About Peter
Why This Site
Cars Peter has Campaigned
Where Peter Races
In The News
Friends & Family
Articles Written by Peter
Peter's Favourite Links
Contact Us






Peter Giddings Racing



I have been a Talbot Lago disciple since teenage years when I helped maintain a four-liter single-cam Talbot (sold as a Darracq in England) and a 4 1/2 liter single cam Talbot. These French pre-war cars, which occasionally I was privileged to drive, were the beginnings of a life long love affair.

A few years ago my passion was somewhat sated by purchasing the ex-Chiron 1949 French Grand Prix winning Talbot Lago, which started its new relationship with me by rumbling up and down part of the old Brooklands track at a small and select reunion, to which I had been invited. The adage ever since the inception of Brooklands in 1907 (and now the CSRG?) has been "The Right Crowd and No Crowding!" Thus I was able to add to 110007's already illustrious history by insuring that it was the first and only Talbot Lago ever to run at the famous circuit.

Subsequently, my car and I got to know each other a little better at a couple of events back east, including a miserably wet and muddy Watkins Glen GP meet, which resulted in my coquettish French amour bursting her water pipe, scalding me badly enough to have to spend the next hour or so in the hospital.

Upon moving to the west coast, I was able to renew my friendship with Stephen Griswold, and through his kind and generous offices started to sort my various Talbot ills. These centered mainly around the car's reluctance to give me a third and fourth gear, and a six cylinder engine - that wasn't!

After brilliant gear box attention by my good friend David McCarthy, the old girl expressed her thanks to me by winning her race at Laguna Seca. It was at this meet that my real Talbot tale begins. However, the reader will please forgive me if I back-track, just a little.

Darracq, Talbot and Talbot Lago owners are an enthusiastic lot - thus the forming of a register by the secretary of the VSCCA, one Tony Carroll, together with the idea of a book on the marque (hopefully to be finished one day) to be written by Anthony Blight, an old English friend of mine and author of the definitive book on English Talbots.

It was book research on Talbot Lago GP engine/chassis numbers that caused us to discover that a few GP cars were unaccounted for including one that had spent some time here on the west coast. The only clues to this second west coast car, (the first one being the ex-Zipper GP, now owned by the Cunningham Museum), was that it was rebuilt into a quasi two-seater special and known as the "Oregon Special" - apparently as a result of the work being done in the state of Oregon.

With this the only clue to go on, approaches were made to the motor vehicle bureau in Oregon, in an effort to trace this Talbot Lago based special - all to no avail.

I had more or less given up on ever finding the "Oregon Special", presuming it to have gone to the "eternal wreckers yard in the sky", when, at the aforementioned Laguna Seca meet, I was approached by a pair of black boots (I was, as is normal for Talbot Lago owners, underneath mine at the time, effecting some repair or other). The owner of said boots informed me that he owned several Talbot Lagos, including a GP!

Fellow rare car owners will readily understand when I say that if I had a dollar for every time someone approaches me at a race meet, informing me that they have at least one of whatever I am running on that particular day, I would now have sufficient scratch to buy that Series One Ferrari GTO that I have been lusting after! Suffice to say that I rudely ignored the boots and continued to work on my pride and joy, at which time their owner made such an insightful remark with regard to the infamous gear box that I realized I was being addressed by someone who really did know what he was talking about.

Such was my enthusiasm to connect the boots to the rest of the body, that my French madam then dealt me the second injury by her hand, cracking my head open against the underside of the chassis.

Mr. Key (a pseudonym) is a unique enthusiast who does indeed own several Talbot Lagos, and what was more exciting to me, a Talbot Lago GP. This car, he explained, was once known as the "Orgeron Special" after a certain "Mr. Fred Orgeron" who, at one time was involved with it. In a single sentence the mystery of the "Oregon Special" was solved and clearly much time and money had been wasted searching around in the state of Oregon!

