1951 Talbot Lago Barquette T26GSSOLD

Ex-automobile de Froilan Gonzalez & Pierre Levegh,

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Estimate 1,400,000 - 1,600,000 Euros
Result (incl.) 1,331,250 euros


Engine: six cylinder in-line, inclined twin 'high' camshafts operated by pushrods and rockers, hemispherical combustion chambers, twin spark, triple carburettors, 4,482cc, 215bhp at 5,000rpm; Gearbox: four speed Wilson-type pre-selector; Suspension: front, independent by transverse leaf spring and solid top wishbones with hydraulic shock absorbers, rear, semi-elliptic leaf springs with hydraulic shock absorbers; Brakes: four wheel Lockheed hydraulic drum. Left hand drive.


Model History



There can be very few cars claiming such versatile, long lived and successful racing careers as Antony Lago's legendary T26C. In single seater form, for six years the cars amassed victories in Grands Prix across the globe, including scoring a handful of Formula 1 World Championship points. Even more remarkable is the fact that with the mere adjustment to two seater bodywork (then called T26GS), the same car won at Le Mans in 1950 - a huge achievement.



Perhaps the most compelling aspect of the Talbot-Lago story is the fact that throughout their careers these cars were very much the underdogs, running with innovative but generally pre-war technology and with the barest funding in the face of competition from well-funded and far larger organisations. It is a fascinating tale, often of grim determination, that brought the marque its success, and one that can probably best be summed up by the fact that when ace team driver Louis Rosier won Le Mans in 1950, he did so having driven for all but 20 minutes of the 24 hour race!



The story of the great T26C began in the mid-1930s, when Antony Lago, a French resident though Italian by birth, joined the Sunbeam-Talbot-Darracq concern in the UK. With engineering experience gained from his time at Isotta Fraschini in London, LAP Engineering and later at the Wilson Self-Changing Gear Co. as general manager, his role at Sunbeam led to the cars that would wear his name. The first step to this came when he was able to resuscitate the Suresnes-based Talbot factory from the ashes of the collapse of Sunbeam-Talbot-Darracq and the Rootes Group takeover of 1935.



In setting to rebuild the Talbot marque, he drew on the best aspects of the existing, rather staid product range, being their independent front suspension and their six cylinder engine. He set his chief designer, Walter Becchia, the designer responsible for FIAT's great racing days, to equip the six cylinder engine with an inclined overhead valve head which, with seven bearings and four litres, produced a resilient unit with 160bhp on tap. The timing of this combined neatly with France's decision to favour sports cars over grand prix cars after their overwhelming defeat by the Mercedes, so by May 1936 Talbot was back on the racing scene. They fielded two cars at the Marseilles 3 hours, the new équipe being led by none other than Rene Dreyfus, extracted from the Scuderia Ferrari to manage and drive for them.



After a few teething troubles the new sports car proved successful and in 1937 they won four of seven races, with the 1-2-3 finish in that year's second French Grand Prix for sports cars being particularly pleasing.



1938 saw a new Grand Prix formula introduced, permitting up to 3 litre supercharged or 4 1/2 litre unsupercharged cars. Fate records that the reversion to full Grand Prix and arrival of the all conquering blown Mercedes saw a 1-2-3 finish for the German team at the French Grand Prix that year. But in a taste of things to come, a lone Talbot, literally a sportscar without road equipment, finished in fourth, this being followed by a win for a similar car in the 12 hours of Paris.



The racing project now began to gather momentum and it was not long before the precursors to the T26C were laid down. With a fair amount of financial constraint, 'new' was perhaps not the byword of the single seater since it used a very similar chassis construction to the sports cars that preceded it - pressed steel section, boxed and with cross bracing tubes. The rear of the car was underslung with leaf spring suspension, while at the front typically their independent transverse leaf spring arrangement was employed, with the addition of upper wishbones in chromed steel plate pivoting on the top of the chassis frame and both friction and Newton-Bennett hydraulic shock absorbers. The brakes, which were mechanically operated by Bendix cable system, had large diameter alloy drums with air scoops to aid cooling.



The sportscar engine now had a light alloy block and head, which was aspirated by triple Zeniths-Stromberg carburettors, and with single spark plugs and running at 10:1 compression ratio could now bring 210bhp at 4,500rpm. Dry sump lubrication was used with a tank sitting above the driver's knees and finned coolers protruding through the bodywork at the scuttle. The Wilson gearbox filled most of the rest of the cockpit, but with the propeller shaft set to the offside of the car this allowed quite a low seating position. The car was neatly clothed in a tubular bodywork heralding the form of most post-war racing cars. The new off-set single seater was first seen at Rheims with Raymond Mays at the wheel, and although suffering the indignity of retirement owing to its fuel tank splitting, the feedback otherwise was certainly favourable, with excellent brakes and suspension. At this point, however, the war intervened and no further development or racing took place.



