Million Dollar Car – Buying a 1937 Talbot-Lago T150-C-SS

Gooding & Company offered plenty of cars for sale at Amelia Island this year, and several of them broke into seven-figures. There were supercars from lots of years – including a 1991 Ferrari F40, a 1959 Porsche 718 RSK, a 1967 Toyota-Shelby 2000 GT, and a 2005 Porsche Carrera GT to name a few – but the most anticipated car of the week was clearly the 1937 Talbot-Lago T150-C-SS Teardrop Coupe. Gooding’s estimate was in excess of $10,000,000.

The Talbot-Lago T150-C-SS debuted at the Paris Motor Show in 1936 and it was essentially a road-going version of the company’s T150 C competition car. Quite advanced for its time the T150-C-SS was powered by a 140 HP engine with alloy hemispherical cylinder heads and three carburetors, knock-off wire wheels, independent transverse leaf spring front suspension, an underslung rear axle, a single-shot lubrication system, and a remarkable 120 liter fuel tank. Talbot-Lago sold the T150-C-SS as a chassis without any bodywork, which would be completed by a variety of coachbuilders.

Million Dollar Car

Million Dollar Car - 1937 Talbot-Lago T150-C-SS
A Million Dollar Car - the 1937 Talbot-Lago T150-C-SS Teardrop Coupe

Very few examples of the T150-C-SS were built – well under 50 – making this an extremely desirable car to collectors in the know.

The example offered by Gooding & Co was bodied by Figoni et Falaschi, a firm founded in 1923 by Joseph Figoni following his apprenticeship at another famous coachbuilder, Lavocat et Marsaud. Figoni focused on lightweight and sporty bodies. Following the investment of an Italian financier, by 1935 Figoni had enough capital and resources to join the upper echelons of the coachbuilding world, debuting a Delahaye Roadster in 1936.

Perhaps the best-known design of Figoni is the one covering this T150-C-SS, which he referred to as a “faux cabriolet” although it’s now known as the Goutte d’Eau, or Teardrop. Reports vary as to the total number of Teardrop Coupes built on the T150-C-SS chassis, but it’s generally accepted that the number falls around 10. These were built in two styles, the first featuring a notchback design with the second version as a fastback design and premiering at the New York International Auto Show in 1937 – it was appropriately named, “Modéle New York.”

The specific car offered by Gooding & Co, chassis 90107, has an extremely well-documented ownership history that dates back to its first owner in 1938, André David of Paris. Prior to its first owner this was Faigoni et Falsachi’s order number 665 and is believed to be the only remaining example of the most extreme variation of the Modéle New York design, featuring all aluminum construction and completely enveloping skirted front fenders. The only other example built to this specification no longer has its original coachwork.

All of this sets the scene for the bidding that we witnessed on March 4. It can take some strategy to successfully bid on a car of this quality and value, and it takes determination. Most importantly, it takes two bidders and we were fortunate enough to speak with the winning bidder following the auction.

A $12,000,000 Plan

The winning bidder, who we will not name out of respect for his or her privacy, touched down in Amelia fully intending to purchase the Talbot-Lago T150-C-SS. There was no doubt in that person’s mind that the car was going to be theirs. However, there was no intention of bidding the car to $12.2 Million on the block either. That’s where the other bidder came into play.

Most people planning to bid on a significant car such as this T150-C-SS don’t broadcast their intentions to the world, but every so often someone gets a bit bold and discusses their plans for bidding. When the winning bidder arrived in Amelia Island, rumors were swirling about another bidder who was fully prepared to bid the Talbot-Lago up to $12 Million. These rumors turned out to be more than just rumors and came from multiple sources, causing the winning bidder to reassess the situation. Not only was this person going to take this Talbot-Lago home, they now had to ready to spend more than $12 Million, plus commission. And that was the mindset the winning bidder had when the T150-C-SS came onto the block.

The room was tense when the bids started approaching the ten million mark. In slow increments of a hundred thousand dollars, each bidder hit the serve back to the other. And then it happened – a ten million dollar bid from the soon to be victorious bidder. That was countered with another hundred thousand dollars on top of it. That was when the winning bidder had enough.

A strong bid can be effective in an auction when trying to shut down a competing bidder, and that’s what happened. In one bid the price jumped from $10.1 Million to $11 Million. A sign that the soon to be victorious bidder wasn’t backing down.

Eventually the bids reached the $12 Million ceiling the underbidder had told so many people was the limit – a bid put forth by the winning bidder – but one the underbidder tried once more with a bid of $12.1 Million, briefly letting emotions and pride take over. The winning bidder did what it took and put up a final bid of $12,200,000 on the block and the car was sold.

Millions of Dollars and No Regrets

After commission the Talbot-Lago T150-C-SS ended up costing far more than expected, but the winning bidder still walked away happy – even if they had to pay $13.425 Million for the privilege of owning, quite possibly, the greatest Talbot-Lago in existence. Following the auction we spoke with the winning bidder and they regretted nothing while everyone present congratulated the new owner of the 1937 Talbot-Lago T150-C-SS.