The cars : Talbot Tagora (C9) development story

Chrysler’s great white hope in the executive sector was the C9 project. However, events overtook its development, and Peugeot ended up finishing the job by launching the Talbot Tagora.

And like all the best stories, it ended up in abject failure…

Talbot Tagora: wrong car, wrong time

To fully understand why Chrysler Europe decided to replace the slow-selling Chrysler 180/2-Litre models just as the effects of its domestic crisis were really starting to bite, one needs to look at the company’s long-term goals for Europe.

After more than a decade of involvement with Rootes in the UK and SIMCA in France, Chrysler instigated a programme of model rationalisation, which would end the days of there being a completely separate Rootes and SIMCA range of cars, more often than not competing on the same markets.

The Chrysler 160, 180 and 2-Litre model range was a step in that direction (although it did not replace any specific SIMCA model) because it was the first pan-European model to be offered in the UK, France and other export markets. Of course, for the French market, it was still marketed as a SIMCA, but that was a decision taken by the French, who felt that it should wear the SIMCA badge, given the company’s status as the producer of the country’s best-selling car of the time.

The Chrysler 180 was not a hit

In France, the 180 range (called the Chrysler-SIMCA 1609/1610/2L there) was not the success that Chrysler would have hoped, whilst in the UK, it also sank without a trace. However, it did prove to be a learning experience for Chrysler and, even though that model might have been a commercial failure, it did not necessarily follow that its successor would be one.

Be that as it may, Chrysler wanted its European arm to move further into the rapidly expanding executive car sector, and decided to press ahead with a replacement for the C180 – a factor in this decision was that, by 1976, the effects of the First Oil Crisis of 1973/74 were becoming a rapidly diminishing memory.

All of the major European players were all moving into this market, so Chrysler had little choice but to give the new big car project its full backing. The plan made much sense given that the market was providing such rich pickings for Audi (the 100), Ford (the Granada), Rover (the SD1) and so on; Chrysler wanted a slice of the action, and wanted to bury the current car as quickly as possible.

The Chrysler C9 project is go…

Like the Alpine and Horizon before it, the C9 was styled in the UK. This early model featured interesting treatment of its wheelarch apertures and a striking frontal treatment; both would be dropped before the car reached production.
Like the Alpine and Horizon before it, the C9 was styled in the UK. This early model featured interesting treatment of its wheel arch apertures and a striking frontal treatment; both would be dropped before the car reached production

The new project was christened the C9 and, as with the Horizon and Alpine before it, the technical development took place in France, whilst the styling was created in the UK. Keen to put the Chrysler 180 behind it, the company soon devised a modern, glassy three-box saloon, which sat atop a generous 109-inch wheelbase.

Engines would be something of an issue, because rivals were moving towards larger six-cylinder models (and even a V8 in the case of Rover SD1) for their range toppers, backed up with entry-level models pitched in the 2-litre class. In the C9’s case, it was a certainty that it would receive its predecessor’s inline fours, but as the group offered nothing larger, an alternative had to be found.

Initially, Chrysler considered buying-in a Mitsubishi straight-six, but it soon became apparent after testing, that it delivered neither the power, torque nor refinement sufficient to compete in the class; and so, the plan was soon shelved. Searching around for other alternatives, the PRV V6 Douvrin engine (at the time in use in the Peugeot 604, Renault 30 and Volvo 264/265) looked to be the best solution, as it was compact, light and reasonably powerful.

However, it seemed doubtful that Chrysler would gain access to it, as Peugeot raised concerns about it being used in a direct – French produced – competitor. That being the case, it was a subject that led to much controversy, and only ended in a satisfactory conclusion after the PSA takeover of Chrysler Europe in 1978.

Defining the executive style

This C9 was a glass fibre mock-up, and it was this photograph (along with one on the projects and prototypes page) that was used in Chrysler Europe's presentation in Detroit in order to secure top management approval for the program.
This C9 was a glassfibre mock-up, and it was this photograph (along with one on the projects and prototypes page) that was used in Chrysler Europe’s presentation in Detroit in order to secure top management approval for the programme

Styling-wise, the C9 story was a British one… initially. As can be seen from the early prototypes, the C9’s style was defined early on, and remained reasonably unchanged throughout development. The early concepts produced at Whitley, under the direction of Art Blakeslee, possessed an interesting frontal treatment (lights and number plate housed behind a glass cover).

‘In my presentation to top management I forecast that with the C9 our annual sales in the European luxury car market would increase from 30,000 Chrysler 2-Litre cars to 60,000 C9s.’ – Burt Bouwkamp, Chrysler Executive Director of Product Development

Aside from that, the shape did not change radically between 1977 and 1980. However, Chrysler’s management in the USA did get involved more than they had done so in the past (presumably, as they saw C9 as the company’s last gasp), and watered down the more interesting details in order to produce what they saw was a more mainstream car.

