait to read it!

  2. ZomBee Racer Avatar

    Oui-oui! Tis a lovely lass and her mighty machine that shifts MY gears, if you know what I mean…
    10 straight days. EGADS. Makes me feel like a wuss.

  3. coupeZ600 Avatar

    Nice! Great post, Ambersand!