Rare Car Network

Rare Car Network
Unique Classics, Replicas and Build Culture
						Talbo Lago 1
Teardrop Tribute

Talbo-Lago from TLC Carrossiers

Story and Photos by Joe Greeves

In the late ’30s and into 1940, French car designers displayed a level of automotive bravado that exceeded anything seen before or since. Sweeping lines accented with lavish use of chrome, along with shrouded front fenders, and skirted rears exemplified voluptuous as the design adjective of the day. These rolling works of art make the functional aerodynamics of today’s cars appear austere by comparison.

Creating a mix of old and new, where sensuous lines blend with modern technology, means the best of both worlds to George Balaschak — who has been doing just that since 1991. His Talbo Lago is a slightly scaled down re-creation of the 1938 Talbot-Lago, built by French designer Figoni et Falaschi. The vintage, late-1930s teardrop styling is a decisive departure from modern offerings from Detroit and draws curious onlookers at every stoplight.

It’s the refinement under the skin, however, that whisks you elegantly into the new millennium. On the outside, you get the crowd-gathering, traffic-stopping custom coachwork inspired by the golden age of automotive styling. On the inside, the joy is compounded. Rather than antiquated ergonomics, coal-truck suspension and wheezing 80-year-old technology, you get a quiet, comfortable and downright spirited automobile, loaded with many of the features you’d expect from today’s most elite transportation. As a bonus, that bright young guy down at the corner garage can likely service just about the whole package.

George owns TLC Carrossiers (Talbo Lago Coupe Coachbuilders) in Riviera Beach, Florida, combining his love of cars, with a degree in mechanical engineering and a career at Pratt & Whitney. In addition to the Talbo, George has built everything from custom show cars, to aircraft and submarine parts with his five-axis CNC machine. The business started as a hobby, but it soon transitioned into a passion with a simple goal.

“I wanted a modern sports car that could stand on its own.” His re-creation of the Talbot’s famous “drop of water” body style took him more than five years, making subtle adjustments throughout the process. While the car’s lines remain true to the original, George reduced the size of the handlaid, composite fiberglass body slightly, bringing it into scale with modern tires. The Dayton 16-inch, 70-spoke wire wheels and Michelin rubber fill the wheel wells perfectly and provide all the handling advantages of modern tire technology.

Externally, very little of the original flowing lines of the car were modified. The pontoon fenders still guide the eye in graceful waves from front to rear. Flush-fitting fender skirts form compound curves, actually adding to the width of the car, while forming a gentle teardrop shape that tapers to the slender rear bumper. Multiple, hand-formed, stainless steel trim pieces highlight the sensuous curves. Even after careful observation, it’s difficult to find a straight line anywhere on the body!

The doors and side windows are round, and the rear window is semicircular. Round, aftermarket Corvette taillight lenses, dressed in hand-formed stainless steel housings, are many times larger than the small lights used on the original but are far more practical for modern traffic. Three ovoid grilles in front continue the theme with the central grille feeding the high-capacity radiator from Walker Radiator Works. The other two grilles are actually electrically operated headlight doors that rotate upward to reveal the modern halogen lighting system, positioning them at the proper, DOT-mandated height. Blade bumpers, a louvered hood, traditional side mirrors, and modern, flush-fitting, Kindig-It Design door handles wrap up the exterior. George finished the job by spraying a beautiful shade of Glasurit Atlantic blue pearl.

Enter the leather-lined cockpit through the inviting, rear-hinged (suicide) doors, and the Talbo continues its intriguing blend of old and new. The chestnut dash carries a full complement of vintage, white-faced instruments with French script, custom-crafted for the car. A Moto-Lita wheel gives the driver a hands-on connection, while old-style knobs on the dash have been adapted to work the air conditioning, power windows, power door locks and other essential controls. A modern stereo nestles inconspicuously under the dash and hidden speakers fill the interior with music.

George buys partially completed seat frames from Glide Engineering in California and adds his own computer-developed, contoured foam padding. Jeff Phipps Trim Shoppe in West Palm Beach, Florida, then stitches the glove-soft leather. Hidden six-way power controls provide modern adjustments, and the interior accommodates six-footers with ease. Honduran mahogany trim on the seatbacks, door windowsills and dash reinforces the feel of oldworld artistry. Much of the astonishing comfort of the car, however, comes from the advanced engineering underneath.

The car shown here is a Series 2 model built in 2010 and equipped with a four-cam aluminum V8, found in Lincolns and Jaguars. George adapts new engine technology as it arrives on the scene, and this 3.9-liter V8 with double overhead cams and its Ford five-speed automatic moves the car with satisfying speed and efficiency. The Series 2 suspension uses unequal-length A-arms up front and a Lincoln Mark VIII setup in the rear, consisting of an 8.8-inch TractionLok differential and fully independent rear suspension. The earlier transverse fiberglass rear springs have been swapped in favor of QA1 adjustable coilover shocks on all four corners for better rebound and damping control. Stock Ford disc brakes are used in the rear with stopping power guaranteed up front by fourpiston Wilwood calipers. The wheels are 7 x 17 Dayton wires with Michelin 60-Series rubber.

Testing his cars in the best way possible, George and his wife, Jacquie, drove this car from Florida to northern Canada, putting more than 9,000 miles on the odometer and enjoying every minute. All his cars are highway proven, beginning with his first car that accumulated 35,000 miles before he sold it to create the next one. Customers do their share of real-world testing as well, with one sporting individual logging more than 80,000 miles behind the wheel.

After almost three decades of production, however, it is time for George to turn his attention to something new. He’s content though, since the company’s new owner Gilles Chirignan is a consummate car guy, immersed in the business from both sides. Gilles’ background is in mechanical engineering, and he has built multiple high-performance cars in the past. He’s French, the car is French, and when he saw the ad in Hemmings, he decided it was time to depart from the corporate world and do something he really loved. He sold his home in Massachusetts, moving to Florida, and his first car is well underway. He estimates it will take less than a year to complete, but it can be done faster if the demand warrants.

The initial offering will be gas powered, but he is also familiar with electric power. He’s been involved in several electric vehicle conversions and currently drives a Tesla. He already has a 30-kW package and four electric motors on the shelf, ready for installation.

Whether gas or electric, the Talbo is a reimagined French masterpiece. C’est formidable!

Comments for: Teardrop Tribute

comments powered by Disqus

Filed Under