Despite the C180’s non-performance in the executive sector, Chrysler Europe planned for a 60,000-70,000 per annum production run, and production was set for Poissy only.

How the C9 would stack up, cost-wise

Talbot Tagora cutaway

According to Burton Bouwkamp, Chrysler Europe’s Executive Director of Product Development at the time, ‘The C9 programme approval by Chrysler Corporation management was for more than $60 million for special tools. This did not include product development costs which were expensed – rather than capitalised,’ he said.

Bouwkamp added: ‘Product development costs were covered in our annual budget and so were not part of the C9 programme submission. In my presentation to top management, I forecast that with the C9 our annual sales in the European luxury car market would increase from 30,000 Chrysler 2-Litre cars to 60,000 C9s.

‘This was only 5 per cent penetration of that market segment but, on this basis, the C9 program was profitable and was approved. (Chrysler Europe’s overall passenger car penetration was 7 per cent, so 5 per cent of this segment seemed like a reasonable forecast).’

Sadly, by the time C9 would appear on the market, Europe would be suffering badly from the effects of the Second Oil Crisis of 1979, which affected all large car sales…

Peugeot’s executive conundrum

Tagora is takes a bow at the Paris Salon in October 1980 - initial reactions were subdued, to say the least However, when Chrysler's European operation was sold to PSA in 1978, the C9 story changed somewhat.
Tagora is takes a bow at the Paris Salon in October 1980 – initial reactions were subdued, to say the least However, when Chrysler’s European operation was sold to PSA in 1978, the C9 story changed somewhat

On 1 January 1979, all Chrysler management left Poissy for good – never to return. This left Peugeot with the unsavoury task of unravelling the Peugeot-Citroen-Talbot product plan; and it was in the executive sector, that this problem was most pressing.

Despite this, PSA management felt that C9 was far too advanced to be canned, and decided to continue its development towards production.

The matter of which engines to use now looked somewhat less complex; as the PRV V6 version could go ahead, even though it would push the C9 range towards the Peugeot 604 (perhaps to bridge the miniscule gap between this and the smaller Citroën CX).

PSA’s limited scope for change

With this in mind, plans to use this engine could be set in stone, and PSA set about the task of overseeing C9 development through to its conclusion. In those closing months, the policy of using as many PSA parts as possible was executed…

Bouwkamp explains the changes that took place after Peugeot took over the C9: ‘Peugeot delayed the production date of the C9 to make changes to install its V6 engine and to increase the feature and appointment level – and the price. I think they moved the front wheels forward about two inches to accommodate the engine,’ he said.

‘I think the addition of the V6 and the wheel movement actually helped the C9. I think it failed in the marketplace because PSA did not need the car. They already had two cars (Citroën CX and Peugeot 604) in this 1,200,000 to 1,500,000 market segment. It seemed to me that the C9 – which we named Tagora – should have been a new model of the 604,’ he added.

PSA executive model overlap
Car Engines
Citroën CX 1995cc Douvrin in-line four
2347cc Citroën in-line four
2500cc Citroën in-line four diesel
Peugeot 604 2664cc Douvrin V6
2304cc Peugeot in-line four turbodiesel (in development, launched 1980)
C9 2165cc SIMCA in-line four
2664cc Douvrin V6
2304cc Peugeot turbodiesel

Internal rivalries with PSA

As can be seen, the engine range was heavily influenced by Peugeot but, because of anticipated production volumes, the entry-level C9 would continue with an enlarged version of the SIMCA conceived engine, found in the 180 range.

This engine had exactly the same engine capacity as the 2.2-litre version of the all-aluminium Douvrin engine, as found in the later Renault 25 and Citroën CX Phase 2, but there was no relationship between the two. Beyond this, the Peugeot turbodiesel as found in the 505 and 604 went straight into the C9, and because of the lateness of its incorporation into the development programme, it appeared some time after the original press launch.

Despite the ownership change, the launch date of the C9 only slipped a matter of months and, although it was not quite production ready by the time, it was showcased at the Paris Salon in 1980. The appearance of the Talbot Tagora in Paris should be noted as an impressive achievement, when one considers the trials and tribulations it had endured since 1976. Even more so, when the triple-carburettor V6 version became France’s most powerful saloon…

Not the impact PSA would have liked

Despite the interesting politics behind the Tagora, it failed to make much of an impact on Paris showgoers, who felt that, although it was quite an imposing car, it lacked any real charisma. There was also the issue of how it would fare in relation with the Peugeot 604 in the PSA line-up given their closeness in size and price.

