Art Appreciation: Talbot-Lago T150C SS Roadster

Figoni Falaschi Talbot-Lago T150C SS Roadster

In 1908 a 14 year old boy arrived for his first morning of his apprenticeship with a Parisian wagon builder. It’s an almost impossible career trajectory in my mind from that first day sweeping up and sharpening files to crafting the luxurious lines of this staggering French Racing Blue beauty. Then again, Giuseppe Figoni may simply have had beautiful machinery in his blood as a crucial part of his DNA that followed him from his native Piacenza, Italian hometown to Paris.

We tend to think of the notion of a “celebrity designer” as a fairly recent phenomenon but Figoni was not unfamiliar with being the center of a rippling design movement. The eliptical teardrop fender and body arced enveloppantes on a Delahaye 135 he presented at the Paris Auto Salon of 1936 caused a minor design explosion. His bodies borrowed from the burgeoning aerodynamic sciences in the airplane industry and gave his machines a slippery silhouette that suggested high speed even when standing still.

Figoni Falaschi Talbot-Lago T150C SS Roadster

If we turn our attention to his Talbot-Lago T150C SS, you can’t help but wonder if it was this particular car of Figoni’s or an amalgamation of the era that helped inform much of the design aesthetic that we so associate with American hot-rodders. The crossover appeal of the 1930s GP cars and voiturettes should be obvious for fans of 1930s Fords—fenders removed or otherwise.

Look at the details of this Figoni’s creation and you’ll recognize many of the design hallmarks of the American hot rod. The close-set headlamps that might well have inspired Clarence ‘Chili’ Catallo to modify his ’32 Ford that famously adorned the Beach Boy’s Little Deuce Coupe album cover. Those motorcycle fenders were fairly common on prewar racing cars and voiturettes but were also popular with American hot rodders trying to skirt fender laws designed to squash hot rods.

And can I get an “amen” on those blue headlamp covers?

There’s no question that cars are cheaper to produce in bulk but part of me yearns for the option to deliver a freshly-built frame and drivetrain to a coachbuilder and craft a truly unique machine. In many ways, these kinds of one-off builds are at an all time high today, and command the attention of not only well-heeled buyers, but television audiences who admire their work. Sadly, I haven’t seen anyone take this common business model for custom motorcycles and extend it to (truly) custom cars.

More on the Figoni & Falaschi Talbot Lago T150C SS Roadster #90115 at

Available in Germany: Maserati 4CL 1500

Maserati 4CL 1500 No.1567If you can look past the lackluster photography and vacuum of information at all on the sale detail page, this 1939 Maserati 4CL 1500 offers a remarkable story and a beautiful shape. I’m on a bit of a pre-war Italians kick lately, so this Maser jumped right off the screen on Klaus Werner Klassische Automobile’s web site. Like all 4CLs, this straight-4 powered, 4-speed menace was important not only for it’s brutal appearance, but for giving a solid go at fending off the Silver Arrows during their absolute domination in the immediate pre-war period.

This example, chassis 1567, wasn’t just any Maserati 4CL: it’s the first one. British GP Driver Reggie Tongue bought this car, the first complete example, on April 5, 1939, just in time for the International Trophy race at Brooklands a month later. In the 4CL’s race debut, Tongue wrestled the Maser to a 3rd place finish, with Prince Bira winning. Two months later at the Grand Prix de L’albigeois, Tongue did one better, taking 1567 to 2nd place. This time finishing behind fellow Brit Johnnie Wakefield.

Reggie Tongue at the wheel of a Maserati 4CL by Michael TurnerAfter the war, as was so often the case, 1567 was pulled out of mothballs to take back to the track, this time in the hands of former Delahaye driver, Robert Mazaud. Mazaud re-introduced the car to the racing world at the 1946 Grand Prix de Nice. Unfortunately the car didn’t go the distance, dropping out on lap 22 with a faulty magneto. He had mixed results a few weeks later in the Grand Prix de Marseille, taking pole and winning the first heat, but crashing out on the first lap of heat 2. A 3rd place at I Coupe René le Bègue in June would be his last success with the car. In the following few races, the Maserat DNFed for a variety of reasons; bad steering, bad cylinders. I cannot confirm the chassis number, but it would stand to reason that this 4CL was the car Mazaud was driving when he was killed in the 1946 Prix des 24 Heures du Mans in a crash on the 3rd lap. Mazaud’s popularity was such that in October of ’46, the Bois de Boulogne race was christened “I Coupe Robert Mazaud“.

Maserati 4CL 1500 DashCan you believe that the seller hasn’t shared any of this amazing story? It’s not only a markedly beautiful car, but this very example shared Brooklands with Bira and Boulogne with Nuvolari. It’s an stunningly beautiful monoposto, and I hope the new owner will continue to race her at vintage events to share her with the rest of us.

Update: It looks like we’ve mixed up our 4CLs in the immediate post-war. The commenter below informs us that Tongue’s 4CL was sold during the war and the Mazaud record above was with a different Maserati. We’re sorry for the incorrect information in the original post and thank you, Gigleux, for correcting me. I still contend that dealers should share the histories of their cars so it’s not entirely up to racing fans to try and track down this information. Such as the tidbit that The Mestro may have driven this car. This page shows a racing record of Fangio driving 1567 in the Buenos Aires Formula Libre race in January, 1948.

Oh Hell.. I give up.

On Modifying Vintage Racecars for Safety

I’m of two minds on racecar modification.

There’s the “ownership” school of thought. It belongs to you. You can add a rollbar, five point harness, strengthen crossmembers for impact safety. Hell, you can burn it to the ground if you want. It’s an understandable point of view, you bought this thing.

Then, there’s the “caretaker” point of view. These are objects, yes, but they have intrinsic historical value that supersedes the owner’s impulse to modify. You don’t “own” a Targa Florio winning Porsche 908-3 any more than Accademia di Belle Arti Firenze “owns” David, or the National Gallery “owns” Belshazzar’s Feast. There is a tendency to consider that while, legally, these objects have clearly defined owners; culturally and historically, they belong to everyone. Traditionally, I tend to favor this perspective of stewardship.

Now, it does seem reasonable that to compete with your car, you must meet some minimum safety standards, and that is why we see rollbars increased in height, puncture resistant fuel cells, improved safety harnesses, and arm restraints. For some reason, these mandatory modifications for competition haven’t been applied to pre-war cars. Until today, I’ve appreciated that. I wouldn’t want to add a rollbar to a Bugatti 35. But this video shot during a VSCC event at Oulton Park makes me reconsider.

I should point out that, despite appearances, this driver escaped with nothing more serious than a broken collar bone.

Now I’m wondering if rollbars, or at least seat belts, aren’t a good idea for pre-war cars—if not as a mandatory, then at least something that more individual drivers might consider adding. I’m curious to hear what Chicane readers think about this, so let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.