Anthony Lago was a chancer and a character. He was an Italian businessman born in Venice in 1893 who kept the French Talbot car marque alive against ridiculous odds. Lago Talbot cars are the one of the most desirable and expensive in the world especially the ‘Teardrop’ model. He was a devout Catholic who was one of the founders of Italy’s Fascist Movement.
After the war he had a change of heart and criticised the Fascist regime forcing him to leave Italy under death threats. He bought the rights to the Wilson pre-selecting gearbox, and then heard of the ailing Talbot car company in Suresnes Paris. An ideal venue to manufacture gearboxes. He assessed the company as bankrupt and offered to turn it around with an option to buy at a low price.
The factory started to produce cars and established a reputation for racing. This racing prestige enhanced national French honour. In reward the Automobile de France financed Anthony Lago to develop a racing engine. Instead he used the money to re-equip the factory to produce Pratt & Whitney aero engines under contract. It caused a scandal. But he managed to gain lucrative contracts from the Allied Forces. After the war the cars were fantastic but heavily taxed and in 1951 he was declared insolvent again. The Vatican’s Internal bank extened him a loan with the kindness of Pope John XXIII. Sold to Simca in 1958. He died in 1960 with little to show for his tenacity and verve.
Would he be the Car Industry’s Philip Green today? His life sounds glamourous but for the end?
Yet he leaves a legacy of beautiful cars.
Copyright Adrian Scott North London Counsellor Blog 2017
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