In the UK, the story was a different one, and the Tagora was seen very much as a rival to the all-conquering Ford Granada, which could help Talbot to become established in the UK as a solid number four behind Ford, BL and Vauxhall; a position familiar to the company – from the Rootes days.

When journalists got their hands on the Tagora for the first time at the Morocco launch in March 1981, the story was one of chassis and engine competence, overshadowed by a lack of visual charisma. Many commentators suggested the Tagora was little more than an upscaled Solara; a car which, in the minds of the press, also lacked real flair. It has to be said that these initial reservations were not unfounded: the Tagora was a pleasant enough design in the whole, but it was seriously let down by the detailing.

The rear wheels were set far too inboard of the flanks, which completely destroyed the Tagora’s stance on the road; it may not have been designed this way, but this is what emerged when the narrower-tracked Peugeot 505 rear axle was used. There were other issues, of course, but again, it was all in the detailing – small design errors that ended up damaging this make-or-break car.

Talbot Tagora: out for a duck…

The Tagora lacked appeal at so many levels, it is difficult to know where to start. The interior design was one area left wanting, thanks to a plain dashboard design and a lack of "chintz" so beloved of the early 1980s executive car buyer...
The Tagora lacked appeal at so many levels, it is difficult to know where to start. The interior design was one area left wanting, thanks to a plain dashboard design and a lack of “chintz” so beloved of the early 1980s executive car buyer…

When launched in the UK, the Tagora came in three trim variations: GL, GLS and SX – and prices were competitive with Talbot’s stated number one rival, the Ford Granada.

The road testers had mixed things to say about the Tagora. CAR Magazine’s LJK Setright drove the Tagora at the Morocco launch and spent most of the time waxing lyrical about the SX version’s Michelin TRX tyres. He liked the way the V6 performed though: ‘With admirable traction, even on mountain roads filmed with freshly falling snow, the SX seems more to profit than to suffer by the high ratios of its transmission, and it climbs up the speedometer with an eagerness that must put all of its class rivals in the shade.’

When What Car? magazine tested the V6 SX the following year, it posted an impressive set of performance figures (0-30mph, 2.9secs, 0-60mph, 7.9secs, maximum speed, 122mph), which explained Setright’s set-of-the-pants impressions.

Impressive handling on offer

Setright liked the way it handled too: ‘In many ways the SX is a better car than the 604, with which it might appear to be most earnestly in overall competition. I am not sure that I would not choose the 604, because I liked the alacrity of its response and the sureness of its grip on TRX tyres, whereas the Tagora SX is, if to a lesser extent than the GL/GLS because of its superior tyres, a softer and more slowly-responding machine, admirably stable but as it were heavily damped to ensure that the driver is never taken by surprise.

‘The Tagora was always safe and secure, always competent, never at a loss for the right gear or the necessary grip.’ – LJK Setright

‘That does not mean it cannot be hustled: it can, and I took enormous pleasure in leaving the entire press-test convoy behind after a late start. On road surfaces that were sometimes superb and sometimes non-existent, amounting in the latter case to loose stones and sand that had merely been levelled by a grader, the Tagora was always safe and secure, always competent, never at a loss for the right gear or the necessary grip.’

If after reading that glowing prose, one was under the impression that Talbot had produced a world-beating machine, then think again. Setright summed-up the car in the same way that many buyers did: it was okay, but not outstanding enough to rise to the top of anyone’s list.

The Talbot Tagora had its place…

‘After driving it, I can see that it has its place, even though there may be very little in the way of individual details to pick out for praise or even mere analysis: if one accepts the kind of cars that it represents, it is a car that is very difficult to fault – and there must be plenty of call for cars like that,’ Setright added.

What Car? magazine went further: ‘The Tagora is a car of the strangest contradictions, not least of which is its very existence on the market. The SX presented is spacious, comfortable and, thanks to its abundant power (163bhp at 6000rpm, thanks to its triple-carb set-up) and speed, quite fun to drive at times. But in some ways it is too rapid for its own good, the power highlighting wet-weather handling vices, which make any BMW seem well-mannered.

‘The Tagora is also inexcusably badly ventilated, its interior is hardly even in the cheap hatchback class and perhaps most importantly, it has such a complete blandness of style as to disqualify it instantly in a market where character and status count for so much.’

The end comes too quickly…

And that was the crux of the Tagora’s failure: it offered nothing over and above its more established rivals and, as a result, it was not good enough to entice buyers away from their Audis, Fords and Rovers.

