Almost 70 years after they were created, one of Figoni & Falaschi's voluptuous teardrop coupes will stop any viewer in their tracks. The dramatic teardrop shape is echoed in both the windows and the fenders and is considered Joseph Figoni's masterwork. It is an iconic design of the streamlined automobile movement. Approximately 16 of these beautiful automobiles were ever built.
This vehicle is a 1938 Talbot-Lago 'Special' 150 SS Goutte d'Eau Coupe with coachwork by Figoni & Falaschi. The Talbot-Lago's were elegant and sporty. They could be driven to a concours d'elegance, leave with top honors. Competition did not end there for this machines, they had a successful racing career that included a podium finish at the LeMans 24 Hour Race.
It is believed that only eleven cars were constructed in this body style, plus five notchback 'Jeancart' Gouttes d'Eau. The word Gouttes d'Eau translates to 'Teardop'. The design was championed by the Paris Coachbuilding Firm, Figoni & Falaschi. The design gave the illusion of motion even at a stand-still. Since these were hand built cars, each vehicle has different and unique characteristics.
This car was purchased by Mrs. Robin Byng who saw it on display at the 1938 Paris Salon. Her husband was the son of the Earl of Strafford. Together, they enjoyed this car in France prior to World War II. The car was commandeered by the Nazis during the war and its tires were stolen. The interior did not fair so well either, as it was ripped and torn. The Byngs were later able to recover the war once peace time arrived.
The car was later imported into England where it was given a proper restoration. Upon completion, it was offered for sale at a very expensive price. The price was later lowered slightly, and it was purchased by Rob Walter. Walter, a racing car driver, had been seeking acquisition of the car for a while, before it came into his possession. Upon receiving the car, he fitted it with several modifications such as a Lockheed conversion for the brakes. The Wilson gearbox was switched with a Cotal which required no use of the clutch except for the initial starting off. The 6.00x17 tires were replaced with 5.25x17-inch.
This car was used at the 1949 LeMans 24-Hour race by Walker as his test car.
The car was in the ownership of Mrs. Gladys Gehrt, a United States, resident from the 1960s to 1974. It was sold to John Calley of Beverley Hills who kept the car until 1985, when it was sold to Tom Barrett. It was later traded to John Wallerich. In 1992, it was apart of the Blackhawk Auto Collection. It was added to the Rosso Bianco Collection later in that year.
This car was offered for sale at the 2006 Bonhams & Butterfields auction held at the Quail Lodge in Carmel, California, though it failed to find a buyer.By Daniel Vaughan | Oct 2009
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-Lago
Born 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
Giuseppe Figoni was an artist in metal, a three-dimensional talent whose unique flowing coachwork made the automobile a pearl shaped by invisible forces.
The wind was Giuseppe Figoni's enemy. It fought him wîth drag and swirls that sapped his cars' power. The automobile's Archilles heel was its wheels and tires, interrupting air flow and creating the drag that challenged Figoni. His accomplishment in making enclosure of wheels and tires an important design element foreshadowed the work of his contemporaries and successors by years. Figoni complemented his voluptuous shapes wîth a creative and original palette.
This automotive sculptor was born in 1894 in Piacenza, in Italy's Emilia region, and emigrated wîth his family as a boy to Paris where had apprenticed in a classic coach works. It eventually became Carrosserie Automobilie in Boulogne-sur-Seine near Paris's famous Longchamp race course, a mecca for the Parisian carriage trade. Figoni's creativity wasn't limited to sculpting beautiful and efficient coachworks, however. He also created and patented designs for disappearing soft tops and even a disappearing sunroof. Figoni developed a following early on, and what could be more understandable than that Tony Lago, attempting to revivify Talbot, should likewise establish a relationship wîth him.
In 1935 Figoni acquired a partner, businessman Ovidio Flaschi, who also hailed from Italy, creating Figoni & Falaschi. On a personal basis the creative Figoni meshed well wîth Falaschi, whose capital and management skills allowed Figoni to concentrate on his designs which became even more creative and stylish after Falschi's arrival. Figoni was an early adopter of the brilliant paint colors and metallic finished being developed n the mid-'30s and understood the value of stunning presentations. He was famous for his cooperation wîth the couturiers of Paris to create gowns in styles and colors that matched Figoni & Falaschi's cars in shows and concours d'elegance.
Figoni's automobile designs were flamboyant, graceful and gorgeous, carefully sculpted wîth the eye of an artist wîth an inherent appreciation for air flow. Like dunes wind-shaped around the obstacles of rocks and structures, the goutte d'eau coupes of Joseph Figoni accepted the influence of wheels, wind shields, engines and passengers, expressing an intrinsic purity and simplicity that was revolutionary and stunningly beautiful to behold.
Along wîth similar designs from Figoni's Parisian colleague and competitor Marcel Pourtout, the goutte d'eau sprang upon the automotive world in 1935. Its applications were both extravagant show cars and practical applications that improved the efficiency and performance of competition cars like Tony Lago's T150 C.
