Finnish Line: Extracting the full potential of the Talbot Tagora

It’s safe to say I’m a big fan of the Talbot Tagora. I don’t know what it is about the Tagora that really appeals to me: either it’s the super-brutalist, slab-sided design, its troubled birth in the hands of Chrysler Europe and Peugeot-Citroën, or the fact the SX variant was the fastest French production sedan at the time, thanks to having the sole PRV V6 derivative with triple Webers instead of two.

Nevertheless, the Tagora was a huge failure, which might be one of the reasons why I like it so much. There are also no Tagoras where I live, as Finnish Talbot production was limited to only the Horizon and Solara family cars and the executive Tagora was left out.

Considering the Tagora’s niche appeal, there are a couple different ways to approach the car today.

First of all, no normal person knows of the Tagora. Not many were sold, the design isn’t easy on the eyes and survivors are rare. As a result, they only seem to exist at car shows somewhere in France or in complete beater condition on Leboncoin, the French Craigslist. A mint condition V6 with well-tuned Webers runs you closer to 10k than 5k these days, and you’d still spend forever and eternity looking for NOS parts for the car to keep it looking the way it does in original brochure shots.

The second approach is far more daring, and a back story needs to be provided for it.

Despite the resurrected Talbot brand not being a huge success in the early ‘80s, the company was still eager enough to have a racing program. Subsequently, Danielson, a Talbot garage was entrusted with extracting more power from the 2.2 Douvrin four-cylinder that was relatively common in French saloons at the time, including the Citroën CX and the Peugeot 505, which also donated much of its mechanicals to the Tagora when PSA re-engineered the Chrysler Europe “Project C9” to be produceable after the takeover. Danielson created a better flowing custom head for the 2.2 Douvrin, with a hotter cam and larger valves as part of the package.

Danielson’s efforts resulted in 210 horsepower, which is almost 100hp more than either the Tagora GLS’s 2.2 Simca or the 2.2 Douvrin unit produced stock; some sources say it was the Simca 2.2 that received the tuning, but these are different engines. Compare that to the positively lightweight 920kg end result of the Tagora’s racing preparations, and in the hands of Jean-Pierre Beltoise, the Dinin-Michelin-Total sponsored, red-orange-yellow Tagora Superproduction should have been a wild success.

It was not. The 1982 season resulted in no finishes for the Tagora, which probably didn’t further Talbot’s market exposure in the way the company intended. For 1983, the hot four-cylinder was plucked out, and replaced with a Danielson-tuned PRV that produced a whopping 275 horsepower, again a hundred horses stronger than the stock V6, with the 1983 car weighing in at just a tonne.

Despite that, it took until October 1984 for the Tagora to actually win a race, at Monthlery. And even so, a false start caused the actual final standings to place it at a lowly sixth, despite Jean-Claude Lompech’s best efforts. The last race for the Tagora Superproduction was at Magny-Cours in 1985, which saw it finish 13th.

 

This brings us to the final idea. Don’t go chasing a mint condition SX V6. Instead, take the best base Tagora you can find anywhere in France, the cheapest one or the only one. Your mileage may vary. Strip it, weld it, slam it to the ground to emulate the ambitious stance of the original racer. Put in a roll cage.

Lose the engine, which probably won’t run at the moment anyway. Replace it with a serviceable PRV V6 from a Volvo 760 (Some people would interject here, asking why you wouldn’t start with a non-rusty and more common Volvo 760 to begin with. Don’t). Reproduction Weber carbs can be sourced for the Volvo PRV, ones that are probably less porous than the Tagora originals.

Respray the end result in correct enough Batteries DININ colors, and depending from availability, get vintage barrel wheels for it or just run banded steelies. The bolt pattern is 4×140, meaning that some old Subaru wheels will fit as well as Peugeot 505 ones. The Tagora’s hilariously narrow 505 rear axle will come to your rescue here, as the stock car has its rear wheels tucked way inboard for cost saving reasons, but this only means you can fit fatter rubber there without having to bolt on fender flares. When the dust settles, you should have a 2200-lb superproduction replica saloon with close enough to 200hp and a brilliant V6 sound. No-one will know what the hell it is you have built, but it’ll be great anyway.

As for me, I’ll come back to these caffeinated fever dream notes when I have the budget ready. For the time being, I’ll be watching those Tagora V6 clips on YouTube.

[Images: Talbot, alte-franzosen, Leboncoin]

29 Comments

    1. If only it wasn’t a Giugiaro design, but by a rivaling Italian design house, then it could be the DININ-Farina!

  1. Highly entertaining post and I fail to remember a more apt description of what I perceive as a core Hooniverse car:

    no normal person knows of the Tagora. Not many were sold, the design isn’t easy on the eyes and survivors are rare

    About the PRV’s: 760’s have become quite expensive in their own right, but many Volvo people consider the unbreakable red blocks an improvement over the sluggish and thirsty PRV. I have seen at least two of them with four cylinders swapped in. Surely, these PRVs must find new, caring owners to live on with?