That is not to say that the Tagora was without its charms; its bluff styling may not have been an unqualified success, but it did possess a certain presence. And that large body should be credited with having given the Tagora an absolutely huge interior.

It was also fast and handled nicely… but that was not enough, and as a result, the Tagora sold in tiny numbers.

And really, that was a sad end to the 1970s Chrysler corporate plan. In 1975, it looked so different: the rag-bag of SIMCA and Rootes cars would be replaced by a Chrysler range of cars that took the best from France and the UK, and offered a logical family of cars for the buyer to choose from. Alas, it was not to be… and C9 died after a mere three years in production and run of less than 20,000 cars.

PSA’s poisoned chalice

Given that Peugeot had inherited the C9, and brought it into production with a fair amount of its own hardware, it seemed a shame that the car should go to waste. And in fact, in 1980, it did develop its own version of the car to replace the elegantly ageing 604. As it was, the restyled Tagora (below) lost much of its personality and, given the declining executive market of the time, it was considered a gamble too far… and so, it was canned. And that really was the end.

There’s a further twist to the story. According to Nick Kounelis, the Tagora could have gone on to form the basis of the Australian Chrysler line-up, had events not got in the way. ‘They imported a Talbot Talgora clay/fibreglass full-sized replica to be contemporary with the first of the Holden Commodores, and the lighter and more roomier XD Falcon range.’

He added: ‘With the local hemi-six fitted to the Centura replacement, I think the Talbot version would have sold well against these cars – especially if it was fitted with the Peugeot four-cylinder engine as well as the 4.0- and 4.3-litre hemi-six engines.’

The Tagora was not replaced in the real sense of the word, therefore, and it was not until 1989 that PSA introduced new blood into the executive market, with the Peugeot 605 and Citroën XM.

A sad end to the grand plan…

Peugeot briefly flirted with the idea of facelifting the Tagora and rebranding it as one of its own.
Peugeot briefly flirted with the idea of facelifting the Tagora and rebranding it as one of its own

How many Talbot Tagoras were built?

Tagora production
Year 1980 1981 1982 1983
Produced 145 15,368 2566 1310

Total: 19,389
(figures courtesy of: The SIMCA Club)

Keith Adams


  1. Looked boring, was boring and also boring to drive. French build quality meant inbuilt problems almost from day one. A car that no-one in their right mind would ever want. Exterior was best described as bland, interior was almost featureless. This car was not helped by rust and poor engines coupled with soggy handling. Tagora or Cavalier … no contest. Tagora or Cortina, still no contest. Happily killed off quickly, now very rare.

  2. As a young bobby in Derbyshire, I remember road traffic having a V6-engined one on trial from the local dealer. Unmarked, no police equipment fitted, it had to make do with a portable radio pack sitting on the back seat and a magnetic-base aeriel on the boot lid. The traffic lads quite liked it as it was roomy, comfy and quite fast compared to the standard-fare, carb-model Granny 2.8s that dominated the fleet…..and it had power steering, whereas Derbyshire specced all their traffic cars without it!

  3. I saw a fibreglass model of one of these at the Birdwood museumn in adelaide as Chrysler Australia was planning to use this car to update its 180 version named the centura which was launched in 1975 when the model already was old but fitted it withthe 2.0 Sicma 4 cyl, 3.5 and 4.0 hemi 6 cylinders. This was planned to possibly replace the valiant which was looking very old by 1976. I believe it was canned as an idea when mitsububishi bought the entire tonsley park adelaide plant in 1981 for penuts and concentrated on building its Sigma model (galant) which was fitted with a 2.6 Astron engine which almost out performed its 4.3 Valiant predecessor.
    I think in comparison to the VB Commodore(1978) , XD Falcon(1979) that the Tagora would of found more buyers in Austriala if offered in the 4 cyl form(as an economy version), and the 6 cyl as the performance version, than it actually sold in France and Europe.
    Cheers Nick

  4. I’ve just had a look on ‘How Many Left’ and it appears that roadworthy versions of this car are now extinct from UK roads!

    • Just checked and there is now only one registered and eight SORN. There are three GLS’ on SORN and no GLS Automatics whatsoever on DVLA

      • Was there an automatic option on the 2.2 litre GLS? I don’t recall it as an option and would not be surprised if any other than evaluation cars for Whitley made it to the UK.

  5. Yep… the Tagora was a bland looking car. Like many other manufacturers of that era, their small car ranges were more appealing than the large Executive aimed models. Similarly Datsun’s UK success was down to the Cherry, Sunny, Violet & Bluebird rather than the big Laurel & 280C saloons.

  6. That Peugeot version doesn’t look bad, a nicer nose and the loss of the horrible wheel arches, together with a wider track, made it look fairly smart.