Looking on the bright side, his surname could have been "Siberia," the research of which could have been even more expensive and fraught, particularly as I am on a salt free diet.

By the end of the day I had gained enough of Mr. Key's confidence to enjoy the privilege of viewing photographs of just some of his Talbot Lagos, all of which were quite delectable. However, there were no photographs at all to be seen of the most tantalizing of them all - the GP.

After the chance meeting at Laguna Seca, I entered into extensive correspondence with Mr. Key in an effort to wrest the GP from him. Through contact by letter and telephone I learned that the car was residing "somewhere in Santa Monica", complete with non-original body and that the engine and other parts were at yet another location. The more I heard about the incompleteness and non-originality of the GP, the more I realized that I was uniquely situated to restore the "Orgeron Special" to its former glory.

Unfortunately Mr. Key was not the slightest bit interested in parting with his treasure, even although it was patently clear to me that he had neither the skill, knowledge or wherewithall to ever put the car back into its original single seater form. Anyway, after much frustration and perseverance from my end, he at last agreed to consider a trade against an open two seater street Talbot Lago. Street Talbot Lagos in this configuration are just about as rare, as if Mr. Key had graciously deigned to consider the trade of a Bugatti Royale!

Now followed weeks of trans-continental telephone calls and letters searching for an open two seater Talbot Lago - all to no avail. When I had all but given up I discovered that Anthony Bamford's Dubos-bodied Talbot Lago, which he had been using as a personal car in Paris for many years, had just been sold to my friend Jackson Brooks in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Jackson, great enthusiast that he is, upon hearing my plight, not only agreed to part with the car, but also suggested a meeting between Mr. & Mrs. Key, myself, and, of course, our hopeful "carrot" - the open two seater Dubos Talbot Lago!

In no time at all I had flown Mr. & Mrs. Key out to Fort Collins, where we were all most impressed with the car - although extremely pricey which meant that effectively I would be paying through the nose for the Talbot GP. I could now smell blood, and I was determined to see the project through, no matter what the cost. A few days later, I followed up on the Keys' all expenses paid visit to Fort Collins and was shattered to hear that as much as they liked the car, they still could not bring themselves to part with the GP! Once again, weeks went by, during which time I did my best to convince them that they could never restore it.

I then decided to play my final card and purchased the car from Jackson anyway. You can imagine Mr. Key's surprise when I presented him with the Dubos ignition key and told him it was sitting outside his home.

Mr. Key managed, more or less, to keep his composure and played his final trump card, insisting that I throw into the deal a spare Talbot Lago engine and gear box! This proviso just about broke me - mentally and financially. However, I had gone too far, and now there was no pulling back. Thus the deal was concluded without my ever seeing the Orgeron Special, or indeed having any idea as to condition or state of completeness!

Now followed another frustrating period while Mr. Key tried to work out how he was going to deliver the dismantled engine and the car to a neutral spot, as he had never allowed anyone to see any of the Talbot Lago storage locations.

Finally, upon agreeing to be blindfolded, I was taken (and instructed to tell anyone who might stop us that I had been involved in an accident!) on a series of back doubles and circles, which trip, doubtless, would have only taken a few minutes if driven directly. I was now "somewhere in Los Angeles" and the garage door protecting my new acquisition was now being unlocked for the first time in many years.

My initial impressions were good. Tragically, the complicated fuel tank was missing (I had hoped that it had been retained underneath the new "Orgeron Special” body work). On the plus side, the structure supporting the saddle oil tank, steering mechanism, instruments, etc. was more or less intact. The gear box was in place, and the chassis had not altered.

The quasi center-steering body, which featured little jump seats either side of the central seat so as to qualify for SCCA Class C racing, was exquisitely well done and had obviously been made on a wheeling machine as there was no evidence of hammering on the underside of the panel work. In shape it was reminiscent of Jaguar D type come DBR1-3000.

