1948 Talbot-Lago T26 Grand Sport Coupe
Chassis Number : 110106 Horsepower : 190 Displacement : 6-cylinder, 4.48 L Wheelbase : 104.3"
Anthony Lago had added new energy to the Talbot name with race victories in open wheel configuration prior to the outbreak of the war in Europe in 1939. After the war, France was in disarray. Talbot Lago was considered by many to be the first high-performance, expensive car made after the war, when, with his new engineer Marchetti, he modified in a large the prewar engine to 4.5 L and began to produce a series of stock cars.
For the Grand Sport, their luxury model, the engine was upgraded with double overhead valves, increased horsepower, aluminum heads, and a variety of other performance oriented modifications. He produced approximately 26 Grand Sport automobiles (the number is in question) with greater performance, lighter chassis, and certainly dramatic styling all done by outside coachbuilders because in the Grand Sport series only custom bodies were available from a variety of stylists.
Some of the very first Grand Sport cars were destined for racing, and it is not known whether the car in question in our collection was one of these, since it was produced with modification seen only on racing cars, and these we will outline later.
Our car was one of the first produced (serial number 110106) although production numbers suggest it was the third made. It had a drilled chassis which was apparently common to many Grand Sport versions. In addition it had hollowed camshaft and a multiport exhaust systems such as was seen only on the racing Grand Prix cars. This chassis was displayed at the Brussels auto show and it was purchased by Goldie Gardner, famed as a high-speed records driver who piloted his special streamlined MG car to many records.
Gardner had local bodybuilder, Van den Plas, make him a car which apparently did not serve him well in his new ambition as a rally driver. The car was heavy and did not do well in high-speed driving despite is very powerful chassis and associated performance characteristics. He sold the car and a special lightweight body was ordered, with great care being taken to reduce the load of the body as much as possible. The second and final body was made by the Belgian firm Oblin and sent to the 1950 Brussels auto show bragging that the body weighed only 145 kg including windshield, lights, and seats! It was made of special light aluminum.
At the Auto Show the body was called a competition body with extra light features. The new owner, Mr. Nias, raced vigorously in the 1951 – 53 Liege-Rome-Liege races. But more famously, in 1953, he won the pole position at the Spa 24 hour endurance race, which was second only to the Le Mans 24-hour endurance race in European prestige of the time. In that race he competed against Fangio, Hawthorn, and the likes of Ascari who actually won the race when the Talbot Lago did not finish because of a broken rear spring.
Subsequently the car had two additional owners, the latter of whom rolled it while rallying, but most of the bodywork was preserved except for portions of the roof and a passenger side door panel. A detailed description of the restoration process by Rod Jolly reflects the owner’s particular care in keeping everything original as much as possible, with minimal replacement parts and these were done only when necessary. In fact, the car still has its original well-worn upholstery, instruments, etc. It shows its age nicely after a mechanical rebuild of the engine and the Wilson preselector gearbox these restorations being done without altering the car physically or cosmetically. For rallying, some additional shock absorbers were added to supplement the fiction type which were original and still with the car.
Consequently this fills our desire to have an original Talbot-Lago in the most powerful version they ever made in a definite racing configuration from its birth. Its racing pedigree, though not extensive, shows that it was capable of earning pole position against formidable competition. Its level of originality marred only by some body work which occurred as a result of a racing accident and subsequent repaint, both in 2002, makes it likely the most original Talbot Lago are competition car in existence.
It is displayed in the rally diorama in our Museum.