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1939 Talbot-Lago T23 Three-Position Cabriolet

1939 Talbot-Lago T23 Three-Position Cabriolet

Editor’s Note: RM Auctions will be selling this superb 1939 Talbot-Lago at the Amelia Island Auction, March 9, 2013. The details and photos on this Art Deco classic are spot on. Thank you, RM Auctions!

Photo Credit: Bernard Canonne ©2012 Courtesy of RM Auctions

Lot 151
1939 Talbot-Lago T23 Three-Position Cabriolet
$140,000 – $180,000

Chassis no. 93463

Photo Credit: Bernard Canonne ©2012 Courtesy of RM Auctions
115 bhp, 4,082 cc inline six-cylinder engine with twin Solex carburetors, four-speed BV Wilson manual transmission, independent front suspension, semi-elliptic leaf springs and live rear axle, and four-wheel drum brakes. Wheelbase: 116 in.

Desirable four-liter example
One of about 12 known

By 1933, despite Talbot-Lago’s racing successes at Le Mans, Indianapolis, and the French Grand Prix, the sales branch in Suresnes was in danger of bankruptcy. In fact, it seemed that Sunbeam-Talbot-Darracq was on its last legs when a young Italian engineer named Anthony Lago was appointed general manager in 1934. After having worked with Sunbeam and Wilson, Lago ultimately found his way to Sunbeam-Talbot-Darracq, which sent him to France in a last-ditch effort to save Automobiles Talbot.

Lago hired an engineer named Walter Brecchia, with whom he created the first Talbot-Lago based on a Talbot-Darracq three-liter Type K78. Although these first cars were nicely designed, they were hardly exciting driving machines, ill-suited for racing and poor platforms for elegant custom coachwork.

Brecchia’s next engine proved to be a brilliant design, however. Based on the seven main bearing six-cylinder K78 block, displacement was increased to four liters and a new cylinder head was fitted, which dramatically improved both breathing and volumetric efficiency. It was a hemispherical head design with a valve gear actuated by a low set camshaft and crossed pushrods acting through both long and short rocker arms. Sporting twin Solex carburetors, the new six produced 140 horsepower at 4,200 rpm.

The engine was also remarkably race-worthy, as all three Talbot Lagos in the 1936 French Grand Prix finished in the top 10, battling with the Bugattis before mechanical problems slowed them down. The following year, Talbot Lagos came 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th at the same race. Lago’s dream of producing one of the world’s greatest sports cars was now a reality.

The owner of chassis 93463, a collector for four decades, desired a car with a level of class, refinement, and performance that could also be driven on a regular basis. Fatefully, he became aware of a rare four-liter Talbot-Lago Cabriolet that might be available from a French collector living in London. After four trips, the seller was able to convince the London collector to part with his gorgeous T23 factory-bodied three-position drophead cabriolet.

Prior to his acquisition of chassis 93463 in the mid-2000s, the Talbot-Lago had been completely restored by the well-respected White Post Restorations in Virginia, where it was finished in this gorgeous two-tone blue with a burgundy leather interior. For the last nine years, the gentleman owner of this example has enjoyed it thoroughly, keeping it on the road, as a proper motorcar deserves to be, and storing it in a heated garage. The only modification made during his ownership was a switch from whitewall tires to more sporting Michelin X blackwall tires. In 2007, a recommissioning was performed on the carburetor, brakes, electrics, and ignition.

Today, the Talbot presents with a lovely patina from its thoughtful use over the years, but it still remains roadworthy. The T23 is highly respected for the rigidity of its chassis and the ruggedness of its four-liter engine, as well as the balance and beauty of the coachwork afforded by its chassis. According to the vendor, the Talbot Owners Club reports fewer than a dozen examples in existence, and 93463 is ready to stun its passengers with its performance and onlookers with its timeless beauty.

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