In tribute to its love of the automobile and its competition, France was almost certainly the first country to go racing after the war with its first major race taking place just 3 weeks after hostilities ended at no lesser public venue than the Bois de Boulogne. A second place finish for Raymond Sommer, the Coeur de Lion, behind Wimille's Bugatti, offered some insight into the future that lay head for Lago's Talbots. Success came gradually for these cars, escalating to Chiron's win in the first post-war French Grand Prix in 1947.



Even as the dust was settling on this victory, news of a new Grand Prix car leaked from the factory. After many years of complicated nomenclature, the new single seater Grand Prix cars were at last to be called Talbot-Lago, finally wearing Antony's name in its rightful place. 20 cars in all were planned and, hot on the heels of the recent Talbot successes, the order books filled quickly.



The 1948 regulations saw the introduction of the first Formula 1 Grand Prix, voiturette racing now becoming Formula 2. Formula 1 allowed for cars of 4½ litres unsupercharged or 1½ litres blown, a sort of all encompassing rule suiting both the Italian and English racing groups as well as the French.



The new Talbot-Lago represented a march forward on its predecessor, predominantly with regards to the engine which was now a tidily conceived twin cam version of the existing sportscar six cylinder, with the cams sitting high in the crankcase and operating valves inclined at 95 degrees to each other in a hemispherical head through short pushrods and rockers either side. With larger valves too, this configuration permitted excellent carburetion - helped by a new off-side mounted arrangement with external air intake vent. The motor maintained the same 7 bearing crank, negating further expense on the bottom end, but with an 8:1 compression ratio it now developed roughly 240bhp. This was mated to a Wilson pre-select four speed gearbox, allowing the driver to keep his hands on the wheel throughout, as well as to assist braking. The propeller shaft was now off-set further, which allowed the driver's position to sink further into the chassis, below the transmission line, while its arrival at the rear axle was also staggered. The rear set-up remained the same, the final improvement being the adoption of Lockheed brakes and 16 inch drums. The lower driving position allowed a more aerodynamic and compact line for the bodywork, headed by a wider mesh grille.



It took a little while before the first car was seen in action, and its debut at Monaco with Louis Rosier was curtailed with engine trouble after 16 laps, but progressively the trio of a Talbot-Lago and a pair of its Talbot predecessors was joined by a pair of new cars, those now supplied to Etancelin and 'Raph' and a steady stream of placings followed. The 1948 Coupe du Salon at Montlhèry trumped all of that with a win and 1-2-3 for the Talbot-Lagos of Rosier, Levegh and Cabantous.



Racing of all forms of Talbot-Lagos continued in earnest until 1952 when the switch to Formula 2 curtailed further development, although they ran after this in various regional competitions until 1956. Sportscar racing continued with attempts at Le Mans, but none bore 1950's fruit.



In all, these remarkable cars, with their immense torque and frugal fuel economy, recorded wins in five major Grands Prix, nine in lesser ones, countless placings and the Le Mans win. Perhaps even more importantly, Tony Lago always credited himself with the fact that in an age marred by many fatalities, no one was ever killed in his cars. This very example we offer here very nearly won the 1952 24 Hour Race at Le Mans, having to retire in the 23rd hour with a commanding lead.



Specific History



Originally bodied as (what was effectively) a cycle-winged Formula 1 car, 110056 was first sold in 1951 to privateer Henry Louveau, who never had the chance to race the car due to a career-ending accident in the Swiss Grand Prix of that year. It then returned to Lago who entered it in a couple of races that season. The most notable entry was Le Mans where the famed Argentinian driver, Froilan Gonzales (known affectionately as the Pampas Bull and frequent Scuderia Ferrari team driver plus 1954 winner at Le Mans), co-drove this Talbot-Lago with Marimon but unfortunately did not finish. That same year it was sold to Pierre Bouillin who went by the alias of 'Levegh'.



Levegh intended to take 110056 to Le Mans in 1952 but the regulations called for enclosed bodies, and thus an all-new body was constructed in aluminium by Dugarreau to a Charles Deutsch design. Levegh also opted to lighten the con-rods and installed triple Weber carburettors as opposed to the original Solexes. 110056 remained in his custody for the following few seasons before being purchased by Paris-based dealer, Francis Mortarini, following Levegh's unfortunate accident at Le Mans in 1955 when he was at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz. Mortarini swiftly sold the car on to Los Angeles based automotive legend, Otto Zipper, who kept the car until 1959 when he sold it to an English ex-pat named Bernard Benson. Benson retained 110056 until 1973 when he sold it to fellow Brit and famed 'Roesch' Talbot exponent and historian, Anthony Blight. Of particular note is that this transaction happened at Le Mans!



Blight found the enclosed body more of a hindrance than a benefit and thus he had a 1951 style GP body fitted for use in historic racing, but with consideration of originality in mind he retained the 1952 body should a subsequent owner wish to reinstate it. Blight and his son-in-law, Stephen Curtis, campaigned the car in historic events until in 1983 it was sold via Christian Huet to Parisian Michel Seydoux, who commissioned renowned specialists Carosserie Lecoq to return the original 1952 enclosed coachwork to the car.

Two additional owners have had the benefit of 110056 since Seydoux and it was most recently on exhibit at the 2006 Pebble Beach Concours D'Elegance.


