After Tony Lago purchased
Darracq the “Lago Special” would
bring the company to the public’s
The SS (Special Sports)
racing version featured a 165bhp engine
and was good for a top speed in excess
of 110mph (177kmh)...
The Talbot Lago Grans Sport
looked anything but average...
Rosier would use
a two-seater sports version of the
racing car to win the 1950 Le Mans
The new model “America” was
a lovely GT coupe style, and used
the 2580cc alloy BMW V8 engine...
The naming of the car was certainly
an indication of the market the
company were now relying upon to
arrest their waning fortunes...
Major Tony Lago created the Talbot-Lago
marque in 1935 when he purchased the French branch
of the bankrupted Sunbeam-Talbot-Darracq combine. However
many contest that the story really began at the end
of the 19th century when Adolphe Clement, a French
industrialist, began to manufacture cars.
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 the the Earl of Shrewsbury & Talbot
who was also keen to import French cars to the UK.
Earl set up an assembly plant in London in 1904, and
the imported/locally assembled cars were naturally enough
called “Clement-Talbots”. The cars would
prove successful and, in 1912, their reputation was
bolstered by the Percy Lambert who would become the
first ever driver to achieve 100 miles-in-an-hour at Brooklands.
In 1919 the Earl of Shrewsbury would sell his business
to Darracq, who then went on to form the first major
international alliance when they teamed with Sunbeam
and set up the S-T-D (Sunbeam-Talbot-Darracq) combine
Things became increasingly confusing in 1922
when the French arm of the company started to sell its
own cars as Talbot-Darracq’s, and then as Talbot’s;
meanwhile the British arm continued to produce Talbot
and Sunbeam cars at separate factories until they in
turn were both taken over, after the liquidation, by
Rootes in 1935.
It was following the Rootes buy-out that Tony Lago
decided to purchase Darracq, and immediately set about
introducing a new range of six-cylinder cars. His new
engines featured overhead valves and, at 3996cc, were
dubbed the “Baby 4 liter”, but it was the
“Lago Special” that would bring the company
to the public’s attention.
This special sports
racing version featured a 165bhp engine and was good
for a top speed in excess of 110mph (177kmh) and would
prove immediately successful in competitions, taking
out the first three places at the 1937 Montlhery sports
car Grand Prix and the Tourist Trophy race at Donington
But despite the touring cars being well matched to
the specialist body styles of the period, strangely
they were considered by most to not be as ‘chic’
as the Delahayes. Undeterred, Tony Lago would continue
to refine the wonderful 4 liter engine, and in 1938
the size was increased to 4.5 liters; racing successes
for the Lago Special would continue with a win in that
years Paris 12 hour race.
Great things were promised for 1939 when a 3 liter
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 would
return to car manufacture, releasing a slightly modified
and improved 4.6 liter sedan in 1947.
But it was the
production of a single-seater 4.5 liter un-supercharged
Grand Prix car that was to bring well deserved kudos
to the company. Fighting in the same league as the 1.5
liter supercharged cars, the Talbot Lago’s were
successful due in the main because of their miserly
fuel consumption; while their competition 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 usually 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 Lago’s
came in first, second and third places!
The other manufacturers
started to take note of the fledgling marque, and quickly
determined that the reliability afforded when entering
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.
In 1948 a new engine with twin “high” (but
not overhead) camshafts was introduced, power rising
from 180bhp to 280bhp, and from 1949 there was the Talbot
“Baby” which had a 118bhp 2.7 liter four
cylinder engine incorporating cross-pushrod valve gear,
this being available as a head coupe or a saloon. The
company would enjoy its peak production figures ever
in 1950, with some 433 cars being manufactured in total.
To top off a successful year, Rosier would use a two-seater
sports version of the racing car to win the 1950 Le
Mans race. Pierre Levegh would come ever so close to
making it back to back Le Mans victories 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 so many of the marques listed in the “Lost
Marques” section of this site, financial constraints
would continually inhibit the companies ability to develop
better engines and more competitive cars – and
so it came as no surprise that 1953 offered no race
This was no doubt very disappointing
for the engineers, for despite their financial constraints
they had not only developed a new lightweight car, they
had fitted Maserati engine!
In 1954 production concentrated on a new 2476cc four-cylinder
car in a wonderful new sports coupe body. Thoroughly
modern looking, the new car was good for 115bhp and
a top speed of 120mph (193kmh). 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.
new model “America” was a lovely GT coupe
style, and used the 2580cc alloy BMW V8 engine. The
naming of the car was certainly an indication of the
market the company were now relying upon to arrest their
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 124mph
(199.5kmh). Naturally enough the car was also manufactured
as a left-hand-drive, but after having only manufactured
a paltry 12 the company was forced into liquidation.
In 1958 Tony Lago reluctantly allowed his company to
be absorbed by Simca, the last cars to have any resemblance
to the marque using a Ford side-valve V8 as used on
the Simca Vedette. Tony 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 and that in turn by the Rootes group.