  7. Became an absolute bargain in the mid eighties, a V6 powered luxury car for the same price as a five year old Escort L. A few lived on as taxis or as a cheap second hand car for large families.

  8. I did wonder why Peugeot green lit this when PSA already had the 504, 505, 604 & CX in production.

    I guess it was too far down the line to just pull the plug.

  9. At least it wasn’t only BL that came up with lemons during this period, although I have to say – and I am unanimous in this – I quite like the looks. I think the glass fibre mock up looks good. If it had a more luxurious interior such as velour, wood and more equipment it would have been a lot of car for the money.

  10. The Peugeot restyled version probably ought to have been put into production instead of the Tagora (together with a reworked interior)- there was at least a ready market at the time in France. It still wouldn’t have been particularly distinguished, but then neither was the 604.

    Hindsight is a wonderful thing. At least the taxi trade had a good supply of cheap large saloons.

  11. The Peugeot grille does indeed look good, if a little Hyundai Stellar-like.

    Another thing I’d change here would be the window line – a Montego style rising window line would make the boot look less droopy.

  12. Nice big car. An estate version would have been a cracker.
    Dashboard is awful. Like a cheapo budget version of the Rover SD1 dash (which looked good).
    What were they thinking with that dash? Just looks like something out of a van.

  13. I think it was the style. French dashs, to me anyway, traditionally tended to look functional.

  14. A big shame, as it featured Peugeot, rather than Simca based, engines, was massive inside, well equipped, competitively priced and V6 versions were very smooth and powerful. I still think the Tagora was a good car and very underrated.

  15. MICHAEL 1963, From Italy.
    La Talbot TAGORA mi riporta alla mia prima giovinezza e al tempo di quando presi la patente, ossia ai primi anni ’80. In Italia non ne sono mai circolate molte, anche nei tempi in cui era sul mercato, complice la motorizzazione a benzina di 2200 cc per nulla diffusa sul nostro mercato e della linea poco latina. Le poche, pochissime che si vendettero, erano diesel 2300cc, motorizzazione più idonea alle nostre esigenze. A me la Tagora all’epoca piaceva, credo perchè era un’auto imponente e poco diffusa. Una volta, ad una fiera visitata con la scuola, in uno stand dove esponevano le Talbot, c’era una TAGORA in bella vista e io osai, mi sedetti al volante e la cosa mi piacque tanto. Quella TAGORA era proprio bella , mi piaceva! Ora ormai in giro non se ne vedono più da anni! L’ultimo avvistamento risale a Nuova Cliternia il 15 agosto 2011, alla festa patronale, dove vidi una Tagora diesel grigia un pò malconcia, con targa francese.

  16. I always wondered why it could not be upgraded (interior/grille/lights) and launched as a Humber (Hawk 4 cylinder or Snipe 6 cylinder. I heard that the BL Wedge sold best in Wolseley form for its short life, maybe Humber would have done better ?

  17. The problem with the Tagora from what I can see in this article is the dashboard. It is extremely cheap looking and the big TALBOT lettering looks crass. Executive car buyers in 1981 expected their cars to have some wood( even if it was fake) and upmarket plastics or leather on the dashoard, not something that looks like it has come out of a Horizon.

  18. I agree with Susan, maybe it should have been a Humber Hawk, Super Snipe or Imperial. Problem is that this was years after Chrysler killed off Hillman, Singer, Sunbeam & Humber brands. Peugeot was seeking to use the Chrysler name across the whole of Europe. Sometimes, the correct model name can make or break a car’s success.

    • Maybe if the Tagora was assembled in Britain, promoted as such, with a far nicer dashboard with wood, and maybe with a four headlamp front end, then it could have taken off as a rival to the SD1. Otherwise, there wasn’t much else to dislike, it had smooth and powerful Peugeot engines, rode well, had massive interior space and a big boot, and was reasonably priced.

      • The Tagora’s four pot engine was the old Chrysler/Simca OHC unit, not the Douvrin Peugeot one. This made the Tagora the odd man out in the PSA engine universe, even if its engine was used in the Peugeot 505 turbo. Even the Tagora’s six cylinder PRV engine was different, having two triple Weber carbs.

  19. Do I need new spectacles or is there someone who can also see some traces of XM in the Tagora, particularly around the nose, the crease along the side and the way the window line doesn’t really fit the rest of the car (got you, Art Blakeslee!)?

