Louis & Jean-Louis with their écurie Rosier Talbot-Lago T26C, 1950 Louis & Jean-Louis with their écurie Rosier Talbot-Lago T26C, 1950

Talbot-Lago Motor Cars

Automobiles Talbot

Gustave Adolphe Clément later known as Clément-Bayard was a French entrepreneur who raced and manufactured bicycles, motorcycles, automobiles, aeroplanes and airships. He founded Clément-Gladiator, Clément-Garrard, Clément-Dunlop, Clément-Panhard, Clément-Rothschild, Clément-Stirling and Diatto-Clément.

Gladiator cycles was founded by Alexandre Darracq and Paul Aucoq in 1891. In 1896 Adolphe Clément who held the extremely profitable manufacturing rights for Dunlop tyres in France bought out the Gladiator Cycle Company and merged it into a major bicycle manufacturing conglomerate. The range of cycles was expanded, and in 1902, Clément-Gladiator started production of a motorised bicycle, then cars and motorcycles.

Adolphe Clément had realized early on that exporting his vehicles, particularly to the more affluent and therefore more lucrative UK market, would help ensure his companies success - and so he soon became associated with Charles Chetwynd-Talbot , 22nd Earl of Shrewsbury, who was keen to import French cars to the UK.

Hence, the Clément-Gladiator company was divided in 1903, Charles Chetwynd-Talbot founding the English arm Clément-Talbot Ltd, while Adolphe Clément formed Clément-Bayard to be sold to Citroën later.

The cars would prove successful and, in 1912, their reputation was bolstered by Percy Lambert who would become the first ever driver to achieve 100 miles-in-an-hour at Brooklands.

Alexandre Darracq, using part of the substantial profit he had made from selling his Gladiator bicycle factory to Adolpe Clément, formed a société en commanditie in February 1897 and named it A. Darracq et Cie. Darracq was a manufacturer of motor vehicles and aero engines in Suresnes, near Paris. It was very profitable. Alexandre Darracq built racing as well as passenger cars and Darracq rapidly became famous for its motor racing successes.

In 1919, Charles Chetwynd-Talbot would sell his business to Darracq, who then went on to form the first major international alliance when they merged with Sunbeam and set up the Sunbeam-Talbot-Darracq, S.T.D motors combine in 1920.

Things became confusing in 1921 when the French arm of the company started to sell its cars as Talbot-Darracq, then from 1923 they were badged as Talbot in France, and rebadged as Darracq if exported to Great Britain and some other countries; meanwhile the British arm continued to produce Talbots in London and Sunbeam cars in Wolverhampton until they in turn were both taken over, after the liquidation, by Rootes in 1935.

Anthony Lago was an Italian who had been a Major in the Italian Air Force in the First World War. He fell out with Mussolini's Fascists and moved to London in the early 1920s, after travelling via Paris and the US. He changed his name from Antonio to Anthony and became the agent for Isotta Fraschini.

In the mid 1920s he became involved with the Wilson pre-selector gearbox, which he fitted to many cars including Isottas. Lago also acquired the rights to the Wilson patents for use outside the UK. Many French buses were fitted with Wilson boxes.

In 1933 Lago, by then an S.T.D. Motors director, went to Paris in an attempt to turn round the fortunes of the loss-making arm of S.T.D. Motors. He had in his pocket an option to purchase the Suresnes plant at its 1933 valuation. In 1935 when S.T.D. Motors failed, he exercised this option, and with financial backing from London, bought Suresnes from under the noses of the Rootes brothers.

Lago immediately set about rationalizing and restyling the range of six-cylinder cars. The six cylinder engines retained overhead valves and had capacities of 1830cc, 2504cc and 2996cc. A 3996cc six with 7 main bearings was introduced in 1937.

These engines were fitted in a range of three chassis: the Baby with a 2.95m wheelbase, the Major with a 3.20m wheelbase and the Master with a 3.45m wheelbase. Only the smallest and cheapest variants had normal gearboxes, all others were fitted with Wilson pre-selectors.

The T150 variant initially was based on the 3 litre with a hemispherical cylinder head featuring inclined valves operated by asymmetric rockers actuated by pushrods from a single camshaft. Capacity was increased to 4 litres in 1936 and in the special sports racing version with a 2.65m wheelbase, produced some 165bhp good for a top speed of 177 km/h. This car proved successful in competitions, taking out the first three places at the 1937 Montlhery sports car Grand Prix and the Tourist Trophy at Donington Park.

Figoni provided styling input for the "works" bodies from 1934 on, as well as building bodies to order on bare chassis such as the famous "teardrop" T150s. Lago continued to refine the wonderful 4 litre engine, and in 1938 for competition capacity was increased to 4.5 litres; racing successes for the Lago Special would continue with a win in that year's Paris 12 hour race.

