by the 1950s, the racing credentials of Talbot-Lago had been firmly established after years of active Grand Prix competition. The sensational new 2.5-liter car announced at the Paris Salon in 1955 was an altogether superior sports car, powered by a four-cylinder, twin high-camshaft, overhead-valve engine which in standard tune developed 120 hp. Power was transmitted through an all-synchromesh ZF gearbox. The car was mounted upon a large-diameter tubular chassis with transverse, leaf spring independent front suspension. A most exclusive and expensive sports car, few Talbot-Lago T14 LS models were built, of which only a very small number were to Special specification. The Special featured aluminum doors, hood and trunk lid, Borrani wheels, and high-lift camshafts for enhanced performance. This unique example was the factory demonstrator provided for use of ace Grand Prix driver Louis Rosier. Records suggest that a close friend of Rosier owned the car from 1959-1980. The car was restored in 1994 and comes with a detailed restoration file with relevant photographs and invoices. Later twin Weber carburetors have been fitted to enhance performance and the present owner, a well-known Talbot aficionado, has driven the car enthusiastically at events at home and overseas.The cars were quicker than the standard T14 LS, accelerating from0-100 km/hour in all of 14.5 seconds. Of course this was still slower than the much cheaper MG-TF
|Vehicle:||1956 Talbot-Lago T14 LS Special|
This 1956 Talbot-Lago T14 LS Special sold for $68,414, including buyer’s premium, at Bonhams’ Goodwood auction on September 5, 2003.
Around 1935, Italian Antonio Lago acquired the venerable French Talbot Company, rechristening it “Talbot-Lago.” A talented engineer, Tony Lago was also a prodigious salesman and a bit of a flim-flam man. But he did have two great virtues: He believed that racing victories sold a lot of cars, and he put his money where his mouth was. Almost to the very end in 1959, Lago’s cars raced and won, including a 1-2 at Le Mans in 1950.
The Grand Prix formula in the mid-1950s specified naturally aspirated engines of 2.5 liters, derived from cars of which at least 100 examples were made. Talbot-Lago went to work on a new “Baby” Talbot, powered by a four-cylinder engine derived from the six-cylinder Record. It displaced 2.7 liters and produced a miserable 120 hp at 4,300 rpm. Unfortunately, when fitted to a rolling chassis, the scales topped 2,100 pounds, and with any type of body the cars were well over 3,000 pounds.
Less then 20 were made. Seemingly undisturbed by his non-existent sales, Lago persevered with a mysterious infusion of new funds. For 1955 the old chassis was replaced by a lighter tube-frame design. (Though at 1,700 pounds, it was still too heavy.) The motor was revamped with a new five-main-bearing block, retaining the twin camshafts high in the block, and topped with a hemispherical alloy head. With twin 32-mm Zenith carbs, the 2.5-liter four-cylinder developed 120 hp at 5,000 rpm. The car featured an all-synchro Pont a Mousson four-speed gearbox and was offered in both left- and right-hand drive.
The sleek steel body had alloy doors, hood and trunk lid to make it lighter, but it still weighed close to 3,000 pounds. Though much improved over the earlier Baby, the new car was still a dud in the marketplace. Lago tried to improve sales by making hopped-up models driven by factory drivers available to press and prospective clients. For these cars, the anemic Zeniths were replaced by huge 45DCO3 Webers, and when Pont a Mousson stopped delivering the gearboxes on credit, ZF was conned out of a few units of their S4-15 gearbox. This “new” model was called the “Lago Sport Special,” and only a few were made.
The cars were quicker than the standard T14LS, accelerating from 0-100 km/hour in all of 14.5 seconds. Of course this was still slower than the much cheaper MG-TF, and the huge Webers made anything but flat-out acceleration impossible, rendering Specials undrivable in real-life situations. The few unlucky souls that bought them usually returned to the factory to have the Zeniths refitted.
By 1959, following the debut of the further disastrous Lago America, Tony Lago sold out to Simca, whose only interest was in the factory near Paris. Some dealers with unsold Talbots took until the mid-1960s to find the buyers.
As you can now understand, the 1956 T14 LS Special pictured here is an obscure model that was produced in small quantities. It is seldom offered for sale, so assessing the market for these cars is an exercise in guessing, at best. That said, there are a few further points that must be noted about this car. First, this particular Talbot-Lago was never raced by the factory or anyone else. If it was, in fact, the factory press and client demonstrator, it is entirely possible that the legendary Le Mans winner Louis Rosier drove this car once or twice. After all, he probably drove most of the post-war Talbots in entreating potential clients. At the time, that is what factory drivers did.
So what about the selling price of almost $69,000? Assuming a complete, professional restoration, the selling price is much less than this would cost. But is the car worth that much? For a rare and unique coachbuilt car, this is indeed a relatively modest price. If the more modern Webers have solved the carburetion problem, the new owner can look forward to many happy miles, and will never have to worry about speeding tickets.-Raymond Milo
(Photo, historical and descriptive information courtesy of the auction company.)