Monterey | Lot 121
1938 Talbot-Lago T23 Teardrop Coupe by Figoni et Falaschi
$2,640,000 USD | Sold
| Monterey, California
17 August 2012
115 bhp, 3,996 cc inline six-cylinder engine with hemispherical combustion chambers and twin carburetors, Wilson four-speed preselector gearbox, independent front suspension with transverse leaf spring, live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs and four-wheel drum brakes. Wheelbase: 116.14"
• The sole Jeancart-style, four-liter Talbot-Lago T23 Teardrop Coupe built
• One of five Jeancart-style cars built and one of the four examples remaining
• A former Pebble Beach Elegance in Motion winner
• Expertly restored and properly sorted for fast driving, as originally intended
The Talbot-Lago “Teardrop” by Figoni et Falaschi – The Pinnacle of Prewar Elegance
Without doubt, the Talbot-Lago Teardrop Coupes by Figoni et Falaschi represent the crowning achievement of French design and engineering during the 1930s. It is believed that just 16 Teardrops were built in total, in two slightly different body styles. The first car in the “Jeancart” design, after the name of its first owner, was a beautiful, aerodynamic coupe with a long, streamlined rear-end treatment. Only five such cars were built and, of those, just four remain today; this car, Chassis 93064, was the sole Jeancart-style Teardrop originally built upon a four-liter, T23 “Baby” chassis. The other 11 Teardrop Coupes were built in the “New York” style, named after the car exhibited at the 1937 New York Auto Salon. Except for one car on a T23 chassis, these “New York” cars were all based upon the shorter T150-C chassis.
Chassis 93064 – Singular Perfection
While hardly a long-wheelbase chassis by the standards of the coachbuilt era, the effect of the 2.95-meter wheelbase of the T23 chassis, combined with the Figoni Teardrop coachwork, is simply breathtaking. Blessed with a physical presence unlike many of its counterparts, the slightly wider track of 93064 gives it a very balanced and particularly sporting stance.
Existing records indicate that 93064 was ordered as a “Baby 4L” chassis with Style 9221 Model Jeancart coachwork, which was built by Figoni et Falaschi as job number FF685. Following completion, it was delivered on February 21, 1938 to a French resident registered as 199 ADY 75. Predictably, its exceptional beauty made it prominent at period concours events, with contemporary magazines showing it in the company of a striking woman at its first showing at the Concours d’Elegance de l’Auto in June 1938.
Chassis 93064 made its way to Southern California during the late-1940s, having likely been imported by a returning member of the American armed services. At this time, David Radinsky, a Denver, Colorado native, acquired the Teardrop. He later sold the car to machinist Paul Major, who for many years was seen driving the car in the Denver, Colorado area. At this point, the headlights had been recessed into the front fenders, and the taillights were now flush-mounted with the rear fenders. Sometime in the mid-1950s, the trafficators ceased to work, prompting Major to add turn signals at the tops of the head and taillight housings. Bumpers from a prewar Cadillac were also fitted to the car.
Under Major’s ownership, 93064 was featured and photographed for an article in Rocky Mountain Autolife, written by Ronald C. Hill, a friend of Major’s. According to Hill, Major offered the car at auction in September 1966 at Arthur Rippey’s Veteran Car Museum, although it appears to have remained unsold. It was again offered at the same venue in November 1967, this time selling to a buyer in Atlanta, Georgia, believed to have been named Millbank.
In the early-1970s, Mr. Millbank shipped 93064 to Paris for restoration by noted French coachbuilder Henri Chapron, and it made its post-restoration debut in Paris upon completion in 1974. During the restoration, the car was returned to its original colors and several small touches were added: the headlights were modified slightly, the rear directional signals were removed, and the bumpers were changed to the more appropriate single-blade style.
At some point in the late-1980s, 93064 was purchased by a Japanese collector and remained there until its next owner, Mr. Charles Morse, returned it to America. Soon after Mr. Morse received the car, the engine and mechanicals were restored. A body-off-frame restoration was deemed unnecessary, but the cosmetics were freshened with new paint and interior. In 2000, the Teardrop received the Elegance in Motion Award at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.
