Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but if there's a consistent entry in any list of the world's most beautiful cars, it is the Talbot-Lago T150C SS Teardrop Coupe built by Parisian Carrosserie Figoni and Falaschi during the late 1930s. On Saturday May 27, 2017, a spectacular example of the car is going to auction at Villa Erba on the shores of Italy's Lake Como.
The years leading up to WW2 saw some of the most beautiful cars ever built, with limited production automobiles such as the Mercedes-Benz 500/540 K Spezial Roadster and the Talbot-Lago T150C SS Teardrop Coupe available to uber rich clients.
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Both were capable of over 100 mph, but while the 540K Spezial Roadster was a very fast bohemoth for autobahn cruising, the Talbot-Lago T150C SS was a very different type of automobile, capable of stopping sharply from 100 mph, getting around the corner at the end of the straight as fast as a racing car, then doing it again and again.
Derived from racing, the chassis and aerodynamic efficiency of the Teardrop meant it was highly competitive on the racetrack, with a "showroom stock" Talbot-Lago T150C SS Teardrop placed third overall at the 1938 24 Hours of LeMans, averaging 76.75 mph (123.515 km/h).
So strong was the car's 140 bhp, 3,996 cc inline six-cylinder engine (with hemispherical combustion chambers and triple Stromberg carburettors), that the car remained competitive in the early post-war years, winning the Spa 24 Hour race in 1948. Look closely at the images above and you'll recognize the Talbot-Lago entering the famous "Eau Rouge" corner at Spa Francorchamps circuit (top left).
In 2016, the inaugural Peninsula Classics Best of the Best Award was created and bestowed during Monterey Car Week. The award pits the winners of the The Quail Motorsport Gathering, the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance, the Cartier Style et Luxe at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, England's Concours of Elegance, and Italy's Cavallino Classic. Hence the world's finest automobiles chosen at each of the world's top concours events compete for the title of the most exceptional car in the world. The 1937 Talbot-Lago T150-C SS above was the winner of the 2016 Peninsula Classics Best of the Best Award. We expect that this award will grow in stature over the years, and there could be no finer inaugural winner. (Credit: Peninsula Classics)
These days the 14 extant "Goutte d'Eau" Talbot-Lagos built by Paris-based Italian automotive couturier Giuseppe Figoni are among the most valuable cars on the planet, as they combine Art Deco elegance with world-leading performance of the period, and when it comes to a modern day concours event, they're hard to beat.
We've written extensively about Figoni et Falaschi in our auction coverage over the last 15 years and below are just a few of the creations of Giuseppe Figoni (Falaschi was the money man). They're not all Talbot-Lagos, but an agreement between Figoni and Lago saw the companies work together exclusively for a time and the "Goutte d'Eau" became a standard production model Talbot-Lago, though be cautious not to confuse more modern mass production cars with the tailored coachbuilding of the pre-war years, when every car was different.
Look too at the prices fetched by Figoni's creations, and you'll understand why the car that will go to auction at Villa Erba is such a prize. The estimate of €3,200,000 to €3,800,000 is conservative and if two high net worth enthusiasts get competitive at the globally-important Concorso D'Elegenza Villa D'Este event, they may well move the model into eight figure territory.
This 1938 Talbot-Lago T150-C SS Teardrop Cabriolet with coachwork by Figoni et Falaschi was the first of just three teardrop cabriolets built. It sold for $7,150,000 at RM-Sotheby's 'Art of the Automobile' sale in New York in 2013. (Credit: RM-Sotheby's)
This 1938 Talbot-Lago T150-C SS is one of the 11 second series "New York" Teardrop Coupés built by Figoni et Falaschi. The car was a triple award winner at the Pebble Beach Concours in 2009 and won "Best of Show" at Meadow Brook in 2010. It sold for €3,136,000 (US$4,440,262) at Villa D'Este in 2011. (Credit: RM-Sotheby's)
This 1938 Talbot-Lago T150-C Lago Speciale Teardrop Coupe bodied by Figoni et Falaschi was a class winner at the 1948 24 Hours of Spa and the only long-wheelbase Lago Speciale Teardrop Coupe in existence. It sold for $4,620,000 at Monterey in 2010. (Credit: RM-Sotheby's)
This 1937 Talbot-Lago T150 C SS Tear Drop Coupe (chassis #90105) has a storied provenance that includes renowned 1930s playboy Tommy Lee and industrial designer Brooks Stevens. It has sold twice at auction, the first by Christies in 2005 for $3,535,000 and the second by Gooding & Co in 2009 for $3,520,000. (Credit: Gooding & Co)
This 1937 Delahaye 135 Competition Court Torpedo Roadster is yet another variation on the teardrop design of Figoni et Falaschi based on the 1936 Paris Auto Show car which was a collaboration between Figoni and the famous illustrator Georges Hamel, or "Geo Ham." Only 13 of these cars were built and three were fitted with a brass plaque acknowledging Ham's design. This is one of those cars and sold for $6,600,000 by RM-Sotheby's at Amelia Island in 2014. (Credit: RM-Sotheby's)
This 1947 Delahaye 135M Narval is one of the most famous creations of Figoni et Falaschi. Only seven were made, and this was the last one built. One of the last and most beautiful examples of the flamboyant automotive artists' work. It was offered by Rick Cole Auctions at Monterey in 2015 where it failed to sell against an estimate of $6,000,000 to $8,000,000. (Credit: Rick Cole Auctions)
The sole Jeancart-style, four-liter Talbot-Lago T23 Teardrop Coupe built. Jeancart was the original patron of the design and this 1938 Talbot-Lago T23 was one of five Jeancart-style cars built and one of the four examples remaining. It sold for $2,640,000 at Monterey in 2012. (Credit: RM-Sotheby's)
This 1938 Delahaye 135 MS Coupe was displayed on the Figoni et Falaschi stand at the 1938 Paris Salon. It sold for $1,540,000 in January, 2013, then fetched $990,000 at Amelia Island in 2015. (Credit: RM-Sotheby's)
This Figoni & Falaschi 1938 Delahaye 135 MS Competition Cabrioletwas sold by RM-Sotheby's in 2010 in Monaco for €1,792,000 (Credit: RM-Sotheby's)
There are more images of Figoni's fabulous rolling sculptures in the image gallery, each with links to the auction descriptions or source.View gallery - 37 images