  20. Most of the criticism leveled at the Tagora is mostly justified, it certainly had it faults. But was it really so much blander of design than many of its rivals. The granada was a good car and very appealing in its range topping guise, but the bog standard 2.0L was also a pretty bland creature. Strip off all the chintz and there was not much left to get excited about. The interior was questionable, not particularly in its design ethos but in its execution. The styling sketches show what they were trying to achieve and it was cutting edge, but fell down on the materials and detailing and I’m sure costs entered the equation somewhere down the line as quality it was not. It may have been aimed at the executive market but inside felt no better constructed than say an Horizon. I’d say they nearly got there but the whole thing was let down by the attention to detail or basically the lack of it. The SX V6 was probably the oddball of the range, at least the lower spec models made some sense, but the SX was a strange brew. You got the performance alright but by means of some plain weird choices in the engine department. What is not widely known is that its PRV V6 was not simply a standard motor with a couple of big old school carbs nailed on top, but a custom built and individually numbered unit. Ok the carbs, well they were a specially redesigned triple choke Weber 40 IDA variant made just for the Tagora and was named the Weber IT. Now these carbs had no choke facility and so the whole induction system was designed by Weber and incorporated features necessary just to make these carbs work, like a choke flap in the induction pipework. A manual choke I may add, so this range topping executive car had a choke lever on the dash! Yes quite. The motor also featured larger valves, a more sporting cam profile and tubular exhaust manifolds. Not exactly standard large saloon fayre in the early 80’s. No auto option was made available, none were offered with leather and the options list was somewhat short.

    Now all these years later the whole sorry saga makes for an interesting read. But don’t be mistaken, the Tagora is not a bad car by any means, it was wrong car, wrong time, wrong execution of design and wrong badge. Its fate was sealed before it even hit the production line!

  21. I agree with Jason, the Tagora wasn’t a particularly bad car, but certainly not a great one. In V6 form, you got a decent executive car and low used values saw these end up as taxis, or as a cheap car for large families. However, the detailing was dire and the interior was like something out of an Austin Allegro.

  22. I’m not quite sure exactly where they expected the Tagora to sit in the executive car hierarchy. It was pitched pretty squarely at the Granada, which at the GL end of the spec range is fair enough but the top end kudos is where it matters and the Talbot badge was rather lacking in that department to say the least. Was the SX the child of a woefully inexperienced team who didn’t quite get what they were supposed to be producing? It had unquestionably high performance, was obviously the right size and in SX trim looked quite appealing from the outside (well I think so anyway). But as a package it was nothing but confused. In the early 80’s the thrusting exec would have expected, plush materials, leather, a splash of chrome and a dusting of tree here and there. The Tagora had none of that, none at all. Oh, it had a trip computer with odd colour buttons though.

    With a car endowed with some sporty intentions, they fitted some nice Michelin TRX tyres, a decent suspension set up and a 5 speed box so you’d think a fitting interior would be appropriate. Some snug seats a nice sporty steering wheel maybe? Nope afraid not, just a rather horrid and spindly single spoke all plastic wheel and some lovely comfy and typically soft French seats, but supportive they’re not.

    It’s hard to picture who would have actually bought an SX, certainly not fleet managers that’s for sure and for an exec car, that’s bad news. Probably explains why it’s believed only around 100 were sold in the UK and only 1114 were ever built.

    • I agree, Jason, your Granada Ghia buyer would have wanted wood, chrome, top quality velour seats( or leather as an option) and an interior that didn’t look like it was lifted from an Allegro. This was where the Tagora fell down, the V6 versions went well and had similar performance and refinement to a V6 Granada, but the cheap, miserable interior was a killer. Yet apparently a few lived on as airport taxis in Sussex, where such considerations weren’t important when you need a big car to take a family to Gatwick.

    • I suspect the Tagora suffered a lot from its evolution, the Simca team not having a access to a powerful engine suitable for Europe, focused on space and comfort with the likes of the CX, 604 in sight not an SD1 Vitesse. The opportunity to do a performance model only came along later in the program with PSA take over and access to a V6, however that also meant they needed to refocus away from other PSA products and so give the car a more sporty aspirations (at the time Talbot was the brand being fronted by Ligier in F1). I also suspect the project was surviving on a shoestring as an inherited project with little PSA management support, ie switching to using 604 front and 505 underpinnings without modification, so probably there was no money to embellish it with sporty trimmings.

  23. If you look at the interior it resembles a mix of original SD1 and the later Renault 21! I think it was another odd ball French interior where the French didn’t get Luxury that the rest of Europe wanted. Look at the relevant SAAB Volvo, BMW or Mercedes of the time it was all wood and leather – even the Ghia X on a Granada had this and the SD1 had it added at a later date. If you look at the CX and Pug 604 they were missing.