Having put air in the tires, we loaded the chassis on to my trusty Don Parker trailer, and it was off to yet another location to collect the engine. It was here that my troubles began because, to my horror, major components were missing. An only slightly embarrassed Mr. Key then explained to me that he had changed locations some seven times in ten years and that every time he had moved, some part or other had gone missing!

I, of course, was denied access to the other locations in order to look for the missing pieces so, reluctantly, I left, having extracted a promise from Mr. Key that he would seek out all of the shorted items for me. Few, if any, of these missing pieces ever appeared although the complicated front and rear engine mounts did finally surface, a few days after I had given up and had some made!

Upon getting my basket case home, we immediately named it the "Orgeron Folly", as clearly it was going to be a long and expensive exercise to get the car back into its original form.

In no time at all, with the help of my friend and neighbor Dan Radowicz, the body was hacksawed off of the chassis and sold to a friend of Jack Hagemann.

Having seen too many well intentioned friends start restoration projects and then do virtually nothing for the next ten years, I decided to alter my business commitments in such a way that I could for a year (or however long it would take) work on the Talbot GP on a more or less full time basis. Thus it was that Stephen Griswold once again rallied to the cause and with Phil Reilly's approval paid the ultimate compliment of allowing me to work on the car alongside his wonderful crew.

A whole book could be written on the dramas of the restoration. But, apart from not having time to write such a tome, I am afraid that reliving all of the dramas and expense once again would finally put me in the asylum. So we will just say that after a year's hard work, and some exceptionally talented work from David McCarthy and other Griswold wizards, 110054 finally rolled out of the restoration facility, just in time to run at the Long Beach GP, where it ran faultlessly.

Restoring a car is a little like going to the dentist - once over, the pain is soon forgotten. The joy and satisfaction of saving this Talbot Lago has been only exceeded by the thrill of driving it.

110054 is representative of the factory's final fling, featuring, as it does, side-draft Webers, a stronger crank and limited slip diff. Even so, when put on the scales at Long Beach the car weighed in at over 21 cwt with probably no more than 185 bhp at the rear wheels. When you consider that the Maserati 4 CLT weighs 15 cwt and puts out some 260 hbp, the Alfa Romeo 158/159 weighs 15 cwt and puts out some 350 hbp and the Ferrari 4 1/2 liter GP weighs 17 cwt and puts out in the region of 380 bhp, you can see why the success of the Talbot GP, both at Le Mans and in Gran Eprevee was so commendable.

I am still researching the history of 110054. What I have found so far is that this factory car ran in many races including: 1949 (driven by Girard Cabantous) - the Montlhery GP (2nd place): in 1950 the Albi, Dutch, French (8th place), Pescara, Europe (Silverstone) (4th place) and Swiss (Rosier) (third place) GPs. In 1951 Gonzalez drove the car in a 500 mile race in Argentina, which his compatriot, Fangio, won in an identical car at record pace. Girard Cabantous also drove the car in the Spanish, French and Belgian (5th place) GPs plus the German GP (where it was the fastest Talbot Lago qualifier).

In the early '50s the car was sold by Levegh to the U.S.A. and it was run here in a few formula libre events before being converted by Jack Sutton and Robert Wood into a central seat two seater for Terry Hall. Jack Sutton was an Englishman who loved the shape of the Aston and the Jaguar, and was in fact the first man to introduce the wheel method (as opposed to the hammer) of panel making to the U.S.A. in the late '50s.

Later on 110054 suffered a spun bearing and was put into storage pending the installation of a Chevrolet engine. In the early '60s the GP engine was sold to a Talbot Lago owner who subsequently discovered that it really was not suitable for installation in his street car. The rolling chassis, less the engine, was then sold to Mr. Key. It was much later that Mr. Key obtained the dismantled GP engine, already short of many parts .

Which is where we came in!


Orgeron Special Body

The Orgeron Special body, now refurbished and on a new space-frame; campaigned by Butch Gilbert as the Hageman-Sutton Special. Coronado 2006, photo by Mike Sims.