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Celebrating 75 years of the Talbot victory
in the 1932 International Alpine Trial.

1932 was an auspicious year for the Talbot Car Company. The Fox and Nicholl team of racing 105s, registered GO51 – GO54, were enjoying an eventful season, with excellent results in the Mille Miglia, the Brooklands 1000 and Le Mans. They were promised to the Tourist Trophy in August, and therefore not available for the International Alpine Trial in July. And so the PJ cars emerged from their chrysalis over an intensive three-week period from bare chassis to finished vehicles, ready for the long drive to Munich. Bodied as four-seater Tourers by Vanden Plas, this in itself was a huge achievement ahead of the Trial, the most demanding international motoring event for production cars of its time.

Just over one week later the team arrived in San Remo, victorious over all others, with an unblemished score card, and winning the Coupe des Alpes, the ultimate award for team entries. Never before in the history of the Alpine Trial had a team of three cars finished without losing any penalty points. This was the event we set out to commemorate and celebrate, 75 years on from the original groundbreaking success of July 1932.

Modern day Talbot enthusiasts have demonstrated many times that our cars, special in their time, are no less capable of handling such challenges today, and so we set out on 8th September 2007 to celebrate this momentous event in the history of our famous marque. Ten Talbots from the period, twenty people, were ready and raring to go. Our cars included two of the original team, PJ 7362 and PJ 7363, the round-the-world Alpine car, nine 105s and one 90 made up the total complement, all from the 1930 – 1934 period.

Our itinerary was quite simple, at least on paper! Drive to the Alps over two days, pick up the 1932 route to Cortina, crossing as many passes as possible, then spend three nights and two days finding just how many passes there are within a day’s drive of our hotel, and drive over them as hard as we possibly could. Then, just when we’re getting used to it, head west, over the Stelvio Pass to Livigno, the venue for the 50th anniversary trip in 1982, and do the same again for three more days. And finally, have a great party to celebrate their and our success! Couldn’t be simpler.

Our first contact with the 1932 route was at Davos, in Switzerland. The recent BBC Top Gear presenters agreed that the best driving road in the world lies between Davos and Stelvio – there is not one person on our Talbot trip who would disagree.

The first pass heading southeast from Davos is the Fluella. Powering up the sweeping bends on a crisp September morning gave everyone a huge sense of the excitement that was to fill our week. The Ofenpass, the Giovo, the Sella, Pordoi and Falzarego were all conquered by the ten Talbots, keen to show the world that 75 years had done nothing to diminish the prowess of the mighty 3 litre engines to deal with major mountain passes.

The Dolomite area around Cortina contains some of the most majestic mountains in Europe, and the crews were averaging six or seven passes each day, all under the most heavenly skies. Crisp mornings, sunny days and beautiful autumn afternoons left us all with huge smiles at the end of each day.

And then the highlight of the trip – the ascent of the northeast face of the Stelvio, 48 hairpins in quick succession rising to over 9000 feet with breathtaking views. Lunch at the top, followed by another group photograph, and on through Bormio to Livigno for the next three days of equally rewarding motoring.

In the 1932 Trial, the crews successfully crossed 18 passes, of which 12 lay within the sector of the Alps we had selected for this anniversary celebration. Most cars crossed at least 32 passes in the week – quite unforgettable!

Talbots were born for the Alps. Georges Roesch, the Talbot Chief Engineer between 1926 and 1935, took each current new model with him on his summer holidays to the Alps, testing the prototypes on roads offering challenges to both performance and durability. The hills would reverberate to the sounds of the different models being put through their paces, from the 14/45 to the 105. Our experiences this year reaffirmed our view that Talbots are built for the Alps, and the Alps were surely built for Talbots.

At the final dinner in Livigno, we toasted the prowess of the gallant crews of the 1932 team, led by Arthur Fox himself, and extolled the skills of Georges Roesch, Talbot’s chief engineer and designer of our trusty steeds. This is what these cars were built to do, and proved that they still can. 2500 miles across some of the highest roads in Europe with very little more than routine maintenance confirms the pedigree that was established 75 years ago.

And as a closing footnote, we were disappointed that the third member of the original team, PJ 7361, had not been able to join the trip. Restored in the mid 1960’s, this magnificent motorcar now resides in Switzerland. As PJ 7361 had been the leader of the team in 1932, carrying The Hon Brian Lewis and Arthur Fox, it would have been inappropriate to be totally excluded from this anniversary celebration. And so on our return journey, we took a detour to visit the collection and to present the souvenir trophy to M. Laurent Matthey, the custodian of the collection.

This trip celebrated Talbot’s 1932 demonstration to the world of the performance and reliability of the marque. The PJ team were the first in the history of the Alpine Trial to finish without any penalties – an achievement repeated by the BGH team of Talbot 105s in 1934. Maybe we might just have to have another celebration in two years!