Villa Erba

23 May 2015

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Lot 113

1939 Talbot-Lago T23 Major 4-Litre Cabriolet

  • Chassis no. 93615
  • Engine no. 23440

Sold for €252.000


115 bhp, 4,082 cc inline six-cylinder engine with hemispherical combustion chambers and twin Solex carburettors, four-speed Wilson pre-selector transmission, independent front suspension, semi-elliptical leaf-spring rear suspension with a live rear axle, and four-wheel drum brakes. Wheelbase: 3,200 mm

  • An elegant open-top “Baby Talbot”
  • Offered from over 40 years of enthusiast ownership
  • Beautiful condition throughout
  • Accompanied by restoration and service documentation


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 to be based on a Talbot-Darracq three-litre Type K78. Although these first cars were nicely designed, they were hardly exciting driving machines, as they were ill-suited for racing and had poor platforms for elegant custom coachwork.

Brecchia’s next engine proved to be a brilliant design, however. It was based on the seven main-bearing six-cylinder K78 block, its displacement was increased to four litres, and a new cylinder head was fitted, which dramatically improved both breathing and volumetric efficiency. The engine featured a hemispherical head design, where a valve gear was actuated by a low-set camshaft and crossed pushrods acted through both long and short rocker arms. With twin Solex carburettors, the new six could produce 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, putting up a good battle against the Bugattis before mechanical problems slowed them down. The following year, Talbot Lagos came in 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 “Baby Talbot” offered here, chassis number 93615, is a desirable long-chassis Major model that has beautiful Talbot-built cabriolet coachwork. It has been in the family of its present owner, a well-known collector of classic cars, since 1971, when it was acquired from another long-term owner, a prominent architect in Zurich, Switzerland. Over the past few years, a complete restoration was performed by Swiss marque experts, which, along with the car’s history, is well-covered by a collection of accompanying receipts and correspondence. Amongst the work performed was a complete inspection of the wooden body framework, where new pieces were installed through the use of proper kiln-dried ash wood; a rebuild of the transmission; and a new top, headliner, leather upholstery, and carpeting for both the interior and luggage compartment. Trim found throughout the car is beautiful chrome-plated brass. The car has recently been driven by an RM Sotheby’s specialist, who noted that it fired up immediately and drove as expected, without issue.

This elegant and attractive long-wheelbase T23 Cabriolet would be an ideal addition to any collection of fine French sporting automobiles, where it can be enjoyed just much as it has been by its current owner’s family for over four decades.



115 cv, 4.082 cc, motore 6 cilindri in linea con camere di scoppio emisferiche, due carburatori Solex, cambio Wilson con preselettore a 4 marce, sospensioni anteriori a ruote indipendenti, posteriori con assale oscillante e balestre semi ellittiche, freni a tamburo sulle 4 ruote. Passo: 3.200 mm

• Un’elegante “Baby Talbot”, con carrozzeria aperta
• Offerta, dopo 40 anni passati assieme, dall’appassionato attuale proprietario
• Buonissime condizioni generali
• Accompagnata da documentazione completa sia del restauro sia della manutenzione

Nel 1933, malgrado i successi della Talbot-Lago a Le Mans, Indianapolis ed al Grand Prix di Francia, il settore commerciale di Suresnes correva il rischio di andare in bancarotta. Sembrava che ormai non ci fosse più nulla da fare per salvare il marchio Sunbeam-Talbot-Darracq, quando, nel 1934, un giovane ingegnere italiano, Anthony Lago, è stato nominato direttore generale. Dopo aver lavorato sia per Sunbeam che per Wilson, Lago era arrivato alla Sunbeam-Talbot-Darracq per essere mandato in Francia nell’ultimo disperato tentativo di salvare la Automobiles Talbot.

Lago assume un ingegnere, che si chiama Walter Brecchia, assieme al quale crea la prima Talbot-Lago basata sulla Talbot-Darracq tre litri, Tipo K78. Sebbene queste prime auto fossero ben realizzate, erano tutto tranne che eccitanti da guidare, poco adatte alle competizioni e poco interessanti come base per le carrozzerie eleganti, a causa di un telaio non all’altezza.

Il successivo e nuovo motore realizzato da Brecchia, però, si dimostrò degno di nota. Prende spunto dal motore 6 cilindri tipo K78, con albero motore su sei supporti, con cilindrata portata a 4 litri, una testa ridisegnata, con notevole miglioramento dei flussi e dell’efficienza. Il motore era caratterizzato da una camera di scoppio semisferica, dove il movimento delle valvole era comandato tramite un albero a camme posto in basso, abbinato da aste d comando incrociate, mossi da bilancieri di lunghezza diversa. Con due carburatori Solex, il nuovo motore a 6 cilindri sviluppava 140 cavalli a 4.200 giri/min.

Il motore si dimostrò molto valido anche in gara, tanto che le tre Talbot-Lago iscritte al GP di Francia del 1936, finirono tra le prime 10 classificate, dopo una fiera battaglia contro le Bugatti, prima di venire attardate da noie tecniche. L’anno seguente, nella stessa corsa, le Talbot Lago saranno prime, seconde, terze e quinte. Il sogno di Lago di riuscire a produrre una delle vetture sportive più importanti al mondo, era diventato realtà.

La “Baby Talbot” offerta qui, telaio numero 93615, è una delle più desiderabili, avendo il ricercato telaio lungo del modello Major, ed adotta una ben realizzata carrozzeria cabriolet prodotta dalla stessa Talbot. La macchina è stata nella collezione dell’attuale proprietario sin dal 1971, quando era stata acquistata da un altro conosciuto appassionato, architetto di Zurigo, Svizzera, che l’aveva nella sua collezione da molti anni. Nel corso degli ultimi anni un restauro completo è stato effettuato presso un esperto svizzero del Marchio e, assieme alla storia dell’auto, sono disponibili tutte le ricevute e la corrispondenza a riguardo. Tra i lavori a cui la macchina è stata sottoposta, una completa ispezione delle parti in legno della carrozzeria, dove alcune parti nuove sono state montate utilizzando la corretta metodologia del legno di frassino messo ad essiccare, una revisione completa della trasmissione oltre ad un nuovo cielo, rivestimento in pelle dei sedili e moquette sia per poggiapiedi dei sedili sia per il vano bagagliaio. I profili montati sulla macchina sono splendidi lavori, realizzati per la maggior parte in ottone e poi cromati. La macchina è stata recentemente guidata da uno degli specialisti di RM Sotheby’s, che ha notato come il motore parta al primo colpo e come la macchina si comporti come aspettato, si accenda subito, e non abbia alcun problema.

Quest’elegante ed attraente T23 Cabriolet passo lungo sarebbe una aggiunta ideale ad ogni collezione dedicata alla più belle auto sportive Francesi, dove potrebbe essere apprezzata almeno tanto quanto ha fatto, negli ultimi quattro decenni, la famiglia dell’attuale proprietario.

Alexander Weaver

aweaver@rmsothebys.com

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

asabatie-garat@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

bruprecht@rmsothebys.com

+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig

dswig@rmsothebys.com

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

drose@rmsothebys.com

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

dgould@rmsothebys.com

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

gduff@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

jauerbach@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

kforry@rmsothebys.com

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

mmalamut@rmsothebys.com

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

msquire@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

mfairbairn@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

ocamelin@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

pdarvill@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

pfisher@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

smyers@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

tvandervelden@rmsothebys.com

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more