Missing for over a decade, one of only 16 Talbot-Lago T150-C SS Teardrop Coupés has reappeared with a new owner, prompting a bitter ownership battle
A highly sought-after 1938 Talbot-Lago T150-C SS Teardrop Coupé is at the centre of a legal battle over its rightful ownership, having re-emerged years after it was stolen.
The theft was reported in 2001 by then-owner Roy Leiske, who had purchased the Talbot-Lago in bits for $10,000 in 1967. The car subsequently made its way to Europe under false documents, before its purchase by a US collector in 2015.
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Leiske’s cousin Richard Mueller, who inherited the title for the stolen Talbot-Lago after Leiske’s death in 2005, has sued its current owner for the car’s recovery.
That buyer is car collector Rick Workman, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, listed as TL90108, LLC in court documents in reference to the Talbot-Lago’s chassis number. He has a large collection of vehicles, including a unique Ferrari SP275 RW Competizione he commissioned directly from Maranello.
Having paid $7 million to an unnamed international brokerage firm in 2015 for the T150-C, Workman refused Mueller and title co-owner Joseph Ford III’s requests for the car to be returned. This has led to a protracted legal battle.
Arguing that too much time had passed since the theft, Workman’s attempts to dismiss Mueller and Ford’s legal action were initially successful. However, Wisconsin’s Court of Appeals overturned that decision, as less than six years had passed since the car had re-emerged after its earlier theft.
Their battle over custody of the extremely rare Figoni et Falaschi-bodied T150-C, of which only 16 were made, is expected to proceed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court after Muller and Ford’s successful appeal. For now, the car sits locked away with a classic-restoration company, 1000 miles away from where the court battle is playing out in Milwaukee.
Mueller’s story of how the initial robbery played out suggests the Talbot-Lago’s theft was no opportunistic break-in. Phone lines to the former plastics factory where the automobile had been stored were cut that night, while every last car part and associated pieces of paperwork went missing, despite being scattered all over the building.
There were no signs of forced entry, and there were reports of a white lorry parked up at the main door – which neighbours had assumed was due to then-owner Leiske having finally sold his long-term restoration project.
Years later, when Mueller had resumed a search in which even the FBI and Interpol had failed to make inroads, Ford’s involvement began after encountering the Talbot-Lago story while searching for a stolen Ferrari in Europe.
‘He picked this car out because of his eye for design and engineering. They weren’t really recognised as epitomes of design until the 1970s,’ the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Ford as saying of Leiske’s original purchase.
‘I told [Mueller] what I do – recovering stolen niche cars – what I know, and that it’s a crap shoot. We’re going to need to chase international car thieves around Europe, and it could be life and death because these guys are very serious.’
Should Mueller and Ford succeed in their battle to regain ownership, they have plans to sell the car and split the proceeds between them.