Talbot-Lago History

Source: Gooding & Company

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 with hemispherical combustion chambers and overhead valves operated from a single overhead valve operated from a single camshaft with 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.