Talbot BGH 23

As eleven years have now passed since I restored this car as near as was humanly possible to its pre-war specification, and as it has been much written about meanwhile, I am surprised that all of a sudden suggestions are being made in MOTOR SPORT that "it ain't wot it used ter be".

First, you Mr. Editor who report a rumour that the car "has Jaguar con rods and a light alloy body". This is no rumour, this is recorded fact. The Jaguar rods were used because nothing else would fit the big Brooklands crank. The original Talbot rods had been ruined by a previous owner, and only three or four sets were ever made. Two years ago I managed to obtain one set, which are scheduled for BGH's next engine, they are lighter, shorter and stronger than the Jaguar rods, but will make no difference to the performance whatever. The "light alloy body" is as fitted to the car when it was built in 1934 namely alloy panels on an ash frame with a considerable weight of iron reinforcing brackets. It was repanelled in 1962 with a heavier gauge alloy than the original, which could easily be dented by a misplaced elbow and was prone to splitting. Perhaps the body should now be called "heavy alloy".

Secondly, DSJ in his comments on the Le Mans "Retrospective" says that the first three pre-war finishers (BGH being 2nd) were built to win VSCC races. If BGH was, it has been a complete failure, because after striving might and main for ten seasons, in which the car has been driven absolutely to the limit at all times„ it has yet to win a single VSCC race! Again, if it had been built for such a purpose, it would now be two feet shorter, six inches lower, have 1½ seats, telescopic dampers, hydraulic brakes and all the other modern goodies with which wrong-minded VSCC members destroy the essence of' their once nice pre-war motor cars. (Hear, hear! Ed.)

In fact the purpose of the restoration was to recreate the car, in specification appearance and performance, as It was in its prime between 1936 and 1938. Six years ago I fitted a very mildly reprofiled cam, the twin SU carburettors off Arthur Fox's 1933 saloon and a divided exhaust manifold, in an attempt to obtain the 160 b.h.p. which the car used to have before the War, without having to resort to the 11.4: 1 compression ratio and alcohol fuel then required for this output. Although I haven't quite succeeded, nothing further whatever has been done to the car other than having care and maintenance. During the Le Mans "Retrospective" the car was flat out along the Straight with the rev, counter showing the equivalent of 115 m.p.h. every lap, once flicking up to 118 - exactly what it used to do across the Fork at Brooklands during the JCC. Hour runs, in full sports trim (as it was at Le Mans this year) and a compression ratio of 9: 1 only.

I much regretted taking this car to Le Mans instead of the "GO" cars which raced there, but was determined to get there somehow while some of the old historic course is still left to race on, and as the whole event was never more than a rumour until four weeks beforehand there was no alternative to taking the nearest car to hand. At that time one "GO" was clutchless in Cornwall, another waterless in Warwickshire, and the third engineless in Essex. When asked if BGH had ever run at Le Mans, I replied "No, which is a pity, because if it had it would probably have won". I explained to Stirling Moss (driving the Rob Walker Delahaye) that BGH had always been 5 m.p.h. faster than his car in spite of the latter's "Fastest Road Car" title, but I don't think he believed me (who would, just looking at the two cars!) until the 'Talbot disappeared from view. In fact, this time the Delahaye was a good 10 m.p.h. slower, because it lacked the necessary high axle ratio.

Whatever "Jenks" may think of the VSCC "racers", the fact remains that it was supposed to be a race, and while most of the others simply polished their cars, we worked night and day for weeks to prepare our cars with the correct Le Mans specification. I shall probably be further than ever from that elusive VSCC race win in future, because I am so smitten with my Le Mans axle ratio that I can't bear the thought of taking it out. To drive BGH on the road now, on a whisker of throttle at 80 m.p.h. and 3,000 r.p.m., then feel the kick in the back when the pedal is floored, is an experience I hope to enjoy for a long time. That is what BGH is really about.