The car is a 1934 Talbot ’95’.
Talbot, manufactured in Kensington, London were an extremely high quality marque and rivalled much better known makes, such as Bentley, on the racetracks of Europe, Ireland and of course England.
They were designed by a Swiss engineer, Georges Roesch and, in their time were called “The Invincible Talbots” because of their giant killing performances against cars with capacities as much as 50% greater.
Our car was bought in The Wirrall, near Liverpool in the summer of 2005. It had been off the road for an estimated twenty years, undergoing an ‘overhaul’ by the previous owner. He had bought the car from the business partner of the first owner’s husband, so we are only the fourth name to appear in the log book. It originally had a voluminous saloon body which, while intact, had suffered a considerable amount of rot to the supporting wooden structure. A decision was made to replace the body with a lightweight ‘Alpine’ racing body for the event with all the original panels and fixtures preserved for future use. The chassis was stripped completely to the very last nut and bolt so that it could be checked for trueness and reinforced to withstand the rigours of the journey ahead. A body frame was acquired from a friend in England and skinned not far from home in the fishing town of Kilkeel with lightweight aluminium alloy. The gearbox is of an unusual type in that it is a pre-selector and has epicyclic gears. This was sent off to Cecil Schumacher (no relation of Michael) who has vast experience of these components and built a similar gearbox for a Talbot which competed in the “Around the World in 80 Days” competition in 2000. Lessons learnt from that have been incorporated into ours. The chassis and engine are in the care of Toye engineering, near Killyleagh, where Terry Murphy and Chris Ward have years of experience with this type of car.
A two-seater with a three litre, six cylinder overhead valve engine. It is 15 foot in length and has four forward speeds and reverse. The hand brake is on the right and the gearchange is performed by a tiny lever on the steering column. The original petrol tank in the pointed racing tail has been replaced with two tanks in the middle of the car where the rear seat passengers would originally have put their feet. A third, emergency tank is located over the back axle. With a capacity of about 40 gallons (180 litres) they should give us the range required in the Gobi Desert where petrol stations aren’t ‘just around the corner’. A sump guard has been fitted and this has been loaned by James Wheildon who took his Talbot on a race from London to Sydney in 1988 – completely unsupported by any backup. Many other modifications have been incorporated to withstand the rigours of the journey.
We have even had special seats made, individually tailored to our different postures and dimensions. The seat cushions can be swapped from one side to the other and they are also heated for those sub-zero starts in the Mongolian mornings.
Special arrangements were made for fuel, with sufficient tankage for about 500 miles without stopping and adequate water and dirt filters to prevent the damage that could happen with poor quality fill-ups.