Figoni's commissions for racing cars began to shift the coachbuilder's image and reputation in a more sporting direction. Alfa Romeos, Lancias, Bugattis, and other sporting marques began to figure more prominently in his shop. Figoni's shop was located near an airfield, and he was a daily witness to aerodynamic efficiency. The curved shapes of the aircraft were to become a major inspiration in Figoni's creations.
The Talbot-Lago cabriolet pictured here is Chassis 90115, Figoni factory order #705. This two-place automobile was commissioned by M. Cattino of France with a metallic blue body and iridescent blue fenders; it was built on a short T150C SS chassis.
The second owner of this car was the famous racing driver Louis Rosier. Rosier was a man whose life revolved around his passion: racing motor cars. He was born in Chapdes-Beaufort in 1905, the son of a wine merchant. He apprenticed as a mechanic, then opened his own garage with both Renault and Talbot-Lago franchises. His passion for racing began with motorcycles, and he was an avid driver of Harley-Davidson motorcycles, running hillclimbs from 1927 onwards, eventually switching to auto racing in the late 1930s.
Rosier became something of a French national hero when he became active in the Resistance in his area. The Germans tried to capture him but failed, kidnapping his wife and daughter instead. Rosier followed them to Germany as the war ended, finding them and bringing them home.
After the war he resumed his passion for racing, entering a Talbot in the Monte Carlo Rallye. His success there prompted him to purchase s/n 90115 and begin entering French national races - racing under the name of his own team, Ecurie Rosier. The team was set up to race Rosier's own cars, but often ran a second car, providing rides for such notable drivers as Louis Chiron and Maurice Trintignant.
He was immediately successful, with wins at Albi in 1947 and Forez in 1948. It was in 1949, however, when his career took off, with a win at the Belgian Grand Prix, and the first of five times he would be crowned French National Champion.
He entered no less than 38 Formula One World Championship races, achieving many podium finishes in racing of all kinds. He won the Dutch Grand Prix in two consecutive years (1950 and 1951), won first overall at Le Mans (racing with his son as co-driver!). Tragically, Rosier was killed in a racing accident at Le Mans in 1956, and posthumously awarded the French "Order of the Nation".
Although the coachwork of #90115 has taken two forms, the Grand Prix racing coachwork it still wears today was installed new for Louis Rosier. Delivery to the first owner took place in 1938, shortly before the Nazi invasion of France. Although we know the legendary Louis Rosier was the next owner, the date of the sale is not known. Naturally, all motor racing ceased with the advent of hostilities, and the car must have been hidden for the duration. It seems likely that Rosier purchased the car after the war as it was in 1946 that he began driving the car when motor racing resumed following the war. Still wearing its Figoni coachwork, Rosier simply removed the wings and windscreen and effected other small changes in order to make it more suitable for competition.
Later, in 1947, Rosier had new Grand Prix coachwork fabricated and installed, reportedly by the Talbot factory. This is the coachwork that remains with the car today. Upon close examination, the cowl structure is identical to that of the other T150C chassis, indicating that the Figoni body may not have been removed and discarded, but rather re-skinned and rebuilt into its new form.
During 1946 and 1947 Rosier actively campaigned #90115. He finished most often in the top six, with a handful of first place finishes during the period, including an overall win at the Grand Prix of Albi, and a fourth place finish at the Grand Prix du France.
In 1948 Rosier took delivery of a new Talbot-Lago T26 and sold #90115 to Charles Huc, who raced the car in 1948 and 1949. In 1950 the car was in the hands of M. Fayen, who raced it several times in 1951 and 1952 before selling it to M. Leroy of Le Havre, France. It was here that something happened that would confound historians for more than fifty years. While s/n 90115 was in Leroy's garage, so too was #90111, a sister car with Figoni roadster coachwork. For reasons long forgotten, Leroy switched the chassis plates between the two cars. The most likely explanation is that one car had duties and taxes paid, while the other didn't? But for whatever reason the tags would remain reversed until 2009, when a consensus of historians and the two owners agreed on what had happened, and furthermore, agreed to set things right by returning the tags to their proper chassis.
The next recorded owner was Paul Bignon in 1959, followed by well known collector Pierre Bardinon, and then (for more than 40 years) by Jean Serre, another great French collector.
Source: RM Auctions.
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