The firm of Clement Talbot was founded in 1903, bringing together the motor engineering expertise of Frenchman Adolphe Clement and the money and social standing of British aristocrat the Earl of Shrewsbury and Talbot. Cars were manufactured at a purpose-built factory at Barlby Road, Kensington, London and sold as Talbots, incorporating the Earl’s coat of arms in the badge.
Competition was in their blood from the start. Clement competed in the world’s first ever Grand Prix at Le Mans in 1906. The English Talbots earned their nickname “Invincible” in the years before WW1 when they won consistently on the hills, beaches and tracks of Britain. Their finest hour came in February 1913 when Percy Lambert thundered round the Brooklands track on a 25hp Talbot to become the first man in the world to cover 100 miles in one hour.
In the early 1930’s the Talbot 90’s and 105’s, designed by gifted Chief Engineer, Georges Roesch, achieved great success at Le Mans and, when not going flat out on the tracks, the Talbot 105’s triumphed in the Alpine Trial, in 1932 winning outright without the loss of a single mark; an extraordinary performance. There were numerous other competition successes in the 1920’s and 30’s.
Talbot Company History Timeline
The story of the marque is a complex one. In 1889 orphan and former blacksmith Gustav Adolphe Clément, who had made his fortune making bicycles, bought the manufacturing rights to Dunlop’s pneumatic tyre, and made himself a millionaire.
Seven years later in 1896 Mr Clément and Lord Charles Chetwynd-Talbot, the 20th Earl of Shrewsbury who lived on the site of what is now Alton Towers Theme Park, became business partners running a company manufacturing both bicycles and motorcars called the British Automobile Commercial Syndicate.
By 1898 the Clément-Gladiator company was established initially making bicycles, and by 1901 was producing motorcars at the Levallois-Perret factory in Paris.
The first Clément cars emerged in 1901 and were sold in Britain by Mr D M Weigel in cooperation with The Earl of Shrewsbury and Talbot; Marius Barbaroux designed the cars and Clément and the Earl provided the finance as the principal investorsand gave the cars their Talbot name and the Earl’s crest as their badge. (Lord Shrewsbury was a cab proprietor in the 1880s with over 200 cabs and was the first to replace iron-hooped wheels with solid rubber tyres. Being ‘in trade’ and with his rather racy private life he was looked down on by his fellow members of the aristocracy.)
The company was named Clément-Talbot and was effectively an Anglo-French motor vehicle manufacturer based at their grand purpose-built factory in Barlby Road, Ladbroke Grove, North Kensington, London that traded from 1902 for approximately one year, after which the cars became known as Talbots. The car was of French design manufactured jointly by M Clément, who in 1903 added “Bayard” to his name, in Paris (as Clément-Bayard) and by Clément Talbot Ltd in London and branded Talbot. (Pronouncing the ‘t’ as in ‘robot’.)
After the division of Clément-Gladiator in 1903 the Earl of Shrewsbury headed the English arm, "Clément-Talbot Ltd". Adolphe Clément-Bayard was a major shareholder in the company, along with the Earl, A. Lucas, and E. Lamberjack. After the split both marques (Clément-Bayard and Clément-Talbot) built very similar cars, Meanwhile the French Darracq company had been acquired by British owners in 1903 although production continued to take place in Suresnes, Paris.
The first Talbot completely built in Britain was sold.
By 1906 the specifications diverged for their different markets and the first English-designed Talbots were produced. C.R. Garrard became Chief Engineer at Barlby Road and was responsible for the design of a range of four-cylinder ‘T-head’ cars. He also drove the cars in competition alongside H.G. ‘George’ Day the company’s Chief Tester.
Success in Sprints and Hill Climbs in the British Isles led to the company using “The Invincible Talbot” in advertising.
Albert Clément, the racing driver son of Adolphe died in practice for the French Grand Prix driving a Clément-Bayard and his father lost heart in car making ending his connection with Clément-Talbot, moving on to make airships.