  24. The Tagora had been inherited from Chrysler, and as the project was too far down the line to be cancelled by PSA, it was reluctantly given the go ahead. No doubt the cheap interior and lukewarm promotion were done to save costs, as PSA already had the Citroen CX and Peugeot 604 in the executive class.
    Ironically while the Chrysler 2 Litre was considered unsuccessful, the Tagora was an even bigger failure, and sales just didn’t materialise. However, unlike the 2 Litre, it didn’t seem to rust as quickly and had a V6 option, as well as the enlarged 2.2 version of the Chrysler engine.

  25. It’s so true that advertising campaign was woefull. One of the adds was an SX driving alongside a freshly ploughed farmers field if I remember correctly. Understandable, as that’s an executive cars natural environment…… Not! What were they thinking, they were trying (failing) to sell a car not a muck spreader!

  26. The only thing that let down this car was a mediocre ventilation system, the two end vents were only ram air effect and were not fan-boostable which made for an uncomfortable cabin in summer on hot days while the centre vents were fan boostable and heater linked. If all four vents were fan-boostable with cool air to the centre vents and heater linked warm air from the end vents for demisting plus standard air-con fitted to all four vents as well you’d have a brilliant car…

  27. The Tagora was a nearly car. It was huge inside, the engines were refined and the V6 was capable of over 120 mph, it stood out on the road and was competitively priced, but let down by its low rent interior and being too wide. Also the name Talbot in 1981 tended to mean rust prone cars with rattly Simca engines, even if the Tagora was better rustproofed than the smaller Talbots and the engines were far better than on the Alpine.

  28. I must be the only person in the world to have owned three of these…. at the same time! I worked for Atlas Express, had a 2.2 GL with the four-speed box and no power-steering as a company car, and bought two GL’s from the company – both 5-speeders with Power Steering, at the end of their company car life, for a pricely £1,500 – and made a good profit on each. Coming to the 4-speed Tagora from a 5-speed Solara GLS with all bells and whistles was a bit of a step-down in the equipment stakes, but a step up in looks, prestige, and performance. The Tagora was a bit quicker, and in its day looked the part. But above all else, it was COMFORTABLE and gave a ride that would shame my current Merc. Ventilation was an issue in the summer, acres of glass and a hopelessly inadequate flow of luke-warm air, partially cured by an after-market sunroof that lowered the pints-of-water-per-hour needed for the driver, whilst making the radio inaudible at “Motorway” speeds. Towed well, (a ton of speedboat), and as for the looks? I liked it. Nobody else I knew (outside Atlas) had one, so there was a sort-of rarity factor to it. The interior was really light and airy, and overall this was a sound competitor to the contemporary Granada. I had (briefly) a 2.3 GL one of those, in a curious colour scheme of light green and brown vinyl roof, rarely seen though quite attractive. However the engine had the power of the 2.0 and the fuel consumption of the 2.8, which wasn’t a great combination, and whilst it is a close-fought thing, on balance I preferred the Tagora. One odd feature defeated me when I first had it, and that was getting the boot to lock. It opened with the key, but to lock it, you had to first press a button within the boot, by the locking mechanism. Then it would close and lock, otherwise, it just closed, and was still openable. Never figured out he logic to that one. To conclude, both Tagora and Granada did their jobs in different ways, and were a first step up from Cortina-dom en route to better things – my next company car was an ’85 Vauxhall Senator – now that really did go! I’ll never forget the joy of picking it up on its new-that-day “C” plate. Happy days!

    • Re the mystery of the boot lock, intended to prevent unintended human “lock ins”? I believe it is mandatory for American cars to have a similar setup and even an escape button inside the boot or “trunk”
      I too have driven a Tagora, I recall a very good ride with precise steering and the car ran easily at 90 to 100 mph

  29. The 2.2 GLS Tagora would have been than the 2.2 GL, as the five speed gearbox would have made it more economical and quieter on a long journey, and the PAS would have made it lighter to drive in heavy traffic. Mind you for effortless performance and a very quiet drive, an automatic V6 would have been worth considering, and would have made an interesting alternative to a Rover 2600 or a 2.8 Granada.

  30. A college friend of mine inherited one from his Dad in the 80s and was still driving it in the early 90s. That is the only one I have ever seen

    • Only Tagoras I ever saw was one that belonged to a Talbot dealer and two traffic cars that were briefly seen in 1982, possibly undergoing evaluation, before Cumbria Constabulary went back to using Granadas. Yet there were a brave few who took the plunge and found the car was actually quite good.
      OTOH I never saw an Alfa Six in the flesh from the same era. Were they any good?

