Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 5
One of the vintage period's more fascinating characteristics was the flexibility that pervaded the whole motor industry through the 1920's. In lots of cases, thumbing through vintage company histories detailed here on Unique Cars and Parts, you will find a manufacturer suddenly dropping their time-honoured production policy like a hot brick and starting out on something quite new.
It does not happen so often these days - car builders have far too much invested in dies and jigs. But in the years after World War One it occurred regularly. Bentley did it after the Rolls-Royce
did it when they turned from tiny, side valve economy tourers to twin overhead camshaft sports machinery. And Talbot
The respected firm of Clement Talbot Ltd. was having a pretty tough time through the early vintage years. Apart from an endearing 8 h.p. baby car they made nothing that was anything but ordinary. Things had been different. From 1910 to 1914 Talbot's Kensington factory turned out some of England's finest cars. One of their 25 h.p. models in 1913 covered well over 100 miles in 60 minutes on Brooklands
track - the first time ever.
In 1925 Talbot decided on a complete revival. They hired Swiss-born engineer Georges Roesch, who had been working in another part of the Sunbeam-Talbot-Darracq combine. Roesch had long ago demonstrated his brilliance - in 1919 he produced a 600 h.p. aircraft engine that was unique in that it was completely detachable, complete with accessories, for maintenance.
Safely installed in the Talbot works, Roesch set about scrubbing the factory's complete catalogue. Then he designed a single model, the 14/45, which was on the streets by 1926. The 14/45 had a six-cylinder inline engine of only 1665 c.c. Pushrods worked the overhead valves and ignition was by coil. The motor produced a very useful 48 b.h.p. - an output achieved mainly by the use of lightweight moving parts and a high compression ratio for the time. The car soon built up a reputation for comfort, smoothness and reliability that ensured it a healthy market. But Roesch didn't stop there. The basic model, with its big brakes and strong chassis, was a natural for sporting development. Bored out to two litres capacity it became the 75 model. It went hard, reliably.
Next step was to alter the top end, particularly valves and compression. These changes produced no less than 93 b.h.p. at 4,500 r.p.m. - a really good output from any two-litre motor, 1930 notwithstanding. Two 90's finished third and fourth to the Bentleys at Le Mans that year, even though they gave away nearly four litres. In the same season Talbots ran first, second and third in their class in the Irish Grand Prix, the Brooklands 500 Miles and. the Ulster T.T. And still Roesch reckoned he could get more from that same basic 14/45 motor. This time he bored it out to three litres and got a prodigious 140 b.h.p. for his trouble! The resultant production model, called the 105, became one of the true greats of English sports car history. Roesch himself began working on gas turbine research in London at the age of 68, however he remained best known for that amazing achievement, if for no other. To design a basic motor that was capable of remaining reliable and stand a 200 percent output boost for regular production was no mean feat.
On The Outside
To look at, the Talbot 14/45 was very like any other aristocratic vintage touring cars of the era. The noble German silver radiator, nestling between two polished brass Rotax headlamps, was vee-shaped - an unusual feature for the period but one which usually betrays a quality car. Shaping a genuine core radiator was more expensive than applying the same treatment to its more modern chromium-plated descendant. Four-wheel brakes had big, cast iron drums, and both axles carried half-elliptic springs and Andre Hartford adjustable shock absorbers.
Talbot 14/45 Engine.
If the outside appearance is uncluttered, the engine compartment was stark to a degree. Roesch had a passion for neatness, and he didn't hesitate to indulge it when performance wasn't the sole objective. So the Talbot 14/45 had a bare, symmetrically shaped cylinder block surmounted by a cast aluminium rocker cover, neatly domed and made to fit flush.
The distributor poked out on the left side above a louvered splash tray, and apart from that there was only the coil. Even the coil was hidden in the original design - let into the firewall so that its nose alone poked out. Breathing arrangements were equally neat, even if the carburettor wasn't situated quite according to the rules - it fed its mixture from the front of the manifold, with its air cleaner (in 1926) where the fan would be if there was one.
Behind The Wheel
The generator was located out of the way, tacked on the end of the crankshaft. The starter was combined with it, in the manner of a two-stroke engine. This dyna-start arrangement was almost completely silent from the time you pushed the button until the engine fired, although its inherent stinginess did give Talbots a name for being hard-to-start once you let the battery go. Inside the 14/45 is beautifully finished. The four-spoke steering wheel carried particularly neat throttle and ignition controls. There was a large right-hand handbrake lever, with an equally hefty control for the gate-change crash box beside it. The horn button was in the middle of the steering wheel (another unusual vintage feature) and the wiper worked from the bottom of the windscreen instead of the top. A surprisingly advanced screw control opened the screen for extra ventilation.
Instruments - ammeter, oil pressure gauge (Eureka), speedometer (Jaeger) and clock - where housed in a polished brass panel in the middle of the wooden dash, with switches for the Rotax electrics grouped around them. There was a glove box in front of the passenger and twin air scoops open out from the scuttle sides. The water temperature gauge sat atop the radiator cap where it was easy to see, except at night. It is hard to judge the on road performance, as so few road tests were done at the time. From what we can learn, the Talbot 14/45 went well enough, although not hard, and stopped smartly. It had an easy, positive gear change and "delightful" steering - and by delightful, we assume not too heavy when compared to its contemporaries. The Talbot 14/45 deserves a place in motoring history, as the ancestor of some of the greatest high-performance machinery ever to spring from England's shores.
The Talbot 20-70
The 1930 London Motor Show saw the debut of the 20-70 model, bore and stroke both being increased to give an engine capacity increased to 2,276 cc. In this form the car was later called simply the Talbot 70 or 75. Higher compression ratios and power increases followed. An increase in the engine capacity, still without any change to the exterior dimensions of the engine block, yielded a cylinder displacement of 2,969 cc for the iconic Talbot 105 model. In 1931 four 105s were tuned to provide a reported 119 bhp, at 4,800 rpm. In "Brooklands trim" further tuning and in increased compression ratio of 10:1 gave rise to a claimed 125 bhp.