3,996 cc Inline OHV single-cam 6-cylinder hemi engine
Triple Stromberg carburettors
170 bhp at 4,500rpm
Wilson four-speed pre-selector gearbox
IFS with transverse leaf, live rear axle with leaf springs
Four-wheel drum brakes
*Iconic Talbot-Lago factory-built design
*One of 51 T150 C produced
*Second series T150 C body, developed from the 1934 Joseph Figoni Paris Salon design
*Fresh ground-up restoration to a very high level
*Engine restored by Talbot-Lago specialist Jim Stokes in the UK
*Fast and powerful pre-war sportscar with superb road manners
THE TALBOT-LAGO T150 C
In the beginning of the 1930s, the French Talbot factory in Suresnes outside Paris was slowly sinking into a deep financial quicksand. Models had been allowed to proliferate needlessly, technological advances had been haphazard, and styles were outdated. When the Depression finally hit France in 1932, the already sluggish sales turned to nothing. By the beginning of 1933, there was no liquidity left, the banks closed the company credit line and the managing director Owen Clegg cabled Sunbeam-Talbot in London that Talbot in France was facing closure and liquidation. Anthony Lago was sent to France in the hope that he could set things right. He revamped the entire Talbot line, sliced superfluous model variations, improved engines and drivetrains, and introduced the Wilson pre-selector gearbox, for which he held the patents.
By 1935, he had completed his takeover of the Talbot factory. Now he set about truly transforming Talbot-Lago, which was the new name he gave the company. In preparation, Lago had worked with Joseph Figoni in 1934 on new designs for the entire line of Talbot cars. As opposed to Delahaye, Talbot maintained a proprietary in-house coachbuilding facility at the Suresnes factory, and Lago had every intention of utilizing that. The first fruit of this collaboration was shown on the Talbot stand at the Paris Salon in October 1934. A lovely coachbuilt cabriolet by Figoni, wearing a Figoni plaque. This car served as the design template for the coming factory-built Talbots. The new model was called T150 C or Lago Spéciale and rode on a sparkling new chassis that Lago had developed in secret.
Special features included a large capacity oil pan, dual braking system, a higher compression ratio, and advanced suspension geometry. Two versions were offered. The first was designated SS, as in the English phrase "Super Sport", and featured a short-wheelbase 2.65 m chassis that was designed for elegant two- or three-place coachwork. The Lago Spéciale was mechanically identical to the SS, but was intended to accommodate more luxurious bodywork. The weight difference was just 130 kg; the T150 C chassis weighed only 950 kilos and the four liter six-cylinder engine put out 140 bhp in standard street tune. With the exception of a compressor-driven Bugatti Type 57 or the Talbot T150 C-SS, the T150 C was one of the quickest and best handling cars money could buy.
Lago wanted to enter Grand Prix racing and persuaded the legendary René Dreyfus to manage his new Talbot-Lago race team. Dreyfus delivered in June of 1936 at the French Grand Prix at Montlhéry when Lago asked him to "stay ahead of the Bugattis for as long as you can". All three Talbot-Lagos finished in the top ten, running toe-to-toe with the Bugattis before mechanical problems slowed them near the end. The next year, Talbot-Lagos placed first, second, third, and fifth at the 1937 French Grand Prix. Victories continued with a win at Tourist Trophy races at Donington Park and a first place in the 1938 Monte Carlo Rally. While the Talbot-Lago racing cars were outclassed by the omnipotent German Mercedes-Benz and Auto-Union GP cars during the late 1930s, the Talbot-Lagos were uncannily reliable and often finished surprisingly well. When the War came in 1939, Anthony Lago had succeeded in creating a marque ranked alongside the very best in Europe.
In 1938, the original Figoni design was revised by Talbot to create a cleaner and more practical shape. The sides and beltline were reworked for a smoother effect with the beltline being supplanted by a simple and elegant chrome strip. The disappearing convertible top mechanism was re-engineered to a non-disappearing configuration for increased luggage space. An option was introduced to have a T150 C fitted with an aerodynamic and patented Figoni grille design, instead of the traditional Talbot factory grille. It is believed that the grilles were manufactured to order at the Figoni works and sent to Talbot for fitting. Chassis 90039 carries one of the rare second-generation T150C bodies, as well as the sleek Figoni-designed grille.
