Here on Motoring Weekly we have written about all three parts of this entity and this grouping of marques didn’t last that long in an industry that was hit by the Great Depression of the late 1920s and was constantly evolving with smaller companies either going bust or being gobbled up by larger conglomerates.
The three companies had an interesting evolution of their own which was intertwined even before they merged in 1920. Alexandre Darracq had founded the Gladiator Cycle Company in France and sold it to to a British aristocrat – Charles Chetwynd-Talbot and Adolphe Clement who was a car maker in his own right. Clement’s cars were known in Britain as Clement-Talbots and this was later reduced to a simple name: Talbot.
With the money from the sale of Gladiator, Darracq formed his own car company – and he helped found Opel in Germany by licensing his designs. Darracq saw motor sport as a great marketing campaign and was an early holder of the Land Speed Record. When Darracq retired in 1913, he sold the company to other British investors who were then hampered by the onset of hostilities across Europe.
After the war, the Darracq company was merged with the Clement-Talbot marque to form Talbot-Darracq. This lasted less than a year before another merger with Sunbeam was announced to form STD Motors (Sunbeam-Talbot-Darracq). Sunbeam was a British company that had gone down a similar path to the pre-war Darracq company with motor sport and Land Speed Records at the heart of their business.
What was interesting about this new entity was that they used badge engineering quite effectively – rather like General Motors today who have one vehicle badged up as a Vauxhall, Opel, Buick or Holden (despite the car originating from PSA, thanks to the recent takeover). For STD, one car could be a Talbot in France or a Darracq in Britain! The company had several factories across two countries and shared components and designs although the three divisions tried to keep their own heritage alive. Talbots were built in north London and Paris for sale in their respective markets, Darracq cars were built in France from Talbot components and sold in the UK as a Darracq and Sunbeams were built in Wolverhampton in the UK Midlands.
In 1924 the company went out to the financial markets to borrow against a small portion of the company stock. At the time this was assumed to be an investment in motor sport for the Sunbeam brand, however sales of road cars were slowly drying up which meant that the loans taken could not be paid back. The economic downturn at the end of the 1920s further hurt the group even though they had merged the core business functions based in one office in London.
By 1930, the courts had become involved with investors and creditors receiving some funds and an enforced financial restructure taking place. Auditors had written a report about the centralising of the functions and a group of unhappy shareholders forced the board to resign. The new directors then tried to centralise a lot more of the functions and vehicle designs.
This didn’t really help because the losses were only stemmed for a short time and the earlier borrowings were reaching a point of payback. This happened in 1934 and the board realised that they didn’t have the necessary funds to return the capital. STD Motors formally collapsed in 1935 and as the Clement-Talbot marque was the only one making a profit, it was the easiest to sell off. Interestingly, Sir William Lyons – the founder of Jaguar Cars, thought that he had an agreement to buy the Sunbeam assets, only to find that he was out manoeuvred in the deal.
Clement-Talbot was bought by Rootes to bolster their burgeoning group of brands and they ultimately bought the Sunbeam marque and assets as well in a fire sale from the receivers. In effect, Rootes had acquired all the UK based entities and assets. The French assets and marques were bought by Anthony Lago to form Lago-Talbot. Lago was the factory manager in Paris and apparently had an option to buy these assets if and when the owners wanted to sell. He was able to take that option from the receivers and after negotiations with the French banks that had lent some of the finance.
As I have described in the articles about each original entity, they all came back together again when Chrysler bought SIMCA and the Rootes Group at different times.