The Anglo-French company, Clément-Talbot, became wholly English in 1907 and the cars were simply named ‘Talbot’.
1908 A 25hp Talbot was the first car to be driven across Australia from South-North. The success had a major impact on Talbot sales in Australia and from then up to the outbreak of war up to 50% of total production was exported there. 1,800 12hp models, and 1,600 15hp were sold there between 1907 and 1914.
George W.A. Brown joined Talbot from the Austin Motor Company and took over development of the cars. The side-valve (or L-head) engine was developed to give more power. Working closely with Percy Lambert the 25hp design was refined to become one of the fastest cars in England.
In February 1913 Percy Lambert driving a Talbot 25/50, became the first person in the world to drive 100 miles in an hour (102.83mph).
The total Talbot production in 1914 was 800 cars (twice that of Vauxhall and Napier), but on the outbreak of war, the Talbot works turned to the building for lorries for the War Office and the Royal Navy and later played a part in the development of Armoured Cars.
Georges Roesch, born 1891 in Switzerland, came to England in 1914 and joined Daimler in Coventry. Previously he had worked in Paris; in 1909 for Gregoire, then Delaunay Belleville with Marius Barbaroux, who was chief engineer there and for Renault again under Barbaroux, from 1911. In 1916 at the age of 25 Roesch was appointed Chief Engineer of Talbot to design a new model for production at the end of the war. Before that be began the design of an aero engine to an outline Air Ministry specification, which was not accepted for production.
Roesch designed a new four-seater car the A12. A prototype was built but did not go into production. No cars were produced in 1918 and 1919.
In 1919 the owners and the Earl, broken-hearted at the death of his son in the War, sold Clément-Talbot to the Anglo-French firm Darracq, manufacturing at Suresnes, Paris, who then in 1920 amalgamated with Sunbeam, based in Wolverhampton, to form STD; Sunbeam, Talbot, Darracq Motors in 1920. However, there was never any significant rationalisation and the different entities continued to trade independently.
The French Talbot-Darracqs were renamed and sold as Talbots (With a silent ‘t’ as in ‘dynamo’.) from 1920.
The principal design office for STD moved to Suresnes, Paris, under Louis Coatalen formerly with Sunbeam as Chief Engineer.
In London the factory spent much time re-conditioning former army lorries and cars for peacetime use.
1921 The French designed 8/18 went into production and 1,000 were produced.
1922 Georges Roesch designed a 30cwt lorry for an Army competition. The lorry was successful, but the Army did not proceed with the order.
The Paris designed 8/18 was put into production in London and Paris. The 969cc car was popular and sold reasonably well
Roesch re-designed the 8/18 to produce the 1074cc engined 10/23.
Production began of the Paris designed six-cylinder 12/30, but this model was not successful. The factory was running at full capacity with 1,800 cars produced.
The 10/23 engine was enlarged by Roesch to 1612cc but it was still not a success, although a single-seater was built to test the developed engine and lapped Brooklands at over 90mph driven by Henry Segrave.
Production of cars at Barlby Road was almost zero. The works took on the building of the Sunbeam twin-cam 3-litre engines.
In the Autumn Roesch was asked to produce a new model at Barlby Road and commenced the design of the 1665cc 14/45 six-cylinder model. The aim was to offer the same performance as a Rolls-Royce 20hp at half the weight, half the size and a quarter the price.
Launched at the 1926 Motor Show, the 14/45 was an immediate success. The factory was soon running flat-out to meet demand. 2,000 were produced in 1927 and 28.
Roesch was looking for more performance and designed the 2276cc 18/70 using the same sized engine block which could be made for about the same cost, offering the chance of further profits.
The 18/70 was upgraded to become the ‘75’. Early in the year Arthur Fox a Talbot Agent at Tolworth in Surrey was seeking a competition car for the coming season and was struck by the potential of the new model and with the support of the main dealers, Warwick-Wright, persuaded the company to develop the car to the more sporting ‘90’.