Only 16 Talbot-Lago T150 C chassis were bodied by Figoni & Falschi in the goutte d'eau coupe style. All shared Figoni's signature teardrop fenders, steeply raked windshield, flush door handles, chrome accents and sloping fastback. Five were subtly notchbacked, known today as the 'Jeancart' style after the buyer of the first example. The remaining 11 were, wîth one exception, built on the sporting short-chassis T150 C SS and are today known as the Model New York style (Figoni & Falschi's style number 9220.) The first was built for socialite Freddy McEvoy (who acted as the agent for Figoni & Falaschi and Talbot-Lago in several Teardrop sales) and debuted at the New York Auto Show in 1937.
Characterized by a radiator shrouded in a rounded, streamlined shell, and a vertical oval grille, Figoni & Falschi's 'Model New York' coupes are the ultimate expression of the goutte d'eau style. Each is subtly different in concept and details, reflecting the desires of their individual clients and the application for which they were intended.
Delahaye, Delage, Peugeot, Bugatti and even Bentley employed the goutte d'eau style, but it is the few, spectacular and individualistic Talbot-Lago T150 C SS Teardrop coupes of Figoni & Falaschi that have captured the imaginations of collectors, leaving an enduring and unmatched impression of excellent.
Talbot-Lago T150 C SS number 90117 was ordered in 1938 by the Duke Philippe de Massa specifically to race in the 1939 Le Mans 24 Hours. It was bodied in aluminum wîth steel fenders for lightness and features both Joseph Figoni's signature flush-fitting sunroof and a one-piece rear window which is hinged at the top and opens for cockpit ventilation in competition, the only Teardrop coupe wîth this feature. According to Claude Figoni, the coachwork is 2 inches lower and 4 inches longer than the other T150 C SS goutte d'eau coupes for reduced frontal area and lower drag. Additional competition features include the quick-release external fuel filler cap and large-capacity fuel tank fitted below the trunk, which is full-sized to contain the spare tire required by sports-car racing regulations, a body-colored mesh grille for additional cooling below the chrome radiator grille and added bracing for the front end. The headlights are completely faired into the low catwalks between the body and the teardrop front fenders and covered by vertical grilles that complement the radiator grille.
Prospects of competition did not, however, preclude the Duke from including the Teardrop's comfortable appointments and the chic chrome trim and details that accented its flowing lines. In fact, the Duke's Teardrop is a symphony of delightful details, wîth fully skirted rear wheels, organic oval side window opening wîth subtly devilled glass edges, a row of curved hood-side louvers accented by thin chrome moldings, chrome rear deck center spline, thin blade bumpers and subtle chrome trim under the doors in a thin, reverse fishtail shape that flows into the chrome accents along wîth the lower edges of the rear fenders. The interior was upholstered in leather, accented by finely carved wood trim around the windows and dashboard and cloth-covered interior panels, although the driver's seat is a semi-bucket configuration also specified for participation at Le Mans, as is the 250 kph speedometer.
The Duke de Massa and his co-driver Norbert Mahe cut a fine figure at the Le Mans 2 Hours race in 1939, even as the clouds that would rain the destruction of World War II upon Europe were gathering. Their Talbot-Lago was entered by TASO Mathieson, historian, racer and frequent entrant of important race cars. Race preparation included fitting a special hood wîth open sides for better cooling and a filler cap access wîth engine-oil filler extension, and removal of the bumpers. De Massa and Mahe had their Talbot-Lago T150 C SS in a strong ninth position when they were forced to retire on the 88th lap, just beyond one-third distance, when the car was spun on oil on the track and traveled some distance in the wrong direction, resulting in a disqualification.
Other than an appearance in a French concours following Le Mans, the subsequent history of this Talbot-Lago T150 CC SS is unknown until it turned up in the ownership of Mr. A. Becker in Rangsdorf, East Germany, in largely complete, original, yet neglected condition. It was next acquired by Peter Schmitz in West Germany in November 1989, shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, who began a restoration which remained unfinished at the time it was sold to the Deventer Motor Museum in the Netherlands in 1995.
When found in East Germany, the Talbot-Lago's engine was missing, however it was known that both this car and the ex-Chiron Talbot-Lago had been stored together in the Reims area before WWII. The Chiron Talbot had been acquired by Ron Smith in England wîth a spare engine that proved to be the original T150 C SS engine from the Duke de Massa's 1939 Le Mans Teardrop, and the engine was acquired and reunited wîth its original chassis and body. The valve cover still displays a large welded-in plug, exactly where the extended filler would have projected through Figoni & Falaschi's racing hood.
