Talbot Owners' Club

The Home of Pre-War London Talbots

Wot, no Talbots? A personal perspective on the toc visit to the Gaydon reserve collection, Dave Kempton 7th Feb 2024

The “Stamford chapter” of the TOC dispatched a select group of four to Howard’s latest excellent social event: a visit to the Gaydon British Motor Museum, including an exclusive personal tour of the reserve collection. In the interests of economy, and to minimise our carbon footprint, we arranged to travel together. This involved me, being the furthest East, collecting Mike from Stamford in my two-seater, then journeying to Oundle and boarding Ian’s lovely 75 saloon, in which we were to proceed towards Corby and transfer into the editor’s trusty Subaru. What could possibly go wrong? Being retired for some years now, I had completely under-estimated the extra time required during the early morning rush hour. As a result, the nominally 65-minute journey to Ian’s via Stamford took me 90 minutes, by which time Ian had given up on us and proceeded alone to David’s. By the time we had worked out, with Ian’s wife’s help, where David actually lived, we were over half an hour behind schedule. No matter, we had allowed time for coffee before meeting Howard, and we arrived at Gaydon by the appointed time.

At Gaydon, we found the entrance blocked by a sectioned (cut in half, not mentally disturbed) MGB GT, just returning from the Paris Retromobile show. We were quickly redirected to a side door and once inside were met by a most helpful team of Gaydon volunteers, and then visit organiser, Howard Day, came down from the café, saying no rush; others were also late so we had time for coffee after all. This was most fortunate, as the Gaydon volunteer allocated to us had not turned up yet either!

After a reasonable coffee, we gathered at the entrance and were allocated a substitute guide, who reputedly had little experience of the reserve collection, for which said volunteers sincerely apologised. There was little to worry about, however, as Simon proved to be an excellent guide, and was able to answer most of our questions.

We walked across to the newish building housing not only the reserve collection on the first floor, but also the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust’s collection on the ground floor, previously housed at Brown’s Lane. The JDHT’s collection was stunning, and we were to spend most of our time there. There was a time-line starting with a neat Swallow sidecar and Brough Superior outfit, through Swallow-bodied Austin, Wolseley and Standard cars, the early SS cars and into the post war Jaguar era. There was much devoted to Jaguar's competition successes in the 1950s, with a video of the 1953 Le Mans race running behind the C and D type cars. The XK120, NUB120, was next. This car was very successful in major international rallies through the 1950s driven by Ian Appleyard and his wife Patricia. This was, of course, a private entry, it being only coincidental that Appleyard were a major Jaguar distributor and Mrs Appleyard was the daughter of Sir William Lyons.

The C type was correctly called the XK120-C, the C being for competition. Its successor should have been the XK140-C, but somehow Jaguar forgot what the C stood for and called it the D. (A similar bout of amnesia had previously occurred in the 1930s, when MG’s next car after the Midget C type, for competition, was called the D type; there was never an MG A or B until post-war.)  As the sports racing cars evolved through the 1950s, stopping became as important as outright speed, and this was Jaguar’s advantage when they were the first to successfully use disc brakes in 1953, giving them a clean sweep at Le Mans that year.

Surprisingly, the E Type was poorly represented in the collection, with little or no recognition for the successful lightweight racers. Jaguar was to reappear in the top tiers of motorsport spasmodically over the coming decades, but the 1950’s domination was gone. Who remembers the Jaguar F1 car? This started as the Stewart/Ford, but when Ford owned Jaguar and bought out Stewart’s interest, the team and cars raced under the Jaguar banner. This team is now Red Bull.

We were next shown the absolutely stunning XJ13, an early 1960s attempt to get back to Le Mans with a potential race winner. This V12 rear engined car has to be the most beautiful car in the collection, but ongoing development delays meant its time had passed before it was race-ready. This, the sole genuine example, was described as totally original. This is not entirely true, as the car was rolled and comprehensively trashed by Norman Dewis during a demonstration run at MIRA in the 1970s. Much later it was subsequently reconstructed in a slightly different style. An accurate replica in the original style also exists elsewhere.

So, through the later road cars and the occasionally successful racer, including some cars and engines that never reached production, it is a collection well worth the time and cost of visiting Gaydon.

Upon climbing the stairs to the reserve collection, one is met by an early series Land Rover with prominent Shaun the Sheep stickers. But doesn't it look slightly odd? Was the front axle ever so far forward, and surely the wheels didn’t ever have six studs? And the cab is a bit upright, surely? Simon explained that this was a real-life copy of the plasticine model created for the famous film about Shaun. An example of life following art; but why? Apparently, it's the most photographed car in the museum.

Further along, there are neat rows of cars bumper to bumper, covering all decades of the British motor industry up to the Indian, Japanese and Chinese takeovers. We were warned that this was essentially a store and not to expect too much information. However, every car that I noticed had a neat A4 sheet giving basic information. At this point, Simon left us. However, as he had indicated earlier that he had an app showing the location of all of the museum’s cars, I asked him where the Talbots could be found. He checked and confirmed that they do not have a Talbot!

It is difficult to recall it all, but I was most interested in the early cars. An amusing example was an Edwardian Austin, I think, limousine, having the usual luxurious rear compartment and an open driving position. Unusually, though, the driver sat in the middle so the rear passengers had a clear forward view, predating the Mclaren P1 by a century. There are several ‘first of’ and ‘last of’ popular cars, concepts that never made it and low volume versions, as well as everything one might expect. Another that took my eye was a 1930s Rover 14 Aerodyne; a very attractive take on the style briefly popular at that time. But what was that TVR with an MG grill? Peering over the balcony into the workshop, everything looked uncannily tidy and quiet - more like a diorama than a live workshop. I did notice a very large 8-cylinder head on a bench: could it be off a Leyland 8?

The collection of engines was of particular interest to me, having spent my working life in that industry. BL played with several OHC conversions of the A series, none of which made it to production.  A Rover V8 diesel “Iceberg” brought back memories. Rover contracted Perkins Engines to explore the feasibility of making a diesel version of their ubiquitous 3.5l V8, and some of my colleagues spent many months on it, initially identifying and correcting basic design weaknesses in the original. Several prototypes were constructed and some tested in cars, but in the end the potential cost of the changes was too great and the project was cancelled. It is rumoured that TVR took up some of the lessons learnt and used them in their highly stretched versions of the petrol engine.

I did find it most disappointing that an exhibition of the good and great British cars of the 20th century does not recognise Talbot’s contribution, and I urge the TOC committee to consider how we can help rectify this situation. “Wot, no Talbots?”

With thanks to Howard for organising yet another excellent, easy-going day trip.



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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.