Great things were promised for 1939 when a 3 litre V16 engine was announced, but with the imminent outbreak of war such plans were quickly shelved and, unfortunately, were never resurrected. After the war Talbot-Lago resumed car manufacture, releasing a totally new 4.5 litre car, the T26 Record in 1947.

But it was the production of the single-seater 4.5 litre un-supercharged T26C Grand Prix car that was to bring well-deserved success to the company. This racecar used an all alloy version of the 7 bearing T26 Record engine with hemispherical combustion chambers and inclined valves operated by cross-over pushrods and twin camshafts high in the block, as pioneered by Riley.

Fighting in the same league as the 1.5 litre supercharged cars, the Talbot Lagos were successful due to their fuel consumption; while competitors were forced to make mid-race fuel stops the Talbot Lago remained on the track. The Lago Talbot road car of 1947 used a 170bhp engine, with the bodies for the short chassis "Grand Sport" being supplied by specialist coachbuilders in a wide variety of styles - but mostly very traditional for the day.

That year Rosier won the "Albi" race while Chiron won the French GP, and at Comminges the big Talbot Lagos came in first, second and third places! The other manufacturers started to take note of the success of the marquee, and quickly determined that the reliability of a non-supercharged car in a race sometimes outweighed the advantages of the supercharged car.

While it may have been rare for a Talbot-Lago to beat a supercharged Alfa Romeo, Ferrari could see the benefit of ditching the supercharger and gaining reliability, a method they would employ with great success from 1950 onward. The T26C was developed to eventually produce approaching 280bhp, and from 1949 there was the "T15 Lago Baby" which had a 118bhp 2.7 litre four cylinder engine incorporating the same cross-pushrod valve gear, and being available as a drophead coupe or a saloon.

The Talbot Lago company would enjoy its postwar peak production figures ever in 1950, with some 433 cars being manufactured in total. To top off a successful year, Rosier used a two-seater sports version of the T26C racing car to win the 1950 Le Mans race.

Pierre Levegh would come close to making it a second Le Mans victory for the marque in 1951; driving single handed for more than 22 hours, it was unfortunate and somewhat unexpected given the engines prior reputation for reliability that Levegh's engine would blow. How quickly the fortunes of the company would change, with 1951 production figures falling to a mere 80!

Like many of the French marques, financial constraints, including the punitive tax regime imposed on luxury cars in France, inhibited the company's ability to develop better engines and more competitive cars - and so it came as no surprise that 1953 offered no race track success.

This was no doubt very disappointing for the engineers, for despite the financial constraints they had not only developed a new lightweight car, into which, as a last throw of the dice in 1956, they had fitted Maserati engines to the two last Le Mans entries!

In 1954 production concentrated on the new 2476cc four-cylinder T14LS, with a conventional 4 speed gear box, in a wonderful new sports coupe body. Thoroughly modern looking, the new car was good for 115bhp and a top speed of 193km/h. But this was the last to use a Talbot engine design, and only 70 cars were produced. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and so the company decided to cease development of its own engines and instead source them from BMW.

Their new model "America" retained the lovely GT coupe style, and used the 2580cc alloy BMW V8 engine. It was the first Talbot to be built as a left hand drive car. The naming of the car was certainly an indication of the market the company were now relying upon to arrest their waning fortunes.

Designed by Carlo Delaisse, the "America" offered some 10% more power than the previous Talbot engined model, and was now good for a top speed of 199 km/h. Naturally, the America was only manufactured as a left-hand-drive, but after having only manufactured a paltry 12 the company was forced into liquidation.

In 1958 Tony Lago was forced to sell-out to Simca, the few last cars using the America chassis and body being fitted with a Ford side-valve V8 as used on the Simca Vedette.

Anthony Lago would die the following year, and inevitably the heritage of Talbot-Lago would diminish over the following years as Simca was purchased by Chrysler who in turn absorbed the Rootes group, thus re-uniting the French and English Talbot heritages, before being finally sold to Peugeot.


We are looking for the following cars. If you do have any of the below listed vehicles - and you are ready to sell - please Contact Us.

T150 Grand Sport
T150 C
T150 C Lago Special
T150 C Lago SS Berlinette
T120 Baby Sport
T120 Cabriolet my Lord
T120 Figoni & Falaschi
T23 Coupé Figoni
T23 Cabriolet Figoni
T23 Cabriolet Chapron
T26 Lago Record Berline
T26 Lago Record Cabriolet
T26 GSL Coupé
T14 Lago Sport

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