It was acquired by the present owner in 1996, and a comprehensive restoration was completed for him in 2002. Now lustrously restored and presented in deep Aubergine wîth rich Pigskin leather upholstery and tan cloth interior trim, it has been painstakingly restored, even to the extent of constructing fitted luggage. The owner relates that color selection was carefully considered and involved the acquisition of several ripe eggplants from a farmer's market, which were then carefully polished wîth Meguiar's products until the desired deep, rich color was achieved and matched by the paint supplier.
This is the only Talbot-Lago T150 C SS Figoni & Falaschi goutte d'eau coupe ever built specifically for competition. Its coachwork is described by Claude Figoni as unique even among the individually configured Teardrop series. Lavishly trimmed and detailed, it is a rare example of concours elegance and competition which survived in remarkably complete and undamaged condition, through 50 years until it was acquired and restored by the present owner. It has never been shown, and has only about 100 miles of shakedown and test driving since its restoration was completed.
Talbot-Lago was a company formed by the collapse of Sunbeam-Talbot-Darracq in 1935. Anthony Lago, founder of the company, set-out to produce a line of exclusive and expensive sports cars. The cars initially used six-cylinder engines, but later models featured eight-cylinder engines, and the occasional cheaper engines to help increase sales.
In 1936 the T150-C entered the scene. Lago was able to persued the famous driver Rene Dreyfus to leave the Ferrari organization, and race for the Talbot-Lago driving team at the French Grand Prix at Montlhery.
The Talbots featured metallic paints and dual-tone finishes. This was the influence of Figoni. Chrome was decorated along the edgework of many of his vehicles.
There were fourteen Talbot-Lago T150C SS Series created by Figoni between 1937 and 1939. Many still exist today. A true testament to the beauty and craftsmanship of these vehicles.
In 1959 the company was taken over by Simca.
By Daniel Vaughan | Jul 2010
Anthony Lago had taken over control of the Talbot factory in Suresnes after the merger with Sunbeam and Darracq had collapsed in 1936. By 1937 he had introduced a new line of vehicles, two of which were entered in the grueling 24 Hours of Le Mans. He continued his racing endeavors by moving to single-seat racers and by 1939 a purpose-built Grand Prix car had been completed. The onset of World War II slowed the racing endeavors but after the war and with the assistance of Carlo Marchetti an overall win at Le Mans was achieved.
The T26 was powered by a six-cylinder, DOHC cam engine that produced nearly 200 horsepower. The drum brakes on all four corners provided ample stopping power while the live-axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs rear suspension provided the necessary support needed in the corners at speed.
The Talbot-Lago T26 models were exquisite creations outfitted with coach work provided by some of the world's greatest coachbuilders. Never produced in large numbers, these T26 models are extremely rare and exclusive by today's standards.
Giuseppe Figoni was a brilliant artist who worked with metal to produce some of the most unique and flowing coach-bodies of all time. His designs amplified his hatred of the wind; the force that caused drag and crippled the cars power. His creations often centered around this hatred, evident by the streamlined designs, flush door handles, steeply raked windshield, sloping fastback, and enclosures for wheels and tires. The elegance of the Figoni et Falaschi designed vehicles are sensual and their curvy creations are regarded as art. Ovidio Falaschi provided the working capital and business expertise while Joseph Figoni created the sophisticated three dimensional design concepts.
In 1936 the T150-C entered the scene. Lago was able to persuade the famous driver Rene Dreyfus to leave the Ferrari organization, and race for the Talbot-Lago driving team at the French Grand Prix at Montlhery.
The Talbots featured metallic paints and dual-tone finishes. This was the influence of Figoni. Chrome was decorated along the edgework of many of his vehicles. Nearly all of the T150Cs were bodied by Figoni & Falaschi in a two-seater roadster design with the intent of using them for competition. A coupe version was created and offered to their wealthiest of clients.
The T150Cs had very curveacous body that were inspired by aerodynamic principles and aided the six-cylinder powerplant in doing its job of carrying the cars past their competition. The very elegant yet dramatic and bold design of the T150C was able remain stable at high speeds, a luxury it enjoyed on the long straight stretched of the LeMans raceway.
The first car was on display at the 1937 Paris Motorshow where it was given the nickname 'Goutte d'Eau' meaning water drop. The English translated the word to 'teardrop', in either case, the terms were appropriate, as its cycle fenders and body designed mimicked the form and gave the vehicles the illusion of motion even at stand-still.
There were two design of the Teardrop, the first being the notchback coupe dubbed the 'Jeancart'. This name was given to the car after the individual who commissioned the design. The second version was the 'New York' style which made its unveiling in the city of New York. There were eleven New York styles created and only five of the Jeancart. Again, since these were custom built, hand formed automobiles, each possesses their own unique qualities.
At the 1938 24 Hours of LeMans, a Talbot T-150C finished in third place behind two very fast Delahayes. In other types of competition, such as concours events and other 'beauty' contests, the Talbot-Lago's are regular winners. Though the duo of Figoni & Falashi only produced vehicles for a short part of history, they are among the most celebrated and memorable ever created.
By Daniel Vaughan | Oct 2007