The Talbot-Lago T150C SS chassis is arguably one of Anthony Lago’s greatest achievements. The “C” stood for competition, a reference to the marque’s racing success, while “SS” signified “Super Sports,” the short, 8.7-foot wheelbase version of the competition chassis. Its race-bred 6-cylinder engine featured an overhead valve train, hemispherical combustion chambers, high compression, triple carburetors and a large-capacity oil pan. Other competition items included a punched handbrake lever and a dual braking system. Intended for sporting two- or three-place coachwork, it was also the lightest chassis and offered exceptional road holding by virtue of its advanced independent front suspension, plus excellent braking.

Racing success certainly enhanced the appeal; it was this demand, combined with Lago’s collaboration with the Figoni et Falaschi coachbuilding firm, which resulted in the creation of what many believe to be the most beautiful automobiles ever conceived.

In the world of French cars, chassis 90112 stands as one of the best Teardrops, having a continuous history from new and no history of fire, accident or deterioration. All of its major components remain intact and together, including its chassis, engine and coachwork. It was ordered new by M. Troussaint, Director of the Casino at Namur, Belgium, and delivered to him in May 1938. Notably, it was shown at the 1939 Brussels Concours d’Elegance, and it was presented at the 1939 Concours d’Elegance in Deauville, France.

With the onset of war and the fall of Belgium in the face of the German Blitzkrieg in May 1940, 90112 disappeared from view. The car eventually resurfaced in storage during the 1950s.

At some point in time, 90112 was partially disassembled, in preparation for restoration, but the work was never undertaken, making 90112 one of the most original unrestored examples of its kind when the present owners acquired it during the mid-2000s.

In testament to the authenticity and quality of its restoration, 90112 earned several awards at the 2009 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, including the J.B. and Dorothy Nethercutt Most Elegant Closed Car Trophy; First in Class J-2: European Classic Closed; and the Art Center College of Design Award. In 2010, 90112 continued its winning ways by earning the Breitling Watch Award for the Car of Timeless Beauty at Amelia Island in March, followed by Best in Class: European and Best of Show at the Meadow Brook Concours d’Elegance in July.

Any surviving Talbot-Lago is a rare and delightful thing, particularly when it has been restored to such a high level. 90112 is exceptionally rare and attractive and is sure to garner invitations to the world’s most exclusive concours events, where its combination of performance and breath-taking “teardrop” coachwork is sure to impress.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1938 Talbot-Lago T150C SS Teardrop Coupe
Years Produced:1937-1938
Number Produced:11
Original List Price:$57,000 which is equivalent to about $900,000 today
SCM Valuation:3.5 m to 5.5 M
Tune Up Cost:$1,000
Chassis Number Location:Plate on firewall and on other hidden locations
Engine Number Location:Front of engine
Club Info:Club Talbot 440 Rue Henri Millez Louvil 59830 France
Alternatives:1938 Talbot-Lago T150C Teardrop, 1937 Bugatti Type 57S Atalante, 1935 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900

This car, Lot 127, sold for $4,475,072, including buyer’s premium, at RM’s Villa d’Este auction on May 21, 2011.

A total of 16 Talbot-Lago Teardrops were made in 1937 and 1938. There were two distinct body styles; the first was a streamlined notchback, now known at the “Jeancart” after the name of its first owner. The second, more flowing design, the “New York,” was named for the car shown at the New York motor show. Eleven Teardrops were made in the New York style, and all of these were built on virtually identical chassis to the successful race cars, albeit with a de-tuned engine producing 140 horsepower.

Our subject car, chassis 90112, is a New York Teardrop coupe.

The New York Teardrop coupe was—and is—an icon. Stunning in its beauty, combined with a race-bred chassis, the car is quite simply the ultimate expression of rolling Art Deco design. The price of the chassis as it left the Talbot factory en route for the Figoni workshop made it available purely to the elite class of aristocrats and industrialists. Strangely, the cost of the Figoni & Falaschi masterpiece that was subsequently grafted on was only about a third of the cost of the chassis.

The cars snapped up almost every Best of Show in any Concours d’Elegance in which they were entered. But they were not simply all show and no go. A Teardrop entered in the Le Mans 24 Hour race in 1938 came home in 3rd place, quite amazing for what was essentially a luxury car.

Lost and found

The car was delivered in 1938 to its first owner, Monsieur Toussaint, who was known as the director of the casino in Namur, Belgium, but was more likely the owner. He showed the car at concours in Brussels and Deauville, and that was the last most people knew about it until 2005, when it came to light again in Brussels.

It belonged to Stephane Falise, who had bought it when he was a young man, sometime in the late 1950s or early 1960s—he couldn’t remember exactly when. The car had led a hard life, and it was tired.

It had been repainted twice, once in silver, and once in French racing blue. Falise decided to restore the car, partly dismantling it. He believed, misguidedly, that it would be a good idea to get back to the original coat of paint. So he embarked on a 40-year crusade to gradually chip away the two top coats of paint, hopefully exposing the original coat for posterity. Nearly half a century after starting, he realized that he would probably never get the job finished.

A deal was struck with an American collector to purchase the car. The sleeping beauty was stored at the back of a maze of semi-abandoned garages in a seedy part of Brussels. It was stabled with a clutch of fairly uninteresting Delahayes, most of them also partly disassembled. Falise insisted that all the parts for the Talbot were present somewhere in the hundreds of boxes stacked on the rows of steel shelving, mixed, of course, with various Delahaye bits.
As the car was going to be restored by RM, Don McLellan came over to find the parts, and bolt it back together before shipment. Much to everyone’s surprise—except Falise—everything was there, apart from one gauge.

Restoration was begun, but the car changed hands halfway through, being sold to a collector in Michigan. In 2009, 70 years after the car’s last showing in a concours, it won best in class at Pebble Beach, and went on to take Best of Show at Meadow Brook in 2010.

Stagnant prices—for now

Teardrops have been in the doldrums for a while. Prices seem to have stagnated. Chassis 90105, a great original, non-restored car with race history, sold at Christie’s 2005 Monterey auction for $3,535,000. Add around $600,000 for a class-winning restoration, plus time hassle and interest, and you’re on a loser when it comes to investment.

If you were to ask a cross section of semi-sophisticated car collectors what the most recognizable pre- and post-war cars are, chances are they would say the Talbot Teardrop and the Ferrari 250 GTO. A Ferrari GTO—39 were built—is common in comparison with the Teardrop. And 250 GTOs are worth upwards of $20m these days.

Why the difference in price between a Teardrop and a GTO? Most people who buy a Teardrop will do the concours circuit, but Pebble Beach is the big prize. And Teardrops have already been there, done that and won. So, despite their rarity, we’re not going to see one taking the ultimate prize for another few years.

Our subject car has already picked up the best trophies available to it in the United States, which takes away from the potential pleasure of a future owner. So perhaps the best sale venue for this car was Europe, where the new owner has new events for the car to debut at. However, the sale price, in line with the current market, was no barn-burner.

Teardrops are cracking value for money at the moment. Their time will come again, and when it does, the new owner of this car will see that he has made a fabulous investment. Therefore I have to call this car well bought indeed, for the long run.

(Vehicle description courtesy of RM Auctions.)

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