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Talbot 10/23
Arguably Roesch's greatest achievement was to create the Talbot 10/23 from a little Darracq model...

1934 Talbot 105
A team of 3 Talbot 105’s would enter the Coupe des Alpes Alpine trial event; the team would suffer no penalties and go on to a resounding victory...

1937 Talbot 105 Drophead Tourer
The Talbot 105 Drophead Tourer was created after the S-T-D combine had been broken up...

Sunbeam Talbot
After World War II Rootes would release some sporting Sunbeam-Talbot's, but from 1954 the Talbot name was dropped once again...

Talbot was originally founded by the Earl of Shrewsbury & Talbot (hence the name), to assemble cars in London from French components. Keen to become an entirely British concern, in 1905 they replaced the original Clement-Bayard models with home grown versions – cars that helped Talbot gain a reputation for building durable, if somewhat austere cars.

Amongst these first of these all “true” Talbots was a four-cylinder 25bhp model, introduced in 1908. A specially prepared version of this car was stripped out for testing, and at the Brooklands track Percy Lambert was able to become the first ever driver (and therefore Talbot to be the first ever car) to cover 100 miles in an hour!

During World War 1 Talbot made staff cars and ambulances and, in 1916, they also gained the services of Georges Roesch as their Chief Engineer. Aged 22, Roesch had already worked for Gregoire, Delaunay-Belleville, Daimler and Renault – a stunning CV to have at such a young age.

After the war, Talbot merged with Darracq and Sunbeam, becoming a part of the S-T-D combine, and this led to Roesch becoming somewhat subservient to Sunbeam's noted chief engineer, Louis Coatalen.

Talbot were to become the poor cousin of the group, being forced to produce some dull models; it says a great deal for Roesch that during this time he was able to create the Talbot 10/23 from a little Darracq model – a stunning achievement.

Finally, in the mid-1920s, Roesch was given the freedom to design a brand new Talbot. His remarkable, dynasty-founding, 14/45 six-cylinder model first appeared at the 1926 London motor show. Although its engine displaced only 1666cc, it was a highly efficient unit, with overhead valve gear, whose rocker-gear was located on instantly adjustable knife-edges. There was a very light flywheel (which also incorporated a cooling fan), and this ensured speedy throttle response.

Even though it was a substantial car, the 14/45 was an overnight success, for it could exceed 60mph when fitted with saloon car bodywork. Not only that, but it laid the foundation for a succession of larger engined Talbots. The first of these was the 75 (with 2276cc engine), but the first of the the sporting Talbots was the 90, whose engine developed 93bhp at 5000rpm.

It was this latter incarnation of the car that would bring Talbot racing success, the most notable of which was a third and fourth placing at Le Mans. Before you brush off these placings as inconsequential, it is worth noting that the Talbot’s were beaten by two 6.5 litre 'Speed Six' Bentleys.

Indeed this was to become a recurring problem for Talbot, for although their cars would always perform well, they were usually beaten by cars afforded a much larger engine.

At the end of 1930, Roesch developed an engine which was still based on the same overall dimensions and layout as the 14/45 unit, yet had a capacity of 2960cc. In touring trim the engine was good for 100bhp, but in racing guise, and using a petrol-benzene fuel mixture, the engine had around 140bhp on tap.

This new model, named the 105, would take out third place at Le Mans in 1931, and again in 1932. That same year, a team of 3 Talbot 105’s would enter the Coupe des Alpes Alpine trial event; the team would suffer no penalties and go on to a resounding victory.

In 1934, the ultimate derivative of the Roesch theme arrived, the wonderful 3.37 litre “110”. Based on the same engine layout, this mighty unit developed 123bhp in standard form, or up to 170bhp for racing. A compact, and immaculately prepared, four-seater open version was able to lap the Brooklands circuit at almost 130mph (209kmh), making it the very fastest touring car to that time.

It seemed everything was going well for Talbot – they were profitable, they had gained an enviable reputation both on and off the track, and sales were very good with almost 12,000 of the 14/45 and modernized 65 models had been sold, together with appreciable numbers of the larger-engined cars.

But Talbot were part of the combine, and so when Darracq and Sunbeam collapsed, having been hit hard by both the Depression and Coatalen's over-spending on motor racing, Talbot were dragged down with them.

Realizing Talbot were the jewel in the crown, the company was speedily bought up by the Rootes Group, who also purchased Sunbeam later in the same year of 1935. Initially the new owners carried on building Roesch-designed cars, but as the parts ran out, Humber components and engines were used instead. Understandably Roesch left in disgust and, in 1938, the famous marque fizzled out.

It is at this point that Talbot became a “Brand Name” only for the Rootes group. They would go on to combine the Sunbeam and Talbot names and use them for up-market versions of Hillman and Humber cars. After World War II, some sporting Sunbeam-Talbot 90s appeared, but from 1954 the Talbot name was dropped once again. Successors to those cars, such as the Alpines and Tigers, were known as Sunbeams only.

Confused? Well there is one final twist! Tony Lago would acquire both the business and naming rights for Talbot, and so French carmaker Darracq was able to continue to make its own versions of the sporting 'Talbots'. Darracq would be swallowed up by Peugeot-Citroen in 1978, and would use the name on both some French and UK built cars in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Pass me an aspirin.

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