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Goutte D'Eau/Teardrop:When Figoni & Falaschi unveiled the first Talbot-Lago T 150 C SS wîth Joseph Figoni's streamlined coupe coachwork at the 1937 Paris Salon, onlookers were take aback by its beauty. The press, tasked wîth describing this symphony of curves and subtle embellishment in words, called it goute d'eau, a drop of water. It was a perfect choice, at once both illustrative of the design and suggestive other emotion it engendered. The English among them pickup on the expression but translated it 'teardrop.'
Goutte d'eau is one of the few terms in auto design that derive wholly from the automobile's history. Cabriolet, spyder, coupe and sedan all have their origins in the era when the horse really did come before the cart. Goutte d'eau was new, an acknowledgment that the automobile's speed had crossed an invisible line where aerodynamic drag and stability began to influence performance as much as weight and power.
Aerodynamic design was popular in France from shortly after World War I, reaching its highest development in the Paris carrosserie of Marcel Pourtout and Joseph Figoni on the great French chassis of Delahaye, Delage and Talbot-Lago. The goutte d'eau style reach its zenith in the work of Joseph Figoni on the sporting Talbot-Lago T 150 C SS chassis. There is an apocryphal story that, upon seeing the Figoni & Falaschi teardrop, Jaguars William Lyons remarked, 'That car is positively indecent.'
Decency aside, its influence is evident in the lines and detailes of postwar Jaguars, particularly in the oval grille, rounded hood and sweeping fenders of the XK120. A Figoni & Falaschi-bodied Talbot-Lago T23 goutte d'eau coupe was chosen by New York's Museum of Modern Art for its 1951 exhibit of landmark examples of automotive design, 'Eight Great Automobiles.' Yet, for all its effect and influence, very few examples were built. They are justifiably among the most important and valuable automobiles of the '30s.
Talbot-LagoBorn in Venice, Antonio Lago was trained as an engineer at Milan Polytechnic. He became a major in the Italian army during the Great War, then worked for Isotta Fraschini, becoming its representative in England in the '20s. His talents took him to L.A.P. Engineering as technical director, then to Wilson Self-Changing Gear Co., to join another major, W.G. Wilson, in developing the preselecting epicyclic gearbox. Lago's marketing skill convinced a string of manufactures of the benefits of the Wilson gearbox, not least Sunbeam Talbot Darracq. Lago eventually joined STD and, when closing the French Talbot factory at Suresnes was being planned, convinced STD management to let him try to resuscitate it.
Lago arrived in Suresnes in 1933, at the pit of the Depression. He found a large organization and production facility but a dated product line and a dispirited staff. He proceeded to give Talbot new direction and when Rootes acquired STD in 1934, Lago had the necessary financial backing in France to acquire Talbot. He affixed his own name to the respected Talbot marque to cement his commitment to the company and its products.
Lago proposed three measures to turn Talbot around: reduce expenses; build lighter, more sporting cars; and use racing for development and publicity. Lago's measures were at least partially dictated by the necessity for stretching the company's limited resources as far as possible, which may also have dictated Lago's insistence that the cars raced by closed related to Talbot-Lago's production models.
To put 'sporting' back into the cars, Lago turned to Talbot's number-two engineer, Walter Becchia, to redesign Talbot's engines wîth hemispherical combustion chambers and overhead valves operated from a single overhead valve operated from a single camshaft wîth pushrods and rocket arms, an imaginative and cost-effective solution to improving the existing engine's breathing without a complete redesign. 1935 brought the Automobile Club of France's decision to host the French GP for sports cars, and Talbot-Lago responded by creating the 4-liter T150 C, still relying on the effective and proven single-cam, hemispherical combustion-chamber cylinder head.
The T150 C SS
The Talbot-Lago T150 C started its life as a pure racing car, the 'C' in its designation signifying 'Corse.' Tuned by Lucien Girard, its output in racing trim was a strong 155 horsepower while the long 104.5 mm stroke engine and inherent smoothness of the inline six-cylinder layout gave it healthy torque across a broad rev range and good fuel economy, which frequently aided Talbot-Lago's competition results. The Talbot-Lago T150 C achieved some success, winning the Tunis GP, the top two positions in the Tourist Trophy and sweeping all three top places at the French GP in 1937.
The Talbot-Lago T150 C's chassis also contributed to its success. Thoughtfully designed by Chief Engineer Vincenzo Bertarione and Becchia, its transverse leaf spring independent front suspension and semi-elliptical leaf spring live rear axle broke no new ground but was robust, reliable and predictable.
The T150 C recorded further success at Le Mans in 1938 when Jean Prenant and Andre Morel averaged 123.3 km per hour, finishing in third place in one of four Talbot-Lagos entered in the Sarthe classic by Luigi Chinetti.
Chinetti, the Le Mans-winning Alfa Romeo driver, was Talbot-Lago's agent in Paris involved in the sale of Talbot-Lago automobiles both in Europe and for export. Among Chinetti's other contacts in Paris was the Figoni & Falaschi coachworks, where Chinetti's 1932 and 1934 Le Mans-winning Alfa Romeo 8C 2300s were bodied wîth a distinctive long, tapered tail and innovative streamlined wheel fairings.
The Talbot-Lago T150 C SS that Prenant and Morel drove to third place at Le Mans was a goutte d'eau coupe, the combined handiwork of Tony Lago's Talbot, Joseph Figoni's Figoni & Falaschi and Luigi Chinetti.
Figoni & Falaschi
Source - Gooding & Company
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