The four-liter engine was designed by Lago's chief engineer Walter Becchia and featured inclined overhead valves set in hemispherical combustion chambers, opened by crossed pushrods controlled by a single camshaft high in the block, which gave dramatically improved breathing and better volumetric efficiency. Engines were often supplied to customer order, and a good deal opted for the 165 bhp works team specification with high compression pistons and three carburetors. The result was not only a chassis that was beautiful to contemplate, but in this configuration, it was also one of the fastest cars in the world, and several fortunate owners went racing with their T150 Cs.
THE MOTORCAR OFFERED
Lago Spéciale chassis 90039 is one of only 51 T150 Cs produced. It should be noted that this number includes the SS version. The car is right-hand drive like all French sports and luxury cars of the pre-war era and features the trademark pre-selector Wilson-type gearbox which is a joy to use in comparison to the cantankerous long-throw and slow-shifting boxes other cars were fitted with at the time.
Recent information provided by European historian Nicolas Maier has improved and now correctly charted the early history of the Talbot Lago and confirms from vehicle road registration records that the car was originally delivered in Paris and wore the plate '2125 RM 3', its first owner is not known. Debuting on the road on August 1, 1939, it is likely that its use was only brief prior to the outbreak of war just one month later.
The next known owner is Francois Lugeon, a Swiss businessman and diplomat who had no French residence, but instead lived at the famous Hotel Ruhl in Nice, registering the car under the license plate '5832 BA 8' at that address. Lugeon was the last European owner, the car being exported to the States.
It is understood that Luigi Chinetti who was the Talbot-Lago agent for the USA at the time was the importer on this side of the Atlantic. Chinetti was always a fan of the T150 C. So much so, that during an interview in Automobile Classique, he rated the Talbot-Lago T150 C on par with the 2.9 Alfa Romeos he had known so intimately. It is also believed that 90039 was owned in the 1950s by Otto Zipper's Precision Motor Cars in Santa Monica, California which was famous for the high-quality cars they raced and sold in the 1940s and 1950s.
In the 1960s, chassis 90039 was with Briggs Cunningham, who passed it on to Wilbur F. Sanders of Dearborn, Michigan. Sanders is listed as owner in the Talbot-Lago register that was published by long-term enthusiast Tony Carroll in 1976. Sanders offered 90039 to Roy Leiske in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but the car did not sell. The next owner was the famous collector Peter Mullin, who sold it to equally famous Bill Marriott. Marriott's restorer David Carte used 90039 as reference and parts donor car for Marriott's T150 C-SS teardrop, after which it was sold to a Swiss collector. The unrestored and incomplete 90039 was offered for sale in the Bonhams Grand Palais sale in Paris in 2012, where the previous owner bought it.
From 2012 to 2016, the car was given a meticulous ground-up restoration by Hoffes Restoration Management in Holland. There was extreme focus on originality and authenticity. 90039 has been repainted in its original lovely Bleu Narval color, and all the parts that were missing have been sourced. Engine work was done by the famous Talbot-Lago specialist Jim Stokes at his workshops in the UK. When acquired, 90039 was missing its first engine, so a T23 block which is identical to a T150 block was restored-reconstructed and given a perfect new T150 cylinder head from the specialist Karolina in Prague. The restored engine has been dyno-tested to produce more than 170 hp. The restoration is fully documented with copious photographs and invoices, and a number of file folders come with the car.
On completion of its rebuild it was acquired by a noted collector in the Netherlands, in whose custody it has been enjoyed over the past five years, being used for tours including completing the respected tour Gran Premio Nuvolari in Italy in 2019. In this custody, preferring the contrast of a grey interior, it was retrimmed again. The car's restoration today remains fresh, and the car is ready to be enjoyed, be it at any high-level concours event, or indeed fast touring 1000 mile retrospectives, which subject to application with the Registro in Italy would include the Mille Miglia, for which it is eligible.
Any T150 C is a rare automobile. With its racing pedigree, very limited production second series body, and the even rarer factory-option Figoni designed grille, chassis 90039 presents a beautiful combination that is seldom seen. It is justly regarded as one of the most tasteful and lithe French designs of the late 1930s. Coupled with the belle mechanique, or beautiful mechanicals, of its handsome chassis, elegant road manners, and superior acceleration, 90039 is a truly exciting motorcar.