1913 Talbot 15hp Works Hill-Climber

  • Brand: Talbot
  • Car Code: 560198
1913 Talbot 15hp Works Hill-Climber
The wonderful reputation of the ‘Invincible Talbots’ is widely regarded as having been earned by the North Kensington-based marque through the late-1920s and early 1930s.
However, the Roesch-era Talbots actually built upon the success, and abounding prestige, of an earlier generation of British-built Talbot cars, as exemplified by the mouth-watering Edwardian-era 15hp “works hill-climber” which is this car.
British Talbot cars were built in London, by Clement-Talbot Limited. The company had been formed in 1902, initially to import French-made Clement cars until a new factory was ready for UK manufacture. The Talbot name was derived from the family of the Earl of Shrewsbury and Talbot, company director and leading shareholder, who had been importing Clement cars since 1900.
A dedicated new factory was built in Barlby Road, North Kensington, and by the end of 1904 it had begun assembly of cars from French-made components. The first British-designed Talbot emerged in 1906, and the marque’s sporting activities were boosted in 1911 with the appointment of a new designer, George W.A. Brown, ex-Argyll, Humber and Austin, where he had been responsible for the successful “Pearly” racers.
Brown’s new range for 1913, featured stronger crankcases, crankshafts and connecting rods, larger water jackets and valves and full pressure lubrication, all of which gave them greater development potential for competition. This took the form of higher valve lift and increased engine speeds thanks to special lightweight pistons and light but strong connecting rods. It is also likely that higher compression ratios were used. Power outputs for the 20/30 (also known as the 15hp) and 25/50 competition power units were claimed in period, respectively as 117bhp and 132bhp – at 3,000rpm.
To launch this new range the Earl of Shrewsbury and Talbot commissioned a streamlined single-seater based on the chassis of the smallest car in the line up, the 12hp, fitted with the competition 25hp engine with the intention of breaking the world’s record for one hour, and to exceed 100 miles in that time. Brown’s colleague and friend Percy Lambert drove. The first attempt at Brooklands Motor Course was lost due to tyre failure but the second attempt in February 1913 was an outstanding success, Lambert completing 103.84 miles within the hour making him the fastest man in the world at the time, and attracting huge press coverage.
The British hill-climb and sprint scene in those Edwardian days was considered by those who took part in it to be equal to – if not more important than – the racing season at Brooklands. All the best-known amateur and works drivers and all the most celebrated manufacturers participated. These events gained significance because they were the only form of speed competition possible on the public roads of the United Kingdom and were accessible to many more people than the regular Brooklands attendees – generating good local publicity which boosted regional agents’ sales.
In their heyday short-distance sprints and hill-climbs proliferated, generally run by provincial clubs. Often an enthusiastic squire would simply tell the local police constable to turn a blind eye and find something else to do on the chosen date. Clement Talbot took advantage of this stage upon which to strut, building a team of works cars for all classes to dominate the results.
Historian T.R. Nicholson, in ‘Sprint’, his seminal record of speed hill-climbs and speed trials in Britain, 1899-1925, describes how “To the contemporary, 1913 was the year of broken records and remarkable times.”
That sprint season really began that May with the Herts Automobile Club ‘climb at Aston Clinton in Buckinghamshire, backed by one of the country’s wealthiest landowners, Alfred de Rothschild and ending in tea for 800 at his nearby home.
For Talbot, works driver George Day took first place on time and third place “on Formula” in his works 15hp, the car offered today.
Just two weeks later, Shelsley Walsh hill-climb saw the RAC offer competitors a waiver of a previous rule requiring cars to ascend fully laden. Remaining true to the old regulation, George Day attacked the hill with three passengers aboard his 15hp Talbot, “…achieving a greater laden weight than any car competing”, earning a huge advantage in the Formula competition, which he won by a huge margin.
At Caerphilly in South Wales, Day drove the Talbot works’ 12hp and 15hp cars to yet more class victories. The next day at Porthcawl he was again unbeatable in the smaller-capacity classes while Stokes’ Brooklands Talbot demolished Vauxhall hopes overall.
In September 1913 at Greenhow Hill, Pateley Bridge, Clement Talbot fielded a team of five works cars. Again results were outstanding: “Five Talbots were entered in the open class (two of 12hp, one of 15hp and two of 25hp) and they succeeded in scoring first and second places on Formula, making the fastest ascent of the day and secured first and third places on time”.
Production Start 1913
Country of origin Great Britain