Culled From An Advertisement

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Years ago the weekly motor papers sometimes helped fill their pages by culling news items from the advertisements. We have no need to do that but it did so happen that the other day I chanced on an old advert in The Autocar with a motor racing connotation that set me thinking. The ad in question appeared on November 12th 1921. It was a half-page inserted on behalf of H. B. Cook Ltd, of Gt Portland Street, London’s famous “motor street” — who were agents for Austin, Angus-Sanderson, Citroën, Fiat, Humber, Singer, Sunbeam and Talbot cars. This particular ad was concerned with Talbot-Darracqs, and it was two panel-announcements that had caused me to look again at this announcement.

One panel was about an 8 hp T-D with semi sports body, for which 56 mph and 50 mpg was claimed, priced at £325. Nothing very odd about that, except for the fact that the little Talbot-Darracq had not long been announced, so a special-bodied version ready so soon seemed a trifle unusual. My own 1922 T-D Eight is quite a lively proposition, so the speed claim seems to have been permissible, if not the mpg one.

It was the second panel announcement which made me look again, with rather more attention. It stated that for £595 there was available the 12 hp 1½-litre T-D that was the “Winner of Grand Prix and Brooklands 200 miles race”, fitted with a London-made four-seater body with adjustable seats, and equipped with lighting set and starter. Now it is always interesting, to me at any rate, to know what happens to racing cars after their competition days are over; the odd thing in this case is that this had happened so quickly.

What I mean is, the first JCC 200 Mile Race had been run only 22 days before this intriguing advert appeared. Allow that work would hardly have started on the car with which Segrave had won the “200” at 88.82 mph, followed home by the sister T-Ds of K. Lee-Guinness and Malcolm Campbell, before the Monday afterwards, and that presumably it would have needed a few days in which to place the ad, and that leaves only about a fortnight for the decision to remove the winning TD’s long-tailed track body, put on a touring body, and fit the electrics. I am assuming, of course, that H. B. Cook Ltd, were honest dealers who had what they advertised for sale when they did so.

There seems no doubt that this was one of the Talbot-Darracq racing cars because it was clearly stated that it had an overhead-valve engine of 65 x 112 mm, the dimensions of the twin-cam sixteen-valve power units in these extremely successful STD racing cars, which had earned their title of “the Invincible Talbots” by finishing 1, 2, 3 in other races besides the “200”, whereas the production 12 hp T-D (which Cook’s were also offering, for a cash-down first payment of £155) had a stroke of 110 mm. Which “Grand Prix” the advertised ex-racing job was supposed to have won poses a small problem. The 1921 GP was a victory for Murphy’s Duesenberg, from a couple of Ballots, and it had been run to the 3-litre formula, the STD runners being straight-eights of that engine size. What was presumably meant was the Coupe Des Voiturettes, run at Le Mans before the 200 Mile Race, which Rene Thomas’ Talbot-Darracq won at 72.1 mph for the 279 miles, with the “Invincible” label already being earned, for the sister-cars of K. Lee-Guinness and Segrave were second and third. The road-racing bodies were then removed and slim track-racing Hawker bodies substituted. On the evidence of this dealer’s add, one can presume that Segrave was allocated the same T-D for the “200” as Thomas had had to win with in France. But why was a four-seater body put on it, so hastily, after the race? The racing chassis, although it had half-elliptic springs, looks scarcely suitable and as at the time there was beginning to be a vogue for two-seater sports cars, why a four-seater? Perhaps the explanation lies in the then very run-down state of the English part of the STD combine, for the “London-made” body could have come from the Darracq factory at Acton, which was making bodies for the new 8 hp Talbot-Darracq chassis at the time as a means of promoting a bit more business.

One wonders whether one would have cared to buy a car that had already run at least 475 miles at racing sped, especially if the rumoured 3.25 axle had not been changed. Possibly a new 16 hp T-D, offered by Cook’s for £100 more, might have been a better proposition… The curious thing is that I have never heard of anyone using this re-bodied very successful ex-racing1½-litre Talbot-Darracq.

As with so many motor racing matters, another small mystery is involved. The invincible 1921 team of 1½-litre T-Ds which won every race for which they were entered, was, I have always understood, used again for the 1922 season, when another important 1, 2, 3 victory and wins in every event they started in endorsed their prowess, so why should Louis Coatalen have sanctioned the disposal of the most successful of the 1921 team through a dealer, immediately after the 1921 season ended? This would have been understandable at the end of 1922, for the design was altered for 1923, and the engines supercharged for 1924.
W.B.