Historic Car Brands
Talbot or Clément-Talbot Limited was a British automobile manufacturer founded in 1903. Clément-Talbot’s products were named just Talbot from shortly after introduction, but the business remained Clément-Talbot Limited until 1938 when it was renamed Sunbeam-Talbot Limited.
The founder, Charles Chetwynd-Talbot (at right, courtesy of Vanity Fair) was the 20th Earl of Shrewsbury, who knew his way around the London road transport scene, having run a 300-vehicle hansom cab business.
He joined forces with French engineer, Adolphe Clément-Bayard, to import Clement-Bayard car parts from France and assemble them in the UK. The initial cars were branded ‘Clement-Talbot’, but just ‘Talbot’ a year later.
The 1905 Talbot lineup consisted of four twin-cylinder models: 7/8, 8/9, 9/11 and 10/12 and five four-cylinder models, from 12/14 up to a 6.3-litre 35/50.
1911 Talbot in Brisbane – State Library of Queensland
The first all-British Talbots were the 1906, 3.8-litre, 20/28hp model, followed by the 2.7-litre,12/16 and bot cddi well in races and speed trails. These cars were designed by C R Garrard, who had worked with Adolphe Clement since 1888. His 1907 design was a dual-ignition, three-litre, 15hp model.
In 1911, a new designer, George Brown, joined Talbot, following a successful stint at Austin, where he designed racing cars for Brooklands specialist, Percy Lambert.
1910 Talbot 6AS Roadster – SV1ambo
He soon had the side-valve, 25hp, Talbot 4.2-litre engine up to 4.5 litres and developing twice the power. The car went well enough for Lambert to be the first driver to exceed 100mph for a full hour, in a streamlined machine, in 1913. He also broke Brooklands records for the half-mile, mile and full lap.
1915 Talbot 25/50 TourerClive Barker
Sadly, Lambert was killed in late-1913 and was buried in a coffin that was streamlined to match his car.
In 1914 came Talbot’s first six-cylinder car and in 1916 Georges Roesch joined Talbot. Roesch was an exceptional engineer, who had worked for Gregoire, Delaunay-Belleville and Renault in Paris and with Daimler in Coventry.
Before Roesch’s skill could take effect, Talbot Clément-Talbot was brought into a combine named STD Motors after Darracq took over Talbot. In August 1920, A Darracq and Company (1905) was renamed STD Motors Limited to recognise the merger of Sunbeam, Talbot and Darracq under single ownership.
1922 Talbot 8/18 – Malcolm A
A brief Darracq influence was the side-valve, V8-powered Talbot-Darracq that was made from 1919 until 1922. This 4.5-litre engine was arranged in two blocks of four, set at 90 degrees and fed by a centrally located carburettor. It produced 60hp and provided excellent performance for the time.
Sunbeams continued to be made in Wolverhampton, the Talbot at Clément-Talbot in North Kensington and the Darracq car at Suresnes. There were central buying, selling, administration and advertising departments, but all three brands retained their separate identities. Later, STD Motors’ French products were renamed Talbot, instead of Darracq.
1925 Talbot 10/23 Talbot Torpedo – Martin Pettit
Roesch’s first job for the combine was to redesign a French-made 8/18 Darracq into the 1.1-litre Talbot 10/23 four-seater that was joined by a six-cylinder, 12/30 model. He then went on a tour of the three factories, before committing designs to pair that incorporated new, lightweight, overhead-valve gear. His ultra-thin pushrods were made by a knitting-needle maker!
Talbot Engine – Thomas Vogt
Roesch’s overhead-valve kit combined with optimised combustion chamber design to lift output of the 30hp model to 45hp, without additional stress, because it could rev safely to 4500rpm, instead of being limited to 3000rpm.
1925 Talbot 10/23 Tourer
The 1.7-litre, 45hp, Talbot 14/45 six-cylinder car was launched in 1926 and was joined by a 2.3-litre, ‘70mph’ model in 1930 that soon became the 75.
A racing version was the 90 that squeezed the new engine into the 14/45 short-wheelbase Scout model’s chassis. It ran a heady 10:1 compression ratio and Talbot’s scored third and fourth at Le Mans in 1930, plus class wins in the Ulster Tourist Trophy, Irish Grand Prix and the Brooklands 500-mile race.
1930 Talbot 75/90 Tourer – Davocano
In 1931 came the 105, powered by a three-litre, 100hp six and that model remained in production until 1937. It was joined by a the bored-out, 3.5-litre 110 in 1935. Like its 90 predecessor the 105 scored many race victories.
1933 Talbot 105 Brooklands Special – Car and Classic-UK
However, STD’s finances suffered greatly during the Great Depression and it collapsed in 1934. Rootes bought the London Talbot factory and Antonio Lago bought the Paris Talbot factory, where Lago produced vehicles under the marques Talbot and Talbot-Lago.
1935 Talbot-Lago T150 CSS
Antonio Lago involved Talbot in sports car and Grand Prix racing as well as producing high quality luxury cars.
For 1935, the existing range continued in production but from 1936 these were steadily replaced with cars designed by Walter Becchia, featuring transverse, leaf-spring, independent suspension.
The new cars included the four-cylinder 2.3-litre 13CV Talbot Type T4 ‘Minor’ that was a surprise introduction at the 1937 Paris Motor Show, the six-cylinder 2.7-litre 15CV Talbot Cadette-15, six-cylinder three-litre 17CV and four-litre 23CV Talbot ‘Major’ and long-wheelbase Talbot ‘Master’ touring cars.
