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Apparently, not all Talbot's were Invincible...

The following is a re-print of an original letter dated 20th September, 1914,

which was written to Clement- Talbot Ltd. by a Mr Tomkins, of "Whetstone", lnglewood, Queensland.


Dear Sir, In June of this year I purchased from your Brisbane Agent a 20/30 h.p. Talbot, Chassis number 5667, and the enclosed copies of correspondence and accounts will show you some of the troubles and expenses I have been put to so far with the car, and also the unsatisfactoryness (sic) of the verbal guarantees that are given with these cars.

Previous to buying the Talbot I had been running a Studebaker with good results except that I found the upkeep in the way of repairs etc rather heavy and I was advised that a quality English car would do away with that trouble to some extent, and from the reputation Talbot cars have made in this country I decided on buying one. So far I find it right behind the American car in reliability, and right ahead of it in repairs and running costs.

As soon as the car reached me I found that the body was bumping on the springs, and I had to return the car to Brisbane to have that remedied which the agent did free of charge, but I had to pay freight one way which cost £15/15/-, and was without the use of the car for about ten days. I thought it necessary to have the engine closed in from the bottom and one of the pressure gauges was also out of order and had to be repaired at a cost of £2/5/6.

The car was eventually returned to me in due course but after running 180 miles I found a fractured hub. This laid the car up for a fortnight, and a replacement hub arrived with an account for £17/14/3* which I refused to pay as I consider that such a breakage should not occur on any good car travelling on good roads. When this hub reached me I had to employ a mechanic to replace it, and also to trace a quantity of metal filings which were found adhering to the axle shaft when it was removed. It was discovered that the filings were cuttings from a thread screwed at the end of the axle housing which had not been properly cleaned out when it was made, and this does not show good workmanship. The mechanic charged me £2/-/-.

The first week in August I decided to drive the Talbot 240 miles to Brisbane to attend the (Agricultural) Exhibition, taking two days for the trip. The second day out the petrol pressure failed and we could only proceed by constantly pumping it up using the little hand pump which is on the dashboard. When within 50 miles of Brisbane a knock occurred in the engine so I decided to put the car on a train, more expense, trouble, annoyance and inconvenience. The car was again in the hands of your agents (The Canada Cycle & Motor Agency), and they traced the knock to the air pressure pump, which they repaired at a cost of £2/19/6** the car being laid up nearly all the time we were in Brisbane and consequently I had to hire cars to take it's place.

On our return journey we were delayed at Toowoomba on account of a broken ball race in the clutch. I had a temporary one fitted at a cost of £2/10/-. Besides loss of time and expenses for four people your agent in Brisbane have forwarded me a replacement ball race with an account for £-/18/-*** for same. So far every breakage on this car has been charged up to me regardless of guarantee. I might mention that with the Studebaker I got a written guarantee and there was never any trouble except for replacing broken parts. There was no such thing as having to send broken parts to the factory in America, as the local agent had full power to deal with such matters on the spot.

At present the Talbot is running fairly well and doing 14 miles per gallon. I might say that I bought this car for travelling to two other properties which I own out in the Roma District, but so far I have not ventured 50 miles from the nearest railway as I am frightened of something else breaking, and I am not at all fond of long walks. I have now bought a Ford car for long journeys, and it is to be delivered this week, and I feel sure that I will get more satisfaction from it in the way of reliability and cheap running on bad roads than I do with the Talbot.

I have several keen motorist friends in this district and naturally they are watching the performance and I unreliability of my car, and so far the troubles I have been put to have not impressed them too much in it's favour.

There is no doubt that the Talbot's have made a good reputation as bush cars, but I do not think that the present model will do much to elevate their reputation as I think the present design is not suitable for our roads, and from my experience it would seem as though workmanship and quality of materials are not what they were in the older models. The design is at fault in this new model with the torque rods beneath the back axle, as they are in an awkward place when we have to drive with one wheel in a rut, and I also think the design is at fault where you fail to enclose the engine and gear-box from mud and slush. The design of the back mudguards is also wrong as they allow the slush to come up onto the side of the body between the guards and the body. I was supplied with a lubrication chart with this car however it is of no use as it is for an older model. I am sending a copy of this letter to your Brisbane agent, who will I am sure bear me out. Yours truly, W.J. Tomkins

* The spare parts catalogue for this model shows the ex-factory retail price for a back hub was £1/15/-. ** The ex-factory retail price for a complete air pump was just £1/15/-. *** The ex-factory retail price for a clutch thrust race was just £/6/6


The following guarantee which was printed in Talbot sales catalogues, and it states:

"All Talbot cars are sold without any express or implied guarantee of their fitness or otherwise; but in case of breakage of any part within six months from date of sale, owing to defective material or workmanship; provided to our satisfaction, the defective part shall be repaired, or a new one supplied, free of charge. The part to be returned to us, carriage paid, for inspection when claim is made, and within fourteen days of breakage."

The problems with Mr Tomkins' Talbot appear to have eventually been ironed out, as Queensland registration records for 1920 (The oldest records which I have for that state), show that at that time (1920), Mr W.J. Tomkins, of Inglewood was the owner of a TALBOT (Reg. No. G54), and a VAUXHALL (Reg. No. G70). The "G" prefix on these numbers indicated that the cars were registered in the Warwick police district. This means of identifying cars in Queensland was introduced in 1920.

Talbot factory records show that Mr Tomkins' car (Chassis number 5667) was a type 4-MT (90mm x 140mm bore and stroke). It was built on 15th January, 1914, it had a torpedo touring body which was built by "Rothschild pere et fils" in Horseferry Road, Westminster. It had a wheel-base of 10' 7", it had 880 x 120 tyres, it left the factory on 26th March, 1914, it was sold to "The Canada Cycle & Motor Agency" of Corner of Adelaide & Creek Streets Brisbane, and that it was shipped to Australia by "Tozer, Kemsley, & Fisher".

Exactly 490 examples of this model were built. The first (Chassis number 5651), was built on 22nd November, 1913, and the last (Chassis number 6141), was built on 29th April, 1915.

Only 61 Talbots of this model reached private owners, and of that number just 6 were exported. Two were sold in Johannesburg (South Africa), one was sold in Perth (Western Australia), and three were sold in Brisbane

The Director of British Army Contracts purchased thirty-eight, all of which were bodied as ambulances, and the British War Office purchased two-hundred and ninety-one, most of which carried ambulance bodies although some were torpedo tourers and others were bare chassis.


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