Like all pioneers of the automotive industry, the origins of Talbot-Lago began with one mans opportunistic vision. The Frenchman Adolphe Clements realised from an early point that exporting vehicles to the more affluent Great Britain would be much more profitable than marketing them in France. Based on this premise, he soon became associated with the Earl of Shewsbury and Talbot and quickly began a lucrative partnership called “Clements-Lago.”
The cars proved to be successful and, in 1912, their reputation was bolstered by Percy Lambert who would become the first ever driver to achieve 100 miles-in-an-hour at Brooklands.
In 1919, the Earl of Shewsbury sold his share of the company to the English based company Darracq, who then went on to form one of the first international automotive partnerships by merging with Sunbeam. This heralded in a new era for the company and in 1920 became known as Sunbeam-Talbot-Darracq or STD. Things became even more confusing when cars sold in France were badged with Talbot and the vehicles exported to Great Britain were branded Darracq.
During 1935, the Anglo-French partnership collapsed and as a result the French half was reorganised by the Itailian, Antonio Lago. Lago had been a Major in the Italian Air Force during the First World War and after falling out with Mussolini’s Fascists he moved to London in the early 1920s. After this restructuring, the company became known as Talbot-Lago internationally.
Lago was an excellent engineer who developed the existing six-cylinder engine into a high-performance 4-litre one, the sporting six-cylinder models had a great racing history, he always promoted racing as beneficial to the selling of his cars.
After the Second World War, the company continued to be known both for successful high-performance racing cars and for large luxurious passenger cars, with extensive sharing of chassis and engine components between the two. However, the period was one of economic stagnation and financial stringency. The company had difficulty finding customers, and its finances were stretched.
Sales data by model were kept confidential, possibly in connection with the company’s financial difficulties, but the overall totals for the early 1950s tell a dire story. The plant produced 155 cars in 1947, an output which increased by 23 in 1948. The company staggered on until 1959, but never had the financial strength to facilitate the rejuvenation of the company. Sadly, Tony Lago died in 1960.
Despite the struggles the company faced at the time, this has been greatly beneficial for classic car collectors and enthusiasts. Due to the low volumetric output of the company Talbot-Lago’s on the roads today are exceptionally rare and exclusive, becoming prized attractions at many classic car auctions. AFigoni et Falaschi-bodied Talbot-Lago T150C SS Teardrop Coupe sold for nearly $3.9 million in 2006!
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