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.
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 coachbuild.com.