#0004 - Talbot-Lago T-150 C LS Cabriolet Torpedo by Figoni et Falaschi, #90019, 1938
Photographed: Saint Michaels Concours d'Elegance, 2008. Owner: J. W. Marriott, Jr.
About the Designation: 'LS' was indeed a term used by Talbot-Lago to distinguish their models, though we are trying to verify the correct moniker for this particular car.
Toys, Dynamism, and Elegance: Of those three themes, elegance is the one that gets batted about every summer as these remarkable cars cross platform and manicured lawn in the hunt for prestigious silverware. But I often feel dynamism is more appropriate. After all, it takes a certain depth of aesthetic knowledge in the history of automobiles to amicably digest a design like this Talbot-Lago. But if you feel, as I often do, that designs intended to appear outrageous ought not to qualify as elegant, then we need a better address for them. 'Dynamic' fits the bill, and I wish these grand events would use it for some of the more outlandish grand classics. The same could be used for many veteran cars, whose copius amounts of brass and copper pipe, painted and natural wood, and sharp angularity create such clattering contraptions that, beyond pretty, dynamic is really the best way to go about describing them, at least in superlative terms.
At some point, once we have a decent amount of work done on this collection, I may pick a group of superlative cars from the lot. I've already decided that the brass era category will be headed by the 'Most Dynamic Veteran' award. Of course, all of this will be purely for fun, and certainly conjectural.
As for the toy theme... Back in my childhood days we kept a drawer in a big desk with an assortment of my father's toy cars. Of these, the plastic Renwal cars were notable because they had a dashing sort of aesthetic to them—something that looked futuristic by 1950s standards. The aesthetic often featured enclosed wheels both for the front and back, and it usually didn't matter whether the vehicle in question was a convertible coupe, a race car, or a delivery van. Much later in life I realized the inspiration for these designs wasn't post-War futurism—at least not any pure fashion of American foresight—but was rooted in continental designs of the 1930s. Many of the racers aped an obscure Auto Union record car, whereas the convertible coupe wasn't too far from the Talbot-Lago pictured above. It could have been most any Figoni et Falaschi design, or a more earnest homage to artist Geo Ham, (né George Hamel), as the key lies in those 'enveloppantes' as they were called.
This plastic toy reference raises a question about the aesthetic quality of the genuine article. The style is something that looks so well at home on a child's toy, and in some sense that's a deeply satisfying admission, that luxury could dwell so close to childhood fantasy. But on the other hand the reference points out that we shouldn't take these designs too seriously, and those who laugh at rolling figures such as this Talbot-Lago may well have the right idea. Enter this idea: the Figoni et Falaschi car as play-thing. It's an expensive toy, but perhaps a toy in the purest sense—that is, 1:1 scale.
Counting: As of writing, this Talbot-Lago is on its third owner. The car's original purchasers, a Count and Countess hailing from the prominent city of Oporto in Portgual, kept it for almost forty years. Originally the car wore a blue on blue livery; this was changed during restoration a few years ago, and not to the detriment of the overall composition. Comparing this T-150 C to the significant French Pavilion Delahaye 135 M Cabriolet Torpedo, the tonal contrast is much enhanced, changing the subdued cream and French blue shades for banana yellow and a more robust royal blue on the skirts.
The French Harlequin: The ornament on each enveloppante diverges from stylistic line and moves toward whimsy, with waves of chrome framing the lower edge along the wheels. These accents are probably the least normal among the short chassis Figoni et Falaschi designs, and seem far removed from being a motive quote than the sharp darts of the competition roadster, or the simple plates of the SS Coupe. Above the accents, each pod-like wheel skirt appears tall and full without the curious roundels as drawn into them on the Delahaye. Similarly ostentatious, the facade is cluttered with chrome, (and this is where the harlequin theme arrives), with slick plates topping each lamp, shooting into thin accent lines along the ridges of the skirts. The effect makes the headlamps seem like the eyes of a harlequin, while the kidney shaped grille forms the nose into a blunt cone, complementing the expression. The set of driving lights inside the soffits of skirt and bonnet further extend the theme, drawing themselves into sharp daggers, the points of which lie on the panel line separating yellow and blue paint.
Of more practical concerns, yes, the enclosed front wheels do require a turning radius in excess of what a car this size should need. And also of note, having had the opportunity to survey this car and the Delahaye 135 M Cabriolet Torpedo side by side at Radnor Hunt back in 2006, (before this project began in earnest), I found that the panel fit on the Talbot-Lago is superior to that of the Delahaye. This may have something to do with the precision of reconstruction later in life, or it may actually travel back to the workshop of the coachbuilder. Figoni et Falaschi were known for cladding and re-cladding a car until the shape was just right. Perhaps the earlier attempt at the Cabriolet Torpedo design took more fettling to reach the finished product, whereas a year later the Talbot-Lago accepted its panels with less fight. Again, this is pure conjecture, and I'd wager the difference has more to do either with some recent development, or with the fact that it's just the way the cars were built.
Enfin: In spite of its overt garrishness, this T-150 C is not the most outrageous of the Figoni et Falaschi line. There are certainly more outrageous Delahaye examples, and even a few whistle-flipping Talbot-Lago cars I know are out there, but have yet to encounter. Nevertheless, the color, shape, and chrome are (shall we not say elegant) truly dynamic, unavoidable glimpses of childish whimsy brought to life on an exclusive foundation of steel. That's about as romantic as I wish to be over this car. I'll let the photographs explain the rest.
Updating the previous entry: Mr. Franck Frydman informed me that two such T-150 C Torpedo cars were produced, the other in a more outrageous cotton candy livery that involved a rather bold shade of orange—something like electric peach.
Coachbuilt.com: Figoni et Falaschi figure prominently in this history of custom coachwork.
The T-150 C Cabriolet Torpedo is featured here on the Ultimatecarpage monster site, which I maintain is, overall, the best resource on the internet.
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