Condition



Since the overhaul and reapplication of the original 1952 body by Lecoq, 110056 has remained regularly maintained with its respective custodians and has entered just a handful of retrospective competitive events. Whilst not showing scars of competition or over-exuberant use, the paint finish shows some aging as do the ancillaries and the interior, but by no means does the current condition deter from the use it was intended for - competition.



In December 2005, 110056 was treated to a thorough overhaul and going through by Neil Davies Racing in the UK. The original engine was also expertly re-built and dyno tested in 2004 by the well renowned Auto Restorations in New Zealand. This same company was also commissioned to build an exact replica of a racing Wilson pre-selector gearbox as many years prior, the original had been replaced by a more modern American unit. Following the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance last summer, this gearbox has been treated to a thorough overhaul and adjustment.



Summary



This Talbot-Lago represents a wonderful and important piece of French motor racing history that was a regular sight in some of the most high profile events during the early 1950s. Opportunities to acquire great sports racing cars with established provenance are becoming few and far between and, whilst all cars are unique in terms of racing history, few have the competition record equal to 110056. From the four times it was entered at Le Mans (and so nearly claiming outright victory one year) to competing at such legendary events as the Grand Prix of Monaco, Targa Florio, Goodwood and the 12 Hour races of both Reims and Casablanca, 110056 is a well travelled leviathan. Needless to say; on grounds of rarity, originality, period history and an untarnished provenance this genuinely is eligible and would be welcomed at the cream of retrospective events such as the Mille Miglia, Goodwood Revival, Le Mans Classic and the Monterey Historics.

Of added benefit to the quality of the Talbot-Lago T26GS Barquette is the assurance of rarity, since just six cars were produced by the works in contrast to the bevy of contemporary offerings from the British and Italian rivals. For 110056, the fact that the body and engine remain original to the chassis make for a highly reassuring prospect, and consideration of this important representative of French motor racing history is highly recommended.

Reference Number 6957

as of 2/1/2007

Overview
Car 1951 Talbot Lago Barquette T26GS
VIN 110056 
Exterior / Interior Color      Light Blue 
Configuration Right Hand Drive (RHD) 
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Known History

 

Period Racing History

 

According to Pierre Abeillon's definitive reference work on these cars, Talbot-Lago de Course, 110056 had the following racing history in period:

 

 

1951

24 Hours of Le Mans Gonzalez Marimon DNF

Coupe du Salon Grignard 2nd

 

1952 - with Barquette body

Coupe de Printemps Levegh Not Present

Mille Miglia Levegh Not Present

12 Hours of Casablanca Levegh DNF

Grand Prix of Monaco Levegh DNF

24 Hours of Le Mans Levegh Marchand DNF

Targa Florio Levegh DNF

Goodwood 9 Hours Levegh Etancelin DNF

Coupe d'Automne Levegh 1st

Grand Criterium de Bari Levegh DNF

Coupe du Salon Levegh Not Present

 

1953

24 Hours of Le Mans Levegh Pozzi 8th

12 Hours of Reims Levegh Meyrat

Grand Prix of Caen Levegh DNF

Coupe d'Automne Levegh 1st

Coupe du Salon Levegh DNF

12 Hours of Casablanca Levegh Etancelin 3rd

 

1954 - front grill widened prior to Le Mans

24 Hours of Le Mans Levegh Fayen DNF

12 Hours of Reims Levegh Fayen DNF

Zandvoort Levegh DNF

Grand Prix of Baule Levegh 11th

Coupe d'Automne Levegh 1st

Coupe du Salon Levegh 5th

 

1955

 

Coupe de Paris Levegh

 

Of particular note is the achievement at Le Mans in 1952. Levegh started the race at a comfortable pace and as time went on, the Jaguars and the Ferraris were to succumb to a variety of maladies which of course meant that the thundering Talbot-Lago etched its way up the field. By 2am, following a withdrawal from the (then leading) Gordini team and a dynamo failure on one of the Mercedes', Levegh (still at the wheel!) found himself in the lead. Exhausted and against the wishes of the team, Levegh refused to relinquish his seat and maintained his position in front of the anxious but hugely supportive home crowd - a situation he was able to maintain until the 23rd hour. But then, with just over an hour to go and while holding a four lap lead, the crankshaft broke ending the race for 110056 and the dreams of both driver and nation alike. Sure, the old saying goes that to finish first, first you must finish, but Levegh and 110056 were just over an hour away from achieving a solo driven victory at the world's most heralded Motorsport event.

 

 

 

With opinions aplenty regarding possible reasons why the engine failed, Levegh did not receive the credit he deserved and it was only after his tragic passing that the widely shared opinion was aired. Levegh had apparently noted a strange vibration in the engine early on in the race and, given the competitive nature of his drive and the attrition of others, he felt that it would be a calculated gamble for him to nurse the car on rather than risk the potential of co-driver Marchand's lack of mechanical sympathy. Without compare, the story of Levegh and 110056 at Le Mans in 1952 is perhaps the most heartbreaking near victory known to the sport.