  31. The already old Peugeot 604 could be sold as Talbot with Simca engines and the Tagora as Peugeot with PSA engines. Maybe the Rootes brands could have been an interesting option though

  32. Can understand the lack of larger 6-cylinder+ engines being one of a number of the Tagora’s failings, however even a number of its rivals like the Ford Granada, Rover SD1 and a few others made sure to introduce entry-level 2-litre models.


  34. I have only ever seen 2 of these on the road. Ironically one of these was an unmarked police car I saw most days in Northern Ireland in the mid 1980s. Hardly the least noticeable unmarked police car given the troubles!

  35. Apart from the Citroen CX, which sold on its radical styling, enormous interior and fantastic ride and was loved by Citroenistes across Europe, the other executive French cars of the era never did much outside France and the Talbot Tagoa flopped in France as well. I can only ever remember seeing a handful of Peugeot 604s and Renault 30s in the early eighties. I do remember Keith Gibbons, the Sunday Sun motoring correspondent, raving about the Peugeot 604 and telling people it was just as good as a Ford Granada and more comfortable, but no one listened, while the Renault 30 seemed completely unloved over here, even though it looked quite good and had the PRV V6,.

  36. The Peugeot 505 seemed to sell well, especially the estates due to the good loading capacity.

    The Renault 20 also seemed to sell in decent amounts, but I guess the 30 was seen as a bit niche & overlapping with the Rover SD1.

  37. I’ve driven a Tagora, and as a passenger too, the Tagora would easily run at 90 and 100 mph, the dealers considered the Tagora to be a white elephant of a car, and had to be pressured to take them from the factory, the dealer I knew well breathed many sighs of relief when a customer eventually bought their Tagora demonstrator , whatever the technical merits of the Tagora, the Granada was too much of a bargain to pass for most buyers

    • The Tagora, running on 604/505 oily bits was unsurprisingly a cut above the Ford Granada in terms of dynamics, but as a car it offered a much less convincing package to the drivers and fleet managers.

      The reason for this is because the car was conceived as a reskin of the 160/180/2 Litre drivetrain and live axle rear end mated to a torsion bar double wishbone front end using the same components as the Alpine/Horizon/Solara, just placed further apart. It was thus going to sell on quantity over quality (hence its size and generous interior space) with a USP of offering Air Conditioning at this point in the market, using a unit lifted from the Chrysler US parts bin, where Air Con had become a near standard feature on cars.

      However with the change of ownership from Chrysler US to PSA, whilst it got class class leading dynamics of Peugeot exec chassis components, it lost the air con (whilst retaining the push button controls for the vent positions with no direct fresh air vents the system required) and ended up at a price point (thanks to the expense of those chassis components) its interior, styling and its woeful lack of ventilation could not support.

      Talbot attempted to compensate for this by promoting it as being a “drivers” choice over the Ford and GM offerings, and whilst it was, the Talbot brand with its association with the mediocrity and poor quality of its legacy models was never going to convince of this. It like the Austin Maxi was a car that the companies new owners should have realised was ill conceived of a cash strapped company and dropped, instead focussed resources on bringing what was to become the Peugeot 309 to production sooner and establishing Talbot as a “value” brand with it.

  38. I always liked the Peugeot 604 when it was around; I thought it looked classy and understated. Too big for my needs, but definitely on my list if I’d needed a large car.

    • It was in its day a very good car, with much better all round driving dynamics than the Mercedes E Series that was the only other premium oil burner on the market. But large French cars have never nor I think ever will have any traction in the Uk market.

      Taxi company I use in Lyon uses Mercedes E series and very nice they are, but occasionally they turn up with a 508 and I don’t feel short changed, yet you rarely see a 508 outside France, with the exception of Sweden where it seems to have got some traction, possibly because of Volvo’s adoption of Mercedes price list for the Swedish market as they continue to push upwards from where Ford took them, along with many Swedes still (and rightly) preferring a station wagon or saloon to an SUV.

      • @ Graham the Swedes have the right idea, which probably explains why Volvo are still producing estate cars. I have no objection to SUVs for people in rural areas or people who need a huge vehicle to carry heavy loads, but in somewhere like Chelsea they’re completely pointless. Crossovers I can understand more for families.

  39. The owner of our company owned a Peugeot 505 saloon for a while then it was replaced with a Vaux Senator. I preferred the look of the Senator in those days. It has to be said that the old 504 and 504 estate was a rugged workhouse with quite a few on roads in the Middle East.

  40. The rear three-quarter view shows the Tagora’s resemmblance to a later VW Passat/Santana shape. Bland exterior design didn’t seem to do VW any harm. They even made a virtue of such unadventurous design in their marketing. In another parallel with VWs of that time, the Tagora’s interior is woeful – what were they thinking?

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