    1. Does anyone know how the Longitudinal and tranverse PRVs compare?
      I had the last Version of the PRV in my XM (fuel injected, even fire 3.0) it was nowhere near as rubbish as legend has it.

      1. That was a pretty comprehensive update with new heads. They are VERY reliable as the engine had been in production for many many years, apart from the 24 valve version which can wear out cam followers and blow headgaskets. By then the engine was in it’s third generation, the second generation stemming from Lancia’s work improving the refinement and upping the capacity for the Thema. This introduced the split crankpin even firing, required in 90 degree V6s to sort out the second order imbalance that 60 degree V6s don’t suffer from. (See also Buick V6)

        1. The question was more aimed at motormounts and bell housing patterns, as in, “Could you swap in a later PRV without jumping through the usual hoops, fuel injection wiring nonewithstanding.”

          1. Why waste a good Motor on a DMC, when you could put it in a tasty Alpine?

            Minor correction though, the 24valve version was a PSA thing, as far as i know, Renault stuck a Turbo on the 12 valve.
            Apart from this, an Alpine got better and a Safrane got off the road, that’s what I would call a win-win.

            Now, if Renault would finally put a manual in the new Alpine, i could seriously see myself making a bad financial descision.

          2. Why waste a good Motor on a DMC, when you could put it in a tasty Alpine?

            Minor correction though, the 24valve version was a PSA thing, as far as i know, Renault stuck a Turbo on the 12 valve.
            Apart from this, an Alpine got better and a Safrane got off the road, that’s what I would call a win-win.

            Now, if Renault would finally put a manual in the new Alpine, i could seriously see myself making a bad financial descision.

          3. You are right. I checked and the Alpine had a 605 24V from a rolled Peugeot. No wonder the wiring was a nightmare!

  2. “no normal person knows of the Tagora” – it is a rare thing to know exactly when you stopped being normal. Looks like I stopped just now…

  3. This would be an awesome Lemons theme, is somebody over there would start an endurance race for 300 Euro beaters. I’m nerdy enough to have heard of the Talbot Tagora,(probably in connection with a Practical Classics “less than 10 on the road in the UK” article) but this the first time I’ve noticed how much it resembles a blockier VW Santana/Quantum.

    If you can find a donor go for it,

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/51/Volkswagen_Santana_02_China_2012-04-08.JPG/1024px-Volkswagen_Santana_02_China_2012-04-08.JPG

  4. This would be an awesome Lemons theme, is somebody over there would start an endurance race for 300 Euro beaters. I’m nerdy enough to have heard of the Talbot Tagora,(probably in connection with a Practical Classics “less than 10 on the road in the UK” article) but this the first time I’ve noticed how much it resembles a blockier VW Santana/Quantum.

    If you can find a donor go for it,

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/51/Volkswagen_Santana_02_China_2012-04-08.JPG/1024px-Volkswagen_Santana_02_China_2012-04-08.JPG

  5. Interesting article– thanks for the education! In my ignorance, I mistakenly thought Talbot was British. I have almost zero experience (and if I’m honest, interest) in French vehicles, with my only hands-on exposure being my college roommate’s 1985 Peugeot 505 STI TD. I remember it fondly, though, as a handsome brick of a car that was built like a tank and smoked like a brush fire.
    I think in this case I would definitely go with the Volvo 700, though with the four-cylinder engine and preferably as a wagon. Other than the aforementioned 505, the only other French vehicle that I truly find desirable is the C2V.

    1. Talbot was a dual nationality make. It was founded in London at the turn of the 20th century and gained a French arm when it was taken over by Paris-based Darracq and Talbot branding was adopted across the combined range. They were joined by Sunbeam, but when Sunbeam-Talbot-Darracq collapsed following the Depression the British and French parts were split up. The British half was absorbed by Rootes and the French half by Simca. Then Chrysler bought both Rootes and Simca reuniting everything again. When Peugeot took over Chrysler Europe and wanted to rebrand all the Hillmans and Simcas they inherited they chose Talbot because it was both British and French.

      1. This is what I like about the automotive hobby– there’s always more to learn. This site has definitely expanded my car knowledge, and the international contributors in particular give an interesting perspective I don’t normally see. My redneck Appalachian upbringing didn’t provide much exposure beyond Ford/Chevy/Dodge/Jeep!

      2. This is what I like about the automotive hobby– there’s always more to learn. This site has definitely expanded my car knowledge, and the international contributors in particular give an interesting perspective I don’t normally see. My redneck Appalachian upbringing didn’t provide much exposure beyond Ford/Chevy/Dodge/Jeep!

          1. Ha! Ok, I generalized a bit. My dad has a ’67 IH C-Series stepside, and I cut my wrenching teeth on AMCs because they were what I could afford at the time. I didn’t own a foreign-make vehicle until I was in my mid-20s.

  6. Well that was certainly an interesting take on what to do to with a needy Tagora. I plan to very lightly modify my Tagora SX when I restore it, removing all the complex intake system and running the carbs with high flow filters. A couple of other changes are in planning, but from the outside it’ll be stock. We’ll that’s how the plan stands at the moment anyway.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

The maximum upload file size: 64 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop files here