How to cope with alpine trials and tribulations

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The success of the Talbot 105s on the 1934 Alpine Trial was recorded for posterity by driver Tommy Wisdom, who while sharing BGH 21 (sister car to ’23’), with his wife Elsie, wrote a dramatic account of the trans-European crusade for The Autocar.

The whole event very nearly got off to a bad start, when, on their way to the start in Nice, the trio decided to recce the Col du Galibier — the first climb the competitors would encounter. Atop the 6,000 foot mountain, the drivers reflected on the ease with which the Talbots made the ascent, but were then caught in a violent storm as they drove back down. Landslides closed many roads, bridges collapsed and the Wisdoms — unable to turn the car around — were forced to retreat the way they had came, reversing for half-an-hour along a pass and across a ledge.

The Trial itself consisted of six days travel from Nice to Munich via Switzerland, Italy, Yugoslavia and Austria. Time controls each day ensured that cars didn’t overdo it and close scrutiny meant that any changed part would be noted and marks deducted. Every car started with 3,000… not so many finished with the same tally.

By the end of day one, four cars were out and many had dropped scores, but the Talbots sailed serenely on, until, on day two, Wisdom’s car began to lose water. Unable to rectify it without penalty, they topped it up and soldiered on, crossing into St Moritz via the Splugen Pass. BGH 21, however, began to get hotter still, and by the fourth day ‘a little quiet unorthodox ‘tuning’ saw a hammer bash shut the overflow pipe. Problem solved. The final two days saw the 105s flying towards Venice via the Stelvio Pass, Italy’s fascist troops lining the roads and Mrs Wisdom being cheered on as flowers were thrown towards the speeding Talbots. One young schoolboy took things a bit far, throwing his posy with ceramic pot still attachedl “Mike Couper spent the rest of the trial extracting pieces of earthenware from his car,” recalled Wisdom.

From Venice the trial took them north to Zagreb and into Germany where a mad dash saw them scrape home after a perfect drive over 1970 miles of the toughest terrain in Europe. It had been quite a week…

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