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Lot 544: Talbot-Lago Record 'Grand Sport' Cabriolet

Grand Palais Sale, Bonhams (7 February 2013)

The Talbot-Lago marque came into being in 1935 when Major A E 'Tony' Lago purchased the French branch of the bankrupt Sunbeam-Talbot-Darracq combine. The Talbot story had begun at the end of the 19th Century when Adolphe Clément, a French industrialist who had made a fortune making bicycles and tyres, diversified into the manufacture of motor cars. In association with The Earl of Shrewsbury (Lord Talbot), he set up an assembly plant in London in 1905 and the imported/locally-assembled cars were naturally enough called 'Clement-Talbots'. The cars proved successful and in 1913 their reputation was bolstered by Percy Lambert who, at Brooklands, became the first ever driver to cover 100 miles in an hour. In 1919 Clement-Talbot was sold to Darracq, becoming part of the Sunbeam-Talbot-Darracq (STD) combine. Things became increasingly confusing in 1922 when the French arm of the company started to sell its own cars as Talbot-Darracqs and then as Talbots. Meanwhile the British arm continued to produce Talbot and Sunbeam cars at separate factories until they in turn were both taken over by Rootes in 1935. It was following the Rootes buyout that Italian-born Tony Lago, a trained engineer who had risen to become head of STD's French operations, decided to purchase Darracq. He immediately set about introducing a new range of six-cylinder models featuring advanced overhead-valve engines in a range of capacities. For these new engines, designer Walter Becchia used pushrod-operated valves set in hemispherical combustion chambers for maximum efficiency, and this pattern of cylinder head would become a Talbot hallmark. Of the new models, it was the T150C or 'Lago Special' that brought the new company to the public's attention. The Lago Special was powered by what was effectively a Grand Prix engine, specially designed for the short-lived French Sports Car Grand Prix formula that had been introduced in 1936. Developed from the 3.0-litre T120 power unit, the T150C engine was enlarged to 4.0 litres, endowed with a massive seven-bearing crankshaft (the T120 had four bearings) and nitrided steel cylinder liners. Induction was by a very special triple down-draught Zenith carburettor installation, and in race tune this engine developed some 155bhp, with around 140 horsepower available in road trim. The short chassis sports-racing version was good for a top speed in excess of 177km/h (110mph) and would prove immediately successful in competitions, taking the first three places both at the 1937 French Grand Prix at Montlhéry and the Tourist Trophy at Donington Park. During WW2 a new twin-camshaft '2AC' engine of 4.5 litres was designed, which after the war's end was used to power Talbot-Lago's successful Grand Prix monoposto and Louis Rosier's 1950 Le Mans winner. In keeping with Talbot-Lago tradition, this state-of-the art power unit was also used for the company's flagship road car, the rare and exotic short-chassis Grand Sport. With 190bhp on tap (220bhp from 1953) the Grand Sport was, for a while, the world's most powerful and fastest sports car. The Record models used a less highly tuned (170bhp) engine with a cast-iron cylinder head, though on special request some were delivered with the competition engine installed, as in the case of this Graber-bodied cabriolet. According to the Talbot-Lago register, 32 cars were so equipped, of which only 16 survivors are known worldwide. The Swiss Carrosserie Graber started its automotive activities in the 1920s, when Hermann Graber followed the footsteps of his father, who was a maker of horse-drawn carriages. Graber soon developed his own well balanced style and his high quality bodywork was found on French, Italian and English rolling chassis, Bentley and Rolls-Royce among them. Graber bodies were all 'tailor-made' to the customers' specifications and executed to perfection. His beautiful coachwork survives today not only as a testament to fine craftsmanship but also as an inspiration for other designers. The car offered here was delivered to Carrosserie Graber on 2nd November 1950 as a Record rolling chassis fitted with the aluminium 'head, triple-carburettor Grand Sport engine. The car resided in Switzerland for the first part of its life before coming to the USA circa 1965, finding its first US owner in Pennsylvania. In 1985 the Record was acquired by the world famous Bahre Museum Collection in Maine. Still in original condition, the car was rarely used by the Bahre family. In 1998 it was sold to restorer Jerome Sauls who carried out an extensive concours standard restoration. The car was shown at Pebble Beach in 2000 and then returned to a European collection. It is offered with US Certificate of Title. EU taxes have been paid.

Lot Details
Auction Grand Palais Sale
Bonhams, Paris, France
Lot Number544
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price€250000
Hammer Price (inc premium)€287500
Condition rating1
Registration number
Chassis number102028
Engine number26531
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors