Talbot-Lago introduced a sensational new 2.5-liter model at the 1955 Paris Salon — the T14 LS — an altogether superior sports car with a 4-cylinder, twin-camshaft, overhead-valve engine. In standard tune, the engine developed 120 bhp, which was transmitted via an all-synchromesh ZF gearbox. The chassis frame was fabricated from large-diameter tubes and featured independent front suspension. The styling borrowed much from the Record Grand Sport, the sleek 2+2 coachwork being a wonderful example of Gallic elegance.
The Talbot-Lago T14 LS was exclusive and expensive; only 54 examples were built, of which a very small number (believed seven or eight) were to Special specification.
The Special featured aluminum doors, bonnet and boot lid, Borrani wheels and high-lift camshafts, giving enhanced performance. This unique example was a factory demonstrator for distributors, one of whom was the ace Grand Prix driver Louis Rosier, who had won the 1950 Le Mans 24-Hour Race at the wheel of a Talbot-Lago T26 Grand Sport co-driven by his son, Jean-Louis.
This car’s frontal styling was especially modified to echo the looks of the T26 Grand Sport that Rosier used on the Carrera Panamericana. Louis Rosier, the Talbot-Lago distributor for Auvergne, is believed to have used this car and might have been instrumental in its subsequent sale. Records suggest that the Talbot-Lago has had only nine owners.
Chassis 140031 was restored in 1994 and comes with a detailed restoration file containing photographs and invoices together with a comprehensive history file relating to the model and this car in particular.
One of the recent previous owners, a well-known Talbot aficionado, drove the car enthusiastically at Talbot events both at home in the U.K. and overseas, taking part in the STD Register’s 80th Anniversary celebration trip to Tours in 2003.
|Vehicle:||1956 Talbot-Lago T14 LS Special Coupe|
|Original List Price:||$8,000|
|Tune Up Cost:||$600|
|Chassis Number Location:||Plate on firewall|
|Engine Number Location:||Plate on left side firewall|
|Club Info:||Club Talbot France|
|Alternatives:||1956 Alfa Romeo 1900 CSS, 1956 Aston Martin DB2/4 Mk II FHC, 1956 Jaguar XK 140 FHC|
This car, Lot 252, sold for $174,946 (£135,900, £1=$1.29), including buyer’s premium, at Bonhams’ Goodwood Festival of Speed auction on June 20, 2017, in Chichester, U.K.
The history of high-performance cars from France is a tortured one, and the post-World War II scene was grim. On one side was a hostile government out to soak the rich — and a populace seething with resentment towards citizens who came out of World War II with liquid assets in hand.
On the other side was a group of cash-strapped manufacturers with an almost total lack of a cohesive export plan. The United States stood ready as a rich and eager market for smart-looking fast cars from Europe in the 1950s, but none of the French could make it work.
A last gasp
Peter M. Larsen, Talbot-Lago guru and French-car maniac, in the book Talbot-Lago Grand Sport, written with Ben Erickson, tells the story of this last-gasp model.
It is astonishing to read that, despite the desperate cash situation of the company and amidst collapsing sales, a completely new chassis was developed for the successor to the T26 GSL. Longtime SCM contributor and French-car expert Ray Milo explained in a column that the new chassis was desperately needed, as the first was far too heavy for the modest power of the 4-cylinder engine.
The effort was unfortunately not repaid in sales, as the antiquated chassis and less-than-sparkling performance did little to enhance the model’s standing in the historic line of Talbot-Lago cars.
These cars also, like the Facel’s DOHC 4-cylinder engines, gained a reputation for unreliability. However, sources, including Larsen, say that was largely unfounded for Talbot-Lago — unlike the reality of crushing warranty repairs for Facel.
That the cars were also still right-hand drive and lacked roll-down windows was no help.
While it was not the Autoroute burner that the T26 was, by all accounts the T14 delivers a satisfying driving experience — far more exciting than that of many other European 2-liter cars of the time.
Unfortunately, the car carried a very high price — in some markets twice that of a Jaguar XK 140. That the Jaguar also had a more powerful, 6-cylinder engine was also not a boon to Talbot-Lago sales.
Now we come to the part of the story of this particular car that really gets me going.
A long, revealing sales history
I will state that I believe anyone should be able to collect for any reason they wish. Having said that, this car tells a cautionary tale to collectors who choose not to use their cars.
The SCM Platinum Auction Database has tracked our subject car since 2003. In that year it was sold at Bonhams’ Goodwood Revival Sale for $68,847, with a condition rating of 1- (SCM# 36355).
That seller, according to the catalog description, reportedly “used the car enthusiastically” and by all accounts had a grand time with it. When presented next for sale at Bonhams’ Paris sale in 2012 (SCM# 192704), the catalog describes it as having been maintained and “occasionally exercised” since 2003. At that sale, it cost our seller $210,813. According to the catalog description for this offering, from that date the owner put the car into storage and it remained unused.
The high sale for the model at auction in the SCM Platinum Database is the $423,500 sale of chassis 140037 at RM Auctions’ Phoenix, AZ, sale in January 2014. This car had been a recent award winner at the Concorso Villa d’Este and was quite lovely in its presentation. I recall the car at both the concours and the auction.
In May 2016, our subject was taken out of hibernation and consigned to Bonhams’ Monaco auction. There, it failed to find a new owner at a high bid of $204,264 (SCM# 6799981). A year later, here at Goodwood, the owner decided it was time to cut it loose, and it went to a new home at roughly 26% less than the consignor paid in 2012.
I say “roughly” because I don’t know what seller’s premium was paid, as these can vary from the standard 10%.
Without use, much is lost
What does this say about the market for this junior Talbot-Lago? I think not much — beyond the lesson we all should heed when dealing with collector cars. I also have no idea why the seller bought the car and locked it away. But it does demonstrate what might happen if value in use is not considered at the time of purchase.
For a car that remains unused, it is more than possible that both a real and a psychic loss may be ahead, as it was no doubt for this seller.
One can fall madly in love with a car, drive it on roads you love, enter it in events you’ve always wanted to do — and win that trophy to fill the empty spot on the shelf.
Then, when the time comes that you decide to sell, if the price paid is less than you have in it, there’s still something besides cash to show for your time together, namely great memories and unforgettable experiences.
If you’ve none of those experiences — and less cash as well — it can be fairly unfortunate.
While the 4.5-liter T26 Grand Sport will always be a star, there’s nothing wrong with its baby sister.
This Talbot-Lago T14 LS is a really neat, attractive and rare car. It has sadly seen less and less use since 2003. I hope the new owner reverses that trend, thoroughly sorts it and then covers half of France with it.
It would be a great time. Well bought. ♦
(Introductory description courtesy of Bonhams.)