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80 Years Apart but Separated at Birth: Two Great Cars

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I recently came across an article about the glorious 1937 Talbot-Lago T150-C-SS (Octane Jan. 2017) and in particular the fabulous example owned currently by Peter and Merle Mullins which won the new and prestigious Peninsula Classic "Best of the Best." This particular car is no stranger to concours awards, and I was so struck by its beauty that I was going to write a topic solely focusing on this small series of Talbot-Lago Art deco masterpieces. Then, just before putting the metaphorical "pen to paper" I discovered another similarly exquisite car, not far distant in colour to the Mullins' Talbot-Lago and somehow related strongly in terms of design feel and purpose. This car, the Mercedes-Maybach 6, is as yet a concept car only, and is therefore unique, but when the concept becomes a reality, it is likely that the numbers made will be very small, just as the Mullins' car was only made in small numbers.

Peter Mullin knows the history of his car well, and attributes the design to Joseph Figoni, and suggests that the design of the Talbot-Lago should conform to one of the most perfect shapes in terms of elegance and friction coefficient - a raindrop falling through the atmosphere or a teardrop running down a woman's face. Leaving aside these idealised images, this series of Talbot-Lago cars was known as "Goutte d'Eau" or the teardrop.



The Mullin (Peter and Merle) Figoni Talbot-Lago T150-C-SS seen in their musuem - note the absence of a quarterlight in the side windows, which is essential to the original design (pic from aolcdn.com):




According to the Figoni and Falaschi archives, only 14 of these Talbot-Lagos were built, from 1935, and they are referred to as being "faux cabriolet sans toit ouvrant" or hardtop convertible without sun roof, and the body was built around the T150 chassis - an excellent choice as this had lightweight construction, independent front suspension and a 4 litre overhead-valve engine with a hemi-head, giving it a number of racing successes. As for the Talbot concern, as it existed at the time of the exotic Talbot-Lago T150-C-SS, the Sunbeam-Talbot-Darracq conglomerate went bust in 1934 and the French Talbot works (unrelated to the British Talbot factory based in London) was acquired by Italian-born entrepreneur, Anthony Lago. Lago, who had moved to England in the 1920s, at the same time reviving his wartime rank of Major,  now called his Paris-built cars Talbot-Lagos but was required to name the cars Darracqs in order to avoid confusion with British Talbots.


Interior shot through the side window of the Mullins' Talbot-Lago T150-C-SS (pic from simoncars.co.uk):




The Mullins' car, chassis number 90106, was built to competition standard, with a shorter chassis, higher-compression engine, and triple Zenith-Stromberg carburettors, the C in the full title of the car standing for "Competition" and the SS standing for Super Sports. Because the car is in essence a long flowing shape, I feel that the shorter chassis is probably advantageous to the aesthetics, making the design more assimilated and neater than it would have been. According to Figoni's records, the car was bought off the stand at the Earls Court Motor Show of 1937 by Woolf Barnato, one of the "Bentley Boys" and was then painted metallic grey. However, another account states that Woolf Barnato actually purchased the car in 1938, after it had been shown at the New York World's Fair. Whatever the case, this particular Talbot-Lago then underwent its long history up until its most recent incarnation as a concours standard classic dressed in a most beautiful solid aubergine colour.



A beautiful shot of the Mullins' Talbot-Lago Goutte d'Eau without any scenic distractions to hide the lines (pic from robbreport.com):


In order to get a good illustration of the Mullins; Talbot-Lago showing the sloping rear of the car, I have resorted to a picture of the Minichamps resin 1:18 scale model, priced at about US$350 when available (pic from modellauto18.de):





Leaving behind the Talbot-Lago T150-C-SS model, and the wonderful example owned by Peter and Merle Mullin, and also moving through almost 80 years of motoring history, we come to the other car discussed here, sufficiently close in concept to the Talbot-Lago T150C-SS and arriving at a Maybach dealer sometime in the near future - perhaps. This is the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6, a concept coupe of sublime proportions and appearance with a sloping long rear and presence that echoes the Talbot-Lago. 

The concept car is, like the Talbot-Lago owned by the Mullins', in a deep solid bodycolour - dark red in this case as opposed to aubergine -  and in the GQ Partnership feature showing off the lines of this magnificent beast (GQ Magazine Feb 2017), we are asked to, "Meet the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6, a 750hp (550kW) electric coupe (acute accent on 'e) inspired by the past but built for the future," and we are left in no doubt that the model takes inspiration from Art Deco models from Mercedes. Indeed, one delightful feature is the boat or duck shaped tail of the car. Nevertheless, the cues are also futuristic, and the technology of the drive is also looking towards an "electric future."



The extraordinary Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 electric coupe (pic from images.car.bauercdn.com):




The Mercedes Maybach 6 is almost 6 metres in length, and from certain visual viewpoints it certainly looks all of its considerable length, which some people may find offputting, at least initially.. The car contains a 360 degree lounge interior. The sofa-like seats are designed to monitor passengers' vital signs in order to create the perfect cabin temperature, and the front windscreen acts as a transparent display. Full driving information is beamed full width overhead, and control of the various functions is by hand gestures rather than buttons. Power is to all four wheels and comes from a 750hp (550kW ) pure electric motor with fast-charging batteries stowed under the floor. Mercedes is apparently currently working towards actual production models for its Vision concept models, and the Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 is the only full luxury coupe in the Vision series. If the company manages to produce this car without making any worrying changes to its design and feel then once again we will have an extraordinarily beautiful car on the roads reminiscent of the wonderful Talbot-Lago T150-C-SS so lovingly owned and cared for by the Mullins - the only problem being that, like the Talbot-Lago, the Mercedes-Maybach can only to be available to the very well-heeled.



Another view of the Mercedes-Maybach 6 Vision concept car showing the front area (pic from 4.bp.blogspot.com):



 Final view of the Mercedes-Maybach 6 showing the sloping back, reminiscent of the Talbot-Lago (pic from 4.bp.blogspot):


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Just a note in the nature of an edit of my topic. I included the idea that these two large cars have an essentially similar purpose in life, and although this is partly true, I now realize I should have differentiated between the Mercedes-Maybach concept of providing luxurious space for passengers, albeit within a car that is presumably designed to go quickly, and the Talbot-Lago T150-C-SS which combines sporting/racing ability for the driver with what must have been a luxury premium price tag. 


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Nice one, dear Dobra. I have been chatting about Skoda with a couple of friends in my local cafe this morning. They are in fact a reputable firm with a long history, and the period of Cold War misery now having been over for some time, Skoda has risen in status once more. OK, they are essentially a Volkswagen subsidiary, but they still have a personal handle on their design and ethos.

I rather like that model you show, and although not in the same league as the Talbot-Lago discussed in my topic, it does have certain design similarities that have been used to quite good effect. I would be interested to know the date of that Skoda model.

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