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T150C Special Teardrop Coupe by Figoni et Falaschi
In October 1934 the new Talbots - T120 (3.0-liter) and T150 (4.0-liter) - were among the sensations of the Paris Auto Show. By agreement the Talbots’ new Figoni designed and patented coachwork, as displayed at the Auto Show, could be used the following year on factory produced models. The latter were not entirely identical however, one of the major stylistic differences between a Figoni-bodied and a factory-bodied car being the running board that connected the front and rear wings. The two-tone paintwork was a Figoni design that was emulated by the factory.
The T120 was a Talbot Lago staple from 1935 to the outbreak of World War II in 1939, and it reflected Lago’s emphasis on stylish performance. Its box section frame was robust, and its engine—a 3.0-liter overhead valve inline six developed by Walter Becchia from a design (probably created by Roesch) patented in 1934, prior to STD’s collapse—was advanced for the day and was the predecessor to the famous T150C engine only a short while later. Output was rated at 90 horsepower, giving the roadster a top speed of more than 90 mph. It is thought by some that the Lago powerplant—followed later by a 4.0-liter version—influenced later engine designs, such as the original Chrysler Hemi. The straight six was mated with a four-speed Wilson Pre-Selector gearbox, a clever device that made shifting easier and more precise. Operation was simple. Preparing for an up- or downshift, the driver flipped a lever in the pre-selector gate. Then, when it was time for the actual shift, the driver simply operated the clutch pedal, and the new gear was engaged.
Talbot-Lago T150-C chassis, with the “C” standing for competition – a clear reference to the car’s racing success. Features such as a large capacity oil pan, punched handbrake lever, a dual braking system, and a higher compression ratio were taken directly from the racing program. Two versions were offered. The first, designated SS (taken from the English phrase “Super Sport”) referred to a short-wheelbase (2.65 m) chassis, designed for elegant two- or three-place coachwork.
A second, somewhat longer (2.95 m) chassis was also offered, called the “Lago Speciale.” Mechanically identical to the SS, it was intended to accommodate more luxurious coachwork. In fact, the weight difference was just 130 kg, and the performance of the new four-liter engine was great enough that many owners raced their Lago Speciales as well. Both chassis offered exceptional handling, a result of the car’s independent front suspension with its advanced geometry, along with light weight and excellent brakes.
The Talbot Lago-Special was in effect a Talbot Baby 23CV, but with a high-tech cylinder head. The choice of bodies was the same, except that the two-door four-seater "coach" standard steel-bodied car was designated "Coach Grand Luxe" and came with an advertised price, at the 1937 motor show, of 103,480 francs which was nearly twice the advertised price for the same body/chassis combination in the Talbot Baby 15CV. The "Grand luxe" designation no doubt highlighted a superior level of fittings in the car. Wilson "pre-selector" transmission was included as a standard feature. Most of the publicity and attention focused on the engine, however.
The Special shared the 3996 cc (23CV) cylinder block of the Baby 23CV, but in this application the cylinder head was formed from light metal alloy and incorporated hemispherical combustion chambers above the cylinders. This made it possible for the cylinder valves, while still at this stage driven by a single camshaft, to be mounted in a narrow V formation, while a sparking plug was positioned centrally above each cylinder. Power was further enhanced by the fitting of twin Zénith-Stromberg 42 carburetors, providing 140HP (100 kW) and a listed top speed of 160 km/h (101 mph). During 1938 the twin carburetor arrangements was replaced by triple Zénith 32 carburetors in pursuit if further power enhancement. In addition to providing a formidable level of power, the sophisticated cylinder head pointed the way to future developments which would culminate with the 1946 launch of the Talbot Lago Record, which would feature a twin camshaft arrangement cylinder.
The Lago-SS shared the advanced cylinder-head technology of the Lago-Special, but it used a shortened 2,650 mm (104.3 in) wheel-base chassis. There was no "standard body" offered with this car which was produced by Talbot only in bare chassis form. Exotic coach-built bodies were provided by coach builders, most notably Figoni & Falaschi. Although fuel feed was "normally" provided using triple Zénith 32 carburetters, cars were also produced featuring larger diameter Zénith 35 carburetters, and thus equipped the car came with listed maximum power of 200HP (150 kW).
In 1938, Figoni & Falaschi was already setting Paris on fire with beautiful, sumptuous automobiles. According to the Figoni archives, it was in that year that the factory produced the three cabriolets that would come to be seen as the epitome of the teardrop style. Chassis 90111, 90019, and 90115 were all created for the Talbot-Lago T150-C; although, the first and last were built on shorter SS chassis.
While the most note-worthy and spectacular of the T150C road-going cars were built by expert coachbuilders, not all examples would be completed by outside coachbuilders. By the time the T150C even made its first appearance in 1937 trouble was brewing in Europe. By its second year of production, the T150C and everyone involved would be threatened by the outbreak of war. Therefore, not all chassis would be sent to coachbuilders for their now-famed bodies to grace
In August, Lago introduced a touring version of the open T-150 Cs that were often seen racing and winning. At the Paris-Nice Criterium de Tourisme, the new 'T150 C SS' was introduced and under the bonnet was a four-liter, six-cylinder overhead valve engine breathing through triple Zenith-Stromberg carburetors, similar to the racing version. It was fitted with a Wilson pre-selector gearbox which sent the 140 horsepower to the rear wheels. The body was by Paris coachbuilder, Figoni and Falaschi. The result was an elegant, impressive, and awe-inspiring coupe coupled with a racing legacy that was tried-and-true.
There were fewer than 30 examples of the T-150 C SS models created. Most were given coachwork by Figoni and Falaschi. Only four Pourtout Aero coupés were created.
The Talbot-Lago T-150-C chassis provided a superb platform for talented coachbuilders to construct the elegant, and often flamboyant, curvaceous coupe bodies. They were streamlined, sleek, and light enough to race competitively. Joseph Figoni and Ovidio Falaschi built twelve of these tear-drop styled cars, known as Goutte d'Eau (drop of water) between 1937 and 1939. They received the nickname, 'New York Style coupes' because the first example was introduced at the New York Auto Show. Five more were built in a different notchback Teardrop style and were named 'Jeancart,' after a wealthy French patron who commissioned the first example. Historian Richard Adatto noted that it took the Figoni and Falaschi craftsman some 2,100 hours to complete a custom body. Since they were hand built, no two Teardrop coupes were exactly alike.
This berlinetta was built by Carrosserie Marcel Pourtout. The styling was handled by their top designer, Georges Paulin, who had earlier sketched a one-of-a-kind Bentley coupe for Andre Embiricos. This fastback represents yet another variation of the teardrop style. In comparison to the earlier Figoni efforts, this example has a more masculine and aggressive appearance. The car was commissioned by Monsieur Parent, a wealthy amateur racer who competed in a few regional events.
The marque's ultimate pre-war road car, the 4.0-litre T150C, was available in two different chassis lengths: 2.65m as used for the factory's T150C 'SS' competition cars and 2.95m for the mechanically identical 'Lago Speciale' sports roadster. Despite its greater length, necessary to accommodate more opulent coachwork, the latter weighed a mere 130kg (59lbs) more than the former and was often raced by its owners. Power outputs varied between the 140bhp available to customers and the 155bhp attained by the works team.
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