Ahead of its Time the Talbot AX65 Darracq
Vehicles of the 1920’s and 30’s have become something of a fascination to me, their beauty, ingenuity and quirky design ideas can hold my attention for hours. This car is also something of a mystery; the actual model itself has had very little written about it, information is so scarce Monsieur Poirot could be enlisted to help with this month’s choice. Lucky for me the car is owned by Alan Appleford and he knows his way around cars of the era, he has restored a few and this gorgeous machine holds no fear. In the early 1900’s Adolphe Clement-Bayard and Charles Chetwynd-Talbot began assembling cars in North Kensington, London under the name of Talbot and did rather well. They produced the first car to cover 103 miles in the hour, thus Percy Lambert became the first man to average over 100mph in 1913. In 1919 the Darracq company took over with a chief engineer named Georges Roesch a man generally acknowledge a mechanical genius and the company built some stuuning, reliable and sporty machines and enjoyed some racing glory. It was at the end of this period the AX65 was produced; being a 1935 model this particular car must have left the line just before the Rootes Group took control of the company.
Supplied new by David Rosenfield Victoria St, Manchester a lovely plaque from the dealer affixed to the dash. Soft leather, real wood with an art deco feel and design features years ahead of its time make the interior a fine place to be. Outside the bonnet and grille fight to dominate the front with the massive headlights so impressive. Then sweeping front wings to the suicide doors, front and rear, unusual at this time as Talbot went over to conventional opening years before on most cars. The Darracq body paired with the Talbot 65 engine (engineered by Georges Roesch) put this machine up with the best cars of the day, compared with and against the mighty Rolls Royce 20/25. Alan switched the ignition on and the Dyna-Motor turned over the 1665 six cylinder motor. Immediately she fired up and ticked over quietly, incredible at nearly 80 years old no clonks or rattles just smooth and silent. Mated with a Wilson Pre-Selector accelerating gearbox described by Alan as a ‘learning curve’ you can’t just jump into these cars and head for the hills, the gear change is not the only part of the drive that takes time to get used too. Drum brakes on cars of this time required some vigour when applied it wasn’t a question of if they would work but when! The AX65 has 16.5 inch drums on the front; Alan describes the design as a type of self-servo, the longer shoe bearing directly on the shorter shoe gives excellent stopping power. The engine has some amazing ingenuity, it holds over three gallons of oil, so changing it requires an enormous drainer, alternatively push down and twist the level and drain button and control the evacuation a gallon at a time; Alan admits to working this out only after getting his feet wet and re colouring his garage floor. There is more, a single carburettor at the front of the manifold with no air filter; cooling this engine without a water pump or fan with a process called thermo syphon. Alan explained this process to me but the chemistry lesson dunces’ cap still fits me well.
The rear window blind is just brilliant, operated by the driver with a cord on a series of pulleys. The occupant’s books or magazines stored in leather pouches in fact the rear passenger accommodation is like sitting in the lounge of an Art Deco Hotel, right down to the antimacassar head rests on the back seats. Now I will not pretend I knew what antimacassar meant until Alans wife Sheila (who made them for the car) explained. Before Brylcreem men used Macassar oil to grease their locks and this marked the leather seats thus antimacassar cloths were supplied for protection, you learn something new every day.
The car shows 36k miles on the clock but history as mentioned previously is vague, so after a year of ownership has the car thrown up a few issues, but just one major repair, the plywood flooring was home to most of the woodworm in Sussex. It was a tough job to complete but on the plus side Alan found the frame was untouched and in perfect order. Floor complete, a leaking core plug and a petrol pump overhaul were quickly dispatched and off to a local show so everyone can enjoy this lovely machine.
My thanks go to Alan and Sheila for taking an afternoon to educate me and I appreciate how unique the AX65 is, it was tres tres bon.