Prior to selling 93064 to John M. O’Quinn in early-2006, Mr. Morse reported to RM Auctions that the race-bred Talbot-Lago chassis and power train, combined with the lightweight Figoni et Falaschi Teardrop Coupe coachwork, resulted in an exquisite driving experience. He also noted that the unassisted steering was surprisingly quick and light, and that the Wilson preselector gearbox was smoother than a conventional manual gearbox, with positive coupling and quick gear changes. In Mr. Morse’s ownership, the four-liter engine was adapted to Winfield carburetors for improved throttle response and a broader power band. Mr. Morse extensively toured the Talbot just as it was originally intended, and following its second running on the Colorado Grand, the noted mechanic and restorer, Mr. Jim Stranberg, rebuilt the Talbot’s steering mechanism and front suspension. A road test around this time revealed the Talbot to have been in excellent operating order.
Next, the Teardrop was shipped to expert restorers Carrosserie Tessier in France, who undertook a complete body-off-frame restoration with virtually no expense spared. The body’s wooden sub-structure was carefully examined and repaired, with an estimated 80 percent of the original woodwork saved and preserved. The flowing sheet metal was extensively repaired as well, with an estimated 90 percent of the original metalwork remaining. New front and rear bumpers were installed as the prior units had become separated from the car at some point, and new front lights were also installed. The chassis and mechanical components were fully restored, including a full engine overhaul, which retained all original engine parts except for a new set of pistons. At this time, the somewhat difficult Winfield carburetors were replaced with period Solex units, more in keeping to the original specification of the car. The interior upholstery was completely restored to original specification, and the stunning exterior was refinished in Lago Blue, the same color it wore when it was displayed at the Concours d’Elegance de l’Auto in 1938.
The current owner, a prominent and discriminating European collector, acquired 93064 in late-2010. Care was entrusted to Geoff Squirrel, who possesses some 30 years of experience with this type of car; his particular expertise extends to Talbot’s characteristic Wilson preselector gearboxes. Mr. Squirrel carried out the majority of the work required to sort the car for proper operation and driving enjoyment, with the work including balancing the flywheel, clutch and driveshaft, adjustments to the gearbox, rebuilding of the radiator, and attention to the electrical system. Suspension work included the correct adjustment of the shock-absorbers, lubrication of the chassis and springs, proper rear-wheel fitting, and balancing of all four wheels. In addition, the tachometer was returned to working order, the windshield wipers were repaired for proper operation, and the carburetors were set up and adjusted. Road testing ensured all mechanical systems now worked as they should.
When Mr. Squirrel completed this work, the car was UK MoT-tested, road-registered, and test-driven over 1,200 kilometers. During this time, it became apparent that the original pressed-steel brake drums were no longer serviceable, and new cast-iron brake drums were designed and manufactured specifically for this car. After fitting, it was clear that the new brake drums literally transformed this final area of the car, which was found to be lacking. Accordingly, 93064 is now capable of fast touring, as originally intended, with braking to match its considerable performance. As offered, the car is complete with a custom-made indoor cover, the original brake drums, and a history file with invoices detailing the work completed, including well-written and understandable operating instructions.
This 1938 Talbot-Lago T23 Teardrop Coupe is a masterpiece of French artistry, with its proportions and gently sweeping curves representative of France’s leading prewar design themes. Freshly restored and listed in the Registre Talbot, Chassis 93064 stands particularly tall as the sole Jeancart-style Teardrop Coupe built by Figoni et Falaschi on the race-bred T23 chassis. A historic automobile of truly epic proportions, it is without exaggeration a piece of rolling sculpture. In addition to its incredible rarity and achingly beautiful styling, 93064 is also fast and well-braked with excellent road manners, ready to be driven virtually anywhere—as much a joy to drive as it is to behold.