The introduction of the Talbot 90 with a 50% power increase over the 14/45 enabled Talbot to achieve considerable competition successes, raised the profile of the company and provided a springboard for the 105 model. The Fox and Nicholl entered cars had an inauspicious start after two of them crashed in the Double-Twelve Hour race at Brooklands, but came back to run two cars at Le Mans, finishing third and fourth to two 6.5litre Bentleys; and 6th 7th and 8th in the Irish Grand Prix in Dublin and second in the team prize to the works Alfa Romeos in the Tourist Trophy. Their year ended in the Brooklands 500 Mile Race, where with a newly constructed single-seater they finished fourth overall and won the 3-litre class.
After the success of the 90 in 1930, and developed from it, the 3-litre Talbot 105 was launched with a larger engine and new chassis and achieved competition success. The cars were wracked by the crumbling track at Brooklands in the Double-Twelve race, where as the fastest cars they travelled further than everyone else, but were beaten by the handicap. One car, driven by Lewis ran in the Irish Grand Prix and finished third, while the other two cars were entered for Le Mans and one car had to retire with a broken chassis –a hangover from Brooklands. At the end of July the fourth car of the new team GO 54 was rebuilt to ‘production’ specification and was driven in the International Alpine Trial. Driven by journalist Humphrey Symons and Norman Garrard they lost no marks and won a Glacier Cup. The team were back together for the Tourist Trophy on the Ards Circuit and Brian Lewis finished fourth, the first unsupercharged car home at a speed which was only beaten by some larger and more powerful cars three years later. The final Brooklands event of the season Brian Lewis and Owen Saunders-Davies finished second in the 500 Mile race at an average speed of over 112 mph. Production cars of the model were soon on the market and The Autocar described it as “One of the finest and fastest, and certainly the most refined, sports cars built in Britain in the 1930s”. They were offered with a variety of coachwork.
In the 1930s, British Roesch-designed Talbot 105s enjoyed great success in racing with the Fox & Nicholl team, with drivers including the Hon. Brian Lewis, Johnny Hindmarsh, Tim Rose-Richards and John Cobb. They were also highly successful in trials and rallying, notably the 1932 Alpine Trial which the 3-car team won an Alpine Coupe with no penalties, the first time this had been achieved since 1910. Later in 1932 a Roesch designed pre-selector gearbox was put into production and was judged a success, soon being fitted across the range of models.
The Talbot division was profitable thanks to a series of excellent designs. A second team of Talbots won an Alpine Cup, completing a penalty free competition. However, during 1924 Louis Coatalen had overspent Sunbeam's funds on Grand Prix racing. He raised funds by issuing a series of 10 year Notes which fell due for repayment in 1934. Not only had the concentration on racing hampered plant and product development, but Sunbeam's heavy borrowing brought STD Motors to its knees when the loan fell due for repayment in mid-1934.
The STD group failed in 1935 and sold out to Rootes.
In 1936 Antonio Lago bought the French factory, Automobiles Talbot S.A., which was virtually unsaleable being hopelessly indebted to its French bankers, and continued production of Talbots, later as ‘Talbot Lagos’ until 1958.
In 1938 the British Sunbeam and Talbot marques were combined by Rootes to form Sunbeam-Talbot building badge-engineered Hillmans and Humbers, first as Talbots, then as Sunbeam-Talbots.
Production of Sunbeam-Talbot automobiles ceased during World War II and resumed again in 1946 at a former ‘Shadow Factory’ at Ryton in Warwickshire with no design carry-over from the pre-war models.
The Talbot name is now owned by PSA Peugeot Citroen.
The Talbot Owners Club magazine is published bi-monthly and contains news, updates and informative articles. It is edited by club secretary David Roxburgh.GO TO DOWNLOADS
The essence of the Club is to ensure that members meet and enjoy themselves; the Club is open and democratic, dialogie is encouraged. It is for people of all ages who like Talbot cars and want to enjoy the company of like-minded people and also to support current Talbot involvement in historic competition.