Written by independent automotive journalist Rich Taylor
Content provided by Barrett-Jackson
In 1935, Venetian entrepreneur Major Antonio Lago reorganized the French portion of failed conglomerate Sunbeam-Talbot-Darracq as Automobiles Talbot Paris and began producing a new range of high-end voitures de sport called Talbot-Lago. This was the beginning of a hugely successful enterprise that led to some of the most significant and memorable automobiles of the Golden Era.
Engineer Walter Brecchia created a brilliant new 3996cc inline-6 with seven main bearings, hemispherical combustion chambers and unusual valve gear using long and short pushrods. Brecchia’s robust engine and its descendants remained in production for 25 years, powering everything from futuristic Teardrops by Figoni et Falaschi to French Blue racers that won multiple LeMans 24-hour endurance races and dozens of Grands Prix both before and after World War II.
To carry this marvelous engine, Lago used a very straightforward chassis with independent front suspension, a live rear axle on semi-elliptic leaf springs, wire spoke wheels and 4-wheel drum brakes. Behind the engine sat either a conventional 4-speed transmission or the famous 4-speed Wilson Preselector gearbox that Lago himself had helped design before acquiring Talbot.
Talbot-Lago produced a robust line-up of models prior to World War II, and all were based on variations of shared components. The same basic chassis was available in four wheelbase lengths; 104.3-inch, 116.1-inch, 126.0-inch and 135.8-inch. There was an economical 2.3-liter inline-4, but most Talbot-Lago models were powered by either a 3.0-liter or 4.0-liter inline-6.
The 1939 Talbot-Lago T-15 Cabriolet (Lot #1378) on offer carries a 4.0-liter engine with a single carburetor, rated at 115hp on the 126-inch wheelbase chassis. With two carburetors, this same engine was rated at 140hp; with three carburetors, 180hp. Postwar Talbots used this same engine enlarged to 4.5 liters and fitted with double-overhead cams. Racing versions claimed 280hp, still with enough reliability to dominate the 24 Hours of LeMans.
Talbot-Lago supplied chassis to prominent carrosserie like Figoni et Falaschi, Pourtout and Saoutchik, but most cars were bodied in-house by Talbot. T-15 #91626 carries a Talbot body with many of the characteristic details. The split front bumpers, triple exposed hinges on suicide doors, long, raked louvers on the sides of the hood, fine stainless trim running the length of the body, exposed top hinges, polished rear fender splash guards and plated wire wheels are all typical of Talbot-Lago in the late-1930s.
This particular car was restored in the Paris suburb of Bezons, France, by Carrosserie LeCoq in 1990 before being sold at auction in Tokyo on March 20, 1992. The paint was then described as black, but it is really a dark chocolate brown that appears black in photos. The interior is upholstered in taupe leather that appears somewhere between tan and grey in photos. The carpets and top are a matching dark brown. The right-hand-drive 4-spoke steering wheel is typical of Talbot-Lago, simple and functional in black.
Newly-freshened, every part of this Grand Routier appears immaculate and authentic, inside and out. Exterior paint and plating is flawless, the top appears unwrinkled and unstained, the interior shows without a blemish. Even the engine compartment appears perfect and authentic; the engine block is properly black, with the cast TALBOT of the side covers highlighted in red to match the sparkplug wires.
Bottom line, this Talbot-Lago T-15 is a Full Classic from one of the most respected manufacturers of the Golden Era, when bespoke French firms still epitomized style, luxury, performance and good taste. It needs nothing except an enthusiastic new owner ready to show it in world-class concours, drive it on prestigious tours, display it in a private museum or simply enjoy it with friends on a sunny Sunday afternoon.