I've successfully managed to lose my class today. Before I have 9352 burners calling me an idiot, we do not have a set classroom, and thus we rely on the professor telling us where to meet. She didn't this time. Since I haven't missed this class this entire semester, I've taken the liberty of "skipping" class and spending a lovely and unproductive afternoon on Oppositelock. This is about to get a whole lot more lovely and unproductive.
Today I will discuss why Talbot is the most bizarre of all the modern French automakers.
Before you all think I'm actually quite sane and referring to the prewar exotica produced by Talbot-Lago, I'll have to quash those otherwise "normal" assumptions. I'm solely talking about the Talbot that existed between 1978 and 1992.
About to click away, eh? NOT ENOUGH FLASHING GIFS, RIGHT?
Anyway, I'll begin with saying I have one of these blasted pieces of jun... awesome. I wrote about it eons ago as an introduction to myself. Unfortunately, as of last month, it is no longer road legal, as it's no longer taxed nor insured. Naturally, having one of these rare pieces of French quirk does make you a tad curious about what else they managed to produce... When they weren't on break, smoking, on break and smoking, lunch, asleep, striking, etc.
If I were to write an extended history of Talbot as a whole, I'd be stuck writing for far too long. I'm lazy. So, let's begin right before Peugeot decided to buy up Chrysler Europe and create some of the most thrilling driving machines of all time.
Chrysler Europe was, at that time, a hodgepodge of Rootes and Simca designs. Prior to the merger, in production was the aging 180, the ECOTY winning Alpine, the Sunbeam, the new FWD Horizon, and the Avenger. I really don't care for the Avenger nor 180. We'll conveniently forget that the 180 and Avenger exist, as they weren't much of an impact on the Talbot line.
Fast forward and Chrysler Europe has been bought up by PSA, otherwise known as your lovable, huggable, French automaker Peugeot. There was no clear cooperation between the Simca and Rootes wings, and this resulted in an less than cohesive lineup, effectively dooming Chrysler Europe despite some genuinely interesting cars.
Perhaps best known among enthusiasts is the plain, yet entertaining package that was the Sunbeam. Rear wheel drive, light, and a hatch, it covered ground between grandmother running to the shops and full fledged rally car. The cars didn't last long under the Talbot brand, ending production in 1981. Reliability and quality control was at best completely horrific, but it doesn't mean that a few entertaining models didn't make it out of the factory.
The Sunbeam Ti was an attempt to plug some chili peppers up the Sunbeam's bum. Stripped out and featuring a 1.6 liter twin carb, it produced a healthy 100hp. To say they were good cars was a stretch... Here's what WhatCar? had to say about it.
...we suffered near accidents at traffic lights with both cars (the Chevette HS being the other) thanks to fouling of the plugs - the cars will pull away from the lights only to stutter and near die, causing heavy braking from behind. The only answer is to rev the engine high and drop the clutch as if doing a standing start at the test track, no wonder fuel consumption was high (18-19.7mpg on test) and looks from other drivers disdainful...
That all being said though, they have gained a small, but rabid following of enthusiasts, owing to their rear drive basis. The Sunbeam Lotus that came after it though was a proper legend. I've actually already written about it here.
If you've read my introduction, you'd know I have one of these. If you haven't, you should probably go ahead and do this now and bask in my complete lack of grammar and common sense. It's truly not a brilliant car, but it's charming, and that's what matters, no? To clear up name confusion, this is, at least to my knowledge, how all the model names worked.
1307/1308 - Used by Simca in continental Europe until 1980
1510 - Used 1980- in continental Europe
Alpine - All hatches sold in Britain
Solara - All saloon versions
Rapier and Minx - Final year nameplates used across the range
Please note I've probably mixed something up there.
Dare I say the original Alpine/1307 has an attractive shape? Please don't berate me for that. This thing did manage to win European Car of the Year for 1976. IT IS BETTER THAN AN E21. TAKE THAT INTERNET.
By 1980, the Alpine was refreshed and the Solara, a saloon version, was added.
Needless to say, blinding other drivers, let along burning up yourself in one, wasn't particularly attractive to the market at large. That and rust, and crap engine choices, and part availability, and more strikes, etc. etc. etc.
On the plus side? My Solara has always been comfortable, roomy, relatively easy to fix, and, dare I say, truly interesting. It's not a good car, but it's got loads of character.
I don't really have much to say about the Horizon other than it was a foray into FWD city cars. It popped along in 1978 and led to oodles of different variations. Dodge Omni? Same idea.
Getting away from the rather boring base model, there were a couple of interesting design studies to spice it up a tad. While Carol Shelby fiddled with turbos on the Omni, PSA had their own push into turbo territory.
Dat body kit tho.
Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find much information on what's under the skin of it. On the bright side, it's been taken care of at the Coventry Transport Museum. Get a plane ticket and check out the place... They have some interesting metal laying around.
There was also a not so successful plan to enter Group B with one using the same engine out of the Sunbeam Lotus placed in the middle. Quattro came along and rained on this parade, essentially pushing all efforts to the 205 T16 with 4WD.
This design, at best, is completely polarizing. Personally, I don't find the Tagora at all attractive. However, they were Talbot's push into the RWD executive car market.
Development started in 1976 under Chrysler and the car was ultimately released in 1980. While not a bad car by any stretch, even with the smaller engine options (A larger, 2.7 liter PRV V6 was available if the 4 cylinder 2.2 or 2.3 diesel didn't do it for you), it was far too bland and average to make a dent in an already crowded market. Couple that with boring, drawn with a ruler styling, and an otherwise comfortable and competent car flopped in the market.
Billed as a replacement for the iconic Simca 1000, the Samba was meant to slot right below the Horizon in the overall lineup. What appeared was something that was actually extremely similar already available Peugeot 104. This car had the distinction of being the one and only Talbot model to be completely designed by PSA, and the last Talbot passenger car to ever be produced.
It ain't pretty.
It's so ugly Clarkson even had a hand at blowing one up.
I don't condone car destruction, but eh, it's Clarkson blowing something up at 2 minutes and 41 seconds.
Here's a Talbot badged Murena.
And here's a perennial favorite, the Matra, Matra Simca, Matra Talbot Rancho.
There was simply too much overlap and not enough success for Talbot to survive in the grander scheme of PSA. Passenger car production ended in 1986 while production of the Express van continued until 1992.
Most development that occurred within Talbot was eventually carried over to Peugeot or Citroen leading to some quirky models that didn't exactly fit into their own line ups. The Talbot Arizona became the Peugeot 309, effectively making a mess of Peugeot's naming scheme.
This prototype eventually went on to become the Citroen AX, although, overall development was not nearly as far along and substantial changes occurred as it became a Citroen. Regardless, the overall shape remains!
Naturally, workers didn't take to well to all of this. Relations were already strained as early as 1984. This ultimately led to some unsavory and violent situations. Poissy, the plant where this video was filmed at, was eventually retooled for the production of Peugeot products, particularly the 309 shown above. It continues to this day building Peugeots.
That is the end of this. I hope you enjoyed this short read, despite my urgent need of an editor. They're not fantastic cars by any stretch, but they're quirky, different, and oozing in character. Unless it's a Samba... Of course.
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