1935 Talbot-Lago T150C – Legends Automotive
The sporting Lago-Spéciale and Lago-SS models, respectively with two and three carburettors.
The most frequently specified body for the Lago-SS was built by Figoni et Falaschi, with eye-catching aerodynamic forms.
1937 Talbot-Lago T150 engine
Lago was an excellent engineer who developed the existing Talbot six-cylinder engine into high-performance Talbot-Lago four-litre one. The sporting six-cylinder models had a great racing history.
During the early years of World War II, Walter Becchia left Talbot to work for Citroen, but Lago was joined in 1942 by another exceptional engineer, Carlo Machetti.
1948 Talbo- Lago T26 Grand Prix car
The two of them worked on the twin-camshaft, 4.5-litre, six-cylinder engine that powered the 1946 Talbot T26 racing car, as well as the Talbot Lago Record and the Talbot Grand Sport 26CV. These cars were priced against large luxurious cars from the likes of Delahaye, Delage, Hotchkiss and Salmson.
Talbot-Lago’s successful high-performance racing cars and large, luxurious passenger cars shared many chassis and engine components.
1947 Talbot-Lago T26 Record – Mr Choppers
Nevertheless, the post-War period was one of economic stagnation and financial stringency. The French Government introduced punitive annual taxation on cars with engines larger than 2.6 litres and Talbot sales were severely restricted. The company had difficulty finding customers and its finances were stretched.
The Talbot-Lago Baby (1948–1951) was the third model presented by the company during the 1940s. The car was commonly sold as a four-door sedan, but a two-door cabriolet was also offered.
1950 Talbot-LagoT26 Berline – Charles 01
It was powered by a four-cylinder, twin-overhead-camshaft engine that displaced 2.7-litres – just over the French punitive tax ceiling – and initially produced 110hp that was increased to 120hp in 1949.
Although the post-War Baby sedan closely resembled the more powerful Record, the cheaper car sat on simplified suspension. Baby customers could specify as an option a Wilson pre-selector gear box.
1956 Talbot-Lago T14 LS – Rex Gray
Talbot had two brief spells in Formula One. The 4.5-litre, six-cylinder Talbot-Lago T26 was eligible for F1 competition and made its racing debut in the 1948 Monaco Grand Prix, finishing second in the hands of Louis Chiron. Victories were achieved the following year, with Louis Rosier winning the 1949 Belgian Grand Prix and Louis Chiron winning the 1949 French Grand Prix. A modified two-seat version won the 1950 24 Hours of Le Mans driven by Louis Rosier and Jean-Louis Rosier.
Doug Whiteford won the 1952 and 1953 Australian Grand Prix driving a Talbot-Lago T26C.
Talbot-LagoT26C of Doug Whiteford
In the first two years of the F1 World Championship – 1950 and 1951 – Talbots came fourth and fifth in the inaugural World Championship race, the 1950 British Grand Prix, piloted by Yves Giraud-Cabantous and Louis Rosier respectively.
However, an engine formula change for 1952 effectively ended Talbot’s spell as an F1 manufacturer.
With cash tight and sales dwindling, Antonio Lago continued the Talbot-Lago road-car business until 1958, when it was sold to Simca.
Talbot after the take-overs
While Antonio Lago was working his magic and enhancing the Talbot name at Talbot-Lago, Rootes’ philosophy was totally different. The 1936 Talbots were reworked Hillman Minx and Hillman Hawk cars that were very poor performers.
The downgraded Talbot name was spared much more infamy, because Clément-Talbot Limited was renamed Sunbeam-Talbot Limited in 1938 by Rootes , which stopped using the brand name ‘Talbot’ in the mid-1950s. The Paris factory closed a few years later.
Ownership of the marque came by a series of takeovers to Peugeot SA, which revived use of the Talbot name from 1978 until 1994, putting the once-famous badge on some of its dreary, ex-Chrysler cars.
The Talbot factory team for the World Rally Championship formed in 1979, putting the Talbot name in its rightful place at last. In the team’s inaugural season in the series, Tony Pond drove the Talbot Sunbeam Lotus to fourth place at the 1979 Rallye Sanremo.
Talbot Sunbeam Lotus
More success followed in the 1980 season;, when Guy Fréquelin brought Talbot the team’s first podium by finishing third at the 1980 Rally Portugal and then Henri Toivonen won the RAC Rally, becoming the youngest-ever driver to win a world rally. The rally was a big success for Talbot as the team also took the third and fourth places, driven by Fréquelin and Russell Brookes, respectively. In the manufacturers’ world championship, Talbot placed sixth.
In the 1981 season, Talbot continued with Fréquelin and Toivonen. Although the team’s only win came at the Rally Argentina, driven by Fréquelin, consistent podiums and points-scoring finishes saw Talbot take the manufacturers’ title. Fréquelin narrowly lost the drivers’ title to Ford’s Ari Vatanen.
The 1982 season saw the series dominated by the four-wheel-drive Audi Quattro and, with Group B regulations coming up, Talbot withdrew from the WRC. However, the Talbot name continued in the championship, when Jean Todt founded the Peugeot Talbot Sport in 1981. This Peugeot factory team debuted in 1984 and won the drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles in 1985 and 1986.