In the 1970’s, in North America, big, luxurious “land yachts” were a stock-in-trade of several companies. Cadillac and Lincoln likely spring first to mind; these two offered what were truly gigantic cars of epic proportions, that gave both middle fingers to aerodynamics, efficiency and road manners. Huge, heavy, wallowing whales are what luxury meant in the Automotive Dark Ages! In Europe, though, where roads are tighter (No sane driver would take a Lincoln town car into a French city!) taxes are insane and gas is priced similarly to a kidney transplant, they had a different way of looking at things.
In Europe, there’s a class of car called the “executive class”. These are large, powerful cars that come with a big price tag and high taxation, and are usually only affordable by “executives” and other well-heeled individuals. Many companies try to offer at least one “executive” car, and there are big Peugeots, Citroens, European Fords, Volvos and the like, notwithstanding marques like Mercedes, BMW and their ilk. It’s not a huge market, but it’s one worth getting into simply due to the profit margins. Usually.
Sometimes, though, things go a bit sideways. A perfect case in point was the highly unregarded Talbot Tagora of 1981. This was a car originally styled by Chrysler of Europe in the UK for mechanical design and production in France. Sadly, its predecessor, the Chrysler 180, wasn’t a raging success, and Chrysler hoped to make up for it with a thoroughly modern car to be brought out in the early part of the new decade. For better or worse, though, the parent company in the US nixed a number of innovative (or at least visually interesting) features, and, like Chrysler in the States, the European branch was forced into cutting corners, cheapening out on style and substance.
When Peugeot bought out Chrysler’s European arm in the late ‘70s, they acquired the Tagora more-or-less ready to go. So, they brought it out for the 1981 model year. It was a very square car, with severely plank-like styling. It was one of the most “boxy” of the “three-box” sedans of its day. With relatively simple, non-descript styling, the car needed to drive well and be a luxurious and high-quality car to make up for it. It wasn’t. It wasn’t powerful, the ventilation was poor and the dashboard looked cheap and plastic-y. It did not resonate well with British car enthusiasts, and the French didn’t think much better of it!
The Tagora had a short life, with less than 20,000 produced in three model years. In 1983, Peugeot killed it, since its own executive car, the 505, was a better-selling (and just better) car. The Tagora is not well-remembered today, and is largely looked upon as an utterly pedestrian and largely pointless car.
Solido’s Take on Talbot’s Flop:
Despite the real Tagora’s eventual failure, when it was new, it was hoped that it would be a rather exclusive car. The lure of the Talbot name was, it was thought, sure to help. Of course, we now know better, but at the time there was no reason to doubt Chrysler’s figures of 60,000 cars/year as an estimate of sales. Given that it was a brand new product, there was a lot of appeal in it for Solido to make a replica. Most kids wouldn’t ever get to see one, and even fewer would get to ride in one, so having a toy of it made sense. It’s always that way; there are lots of toys of high-end cars kids will likely never get to experience!
Thus, Solido issued a Talbot Tagora in its low-priced “Cougar” line of 1/43 replicas. The Solido Tagora is actually quite a faithful representation of the car, despite being quite simplified for cost cutting and relatively easy production. It is one of the more “deluxe” Cougars, since it has opening doors, something only about a third of the line had. It came in a number of colours, and was offered in a higher-line trim as well, with better wheels. There was also a racing colour version, which makes no sense at all. The Cougar Tagora has the same wheels as all other Cougars. Unlike Buragos, which had wheels attached to individual axle posts (and were nominally removable), Cougars have their wheels joined by a metal axle, just like smaller, 1/64 cars.
My Tagora, is, as you can see, brown. It’s a metallic brown that is very close to a real colour you could get. One problem with the Cougars is that the colour of the base is also that of the interior and bumpers. Thankfully, the Tagora has a black base. This is very important, because on the real car, just as in the toy, the entire front and rear bumper areas are black. No, that’s not very “executive” looking at all, but it is how they were! Why didn’t they sell well again? Hmm…
Unfortunately, none of the tail lights or turn signals are painted separately – this is a simple toy, remember! Unlike the Russian Die Cast cars that I have, which are exceptionally heavy, the Tagora is quite light. Most of it is plastic, and the metal body is not very thick. The Tagora feels like a toy and the paint is of “toy” quality, not “replica” quality.
While it may only be a lower-budget offering like all its “Cougar” ilk, it’s pretty awesome to have a toy/model/replica/display piece of a Talbot Tagora. I personally love the Tagora, and have lusted after a replica ever since I first learned the real car existed. Of course, I like the Aston-Martin Lagonda and those super-square Volvos, too. To be able to have a replica Tagora on my shelf is pretty awesome, and I’m amazed that this was sold in Canada at all!
If you love weirdness, awkward styling and just total all-around “failure to launch” cars, then the Cougar Tagora should be on your list of “must haves”. It was for me!