The Ecurie Belgique,1948 Talbot-Lago Type 26c Monoplace  Chassis no. 110006
Lot 262
The Ex-Georges Grignard/Jacques Swaters ‘Ecurie Belgique’, 1950 Paris Grand Prix winning,1949 Talbot-Lago Type 26 Course Formula 1 Racing monoplace Chassis no. 110 006 Engine no. 45109
Sold for US$ 557,000 inc. premium
Lot Details
The Ex-Georges Grignard/Jacques Swaters ‘Ecurie Belgique’, 1950 Paris Grand Prix winning
1949 Talbot-Lago Type 26 Course Formula 1 Racing monoplace
Chassis no. 110 006
Engine no. 45109
Bonhams is delighted to offer here yet another outstanding Grand Prix car. This majestic, beautifully presented French-blue classic is the 4½-liter unsupercharged Formula 1 Talbot-Lago Type 26C in which first owner Georges Grignard – on April 30, 1950 - won the Formula 1 Grand Prix de Paris, run over a full 50 laps (314kms – 195 miles) of the legendary Montlhéry Autodrome road circuit, south of the French capital city. During the previous racing season, 1949, Geogres Grignard had already used the car to almost equal effect in that year’s GP de Paris there at Montlhéry, having finished second.

The Talbot-Lago took its double-barreled name from an ex-military Major who, in France, was known as ‘Antoine’, in England as ‘Tony’ but in his native Venice, Italy, had been christened ‘Antonio’ Lago.

Major Tony Lago had spent most of his professional life within the motor industry. In the 1920s he had produced ‘LAP’ overhead-valve engine conversions in London, England. He then moved on to the Wilson Self-Changing Gear company – manufacturing semi-automatic pre-selector gearboxes – before becoming an executive of the Franco-British Sunbeam-Talbot-Darracq (S-T-D) combine.

When this very large and diverse motor manufacturing group collapsed in the post-Depression aftermath of 1935, it was Major Lago who organized funding to set up SA Automobiles Talbot in the extensive old S-T-D factories at Suresnes, Paris, France.

He was a keen proponent of racing to promote Talbot’s up-market cars. With the company’s long-serving ex-Fiat engineer Walter Becchia, he directed design of a 4-liter six-cylinder overhead-valve sports car which in 1937 won the French, Tunis and Marseilles Grand Prix races, and also dominated the British RAC Tourist Trophy at Donington Park, eventually winning this prestigious event at a canter!

Immensely encouraged by such success, Major Lago then launched a two-pronged attack upon Grand Prix racing, briefing engineer Becchia to design both a supercharged 3-liter V16-cylinder racing engine and to develop an alternative unsupercharged 4½-liter power unit from the company’s now proven high-performance sports car line.

Although the ambitious and undoubtedly hugely costly V16-cylinder program would wither on the vine, for 1939 he authorized construction of three entirely new single-seat Grand Prix cars using Becchia’s latest 4½-liter six-cylinder engines. These Talbot-Lago GP cars made their racing debuts during 1939 and after World War II they reappeared, one winning four times in 1947, including the Grand Prix de l’ACF, France’s most important international motor race.

This much-publicized success immediately prompted the ever-enthusiastic Major Lago to authorize production of no fewer than 20 Formula 1 Talbot-Lago T26Cs for customer sale. Power was provided by further developed twin-camshaft versions of the now well-proven, powerful and above all reliable six-cylinder engine. While the engine rocker covers bore the title ‘TALBOT-LAGO’, English speaking fans came to know the model as the ‘Lago-Talbot’ – and in some markets affectionately nicknamed the model the ‘Large Tablet’.

Clermont-based haulier Louis Rosier gave the first Talbot-Lago T26C its racing debut at Geneva in 1948 and four T26Cs were completed and race-ready in time for that year’s French Grand Prix at Reims. By the end of that season seven of the cars had emerged, of which this particular car offered here – chassis serial ‘110 006’ – had made its debut driven by proud owner Georges Grignard in the Coupes du Salon at Montlhéry, that October.

In 1949 Georges Grignard co-drove this car with compatriot Yves Giraud-Cabantous to finish 2nd in the Paris GP and 7th at Pau. Driving solo, Georges Grignard also set 2nd fastest time at the Bellevue hill-climb and contested the Swiss, French, Albi and Czechoslovakian GPs in it. His friend and occasional racing partner Giraud-Cabantous also drove the car in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

In 1950, Georges Grignard scored his big win in the Paris Grand Prix and also won the Doullens and Ars hill-climbs. He finished 7th in the major Penya Rhin Grand Prix in Barcelona, Spain, and co-driving with Charles Pozzi – later to become famous as the French Ferrari concessionaire – he also finished 8th at Pau.
So who was Georges Grignard? He was born Auguste Georges Paul Grignard in Villeneuve-Saint-Georges, France, on July 25, 1905. He became a garage proprietor with large premises situated in Puteaux in the eastern suburbs of Paris. Even before the Second World War he had been very active in buying and selling high-performance sports and competition cars of every description. Such subsequent friendly rivals as Eugene Martin and Charles Pozzi had both bought their very first racing cars from Grignard. He began racing a Delahaye Spéciale as soon after the war as 1946, when he was one of the earliest supporters of the Ecurie France team, and he later intended to run his new Talbot-Lago as part of Ecurie Naphtra Course, as made famous by the aristocratic French owner-driver ‘Raph’ (Raphael Bethenod de la Casas). Long after his racing days with this Talbot-Lago and a later replacement model, Georges Grignard eventually passed away, aged 72, at Port-Marly, France on December 7, 1977.
Into 1951, he had sold ‘006’ to the enthusiastic Belgian racing syndicate of Jacques Swaters – Belgium’s future Ferrari importer – Baron Charles de Tornaco, Roger Laurent and André Pilette. Pilette was the son of Theodore Pilette who had been a prominent Mercedes dealer back in the pioneering days before World War One, and who had driven as part of the Mercedes Grand Prix team. Indeed he had been killed in a road accident in 1921 while driving a racing Mercedes.

The new cooperative Belgian racing team campaigned this Talbot-Lago, liveried in the national racing color of bright yellow, as ‘Ecurie Belgique’. Under this banner they entered ‘006’ in the Belgian, Dutch, German, Italian and Albi Grand Prix races. Their best finish was 6th place for Pilette in their home Belgian GP at Spa-Francorchamps, while Roger Laurent placed 7th at Albi.

Jaguar’s subsequent 1953 Le Mans 24-Hours race-winning driver Duncan Hamilton owned and raced one of these Grand Prix Monoplace Talbot-Lagos, and he later recalled how: “I had admired these cars ever since they had first come over to this country to race in the British Grand Prix. They really merited the description ‘fabulous’.

“When you sat in the car the first thing of which you were conscious was the size of the rear wheels; you sat so low they were level with your ears. The ground clearance of the car was only four and a half inches and this, together with the fact that there were no mudguards or anything else to stop you from seeing the road below, gave an impression of great speed, even when motoring gently – insofar as you could motor gently with a Lago-Talbot.

“When on the controls, your feet actually pointed uphill, and the prop-shaft, which was offset, ran about level with your hip. At the back of the gearbox there was a train of gears which moved the prop-shaft over to the side of the car and brought it down along inside the chassis to the back axle which, of course, had to have an offset differential.

“Everything about the car was big and impressive; the engine, the bonnet, the wheels and tires, the brake drums; but what really ‘sent’ the enthusiast was the glorious bellow of the exhaust!

“I remember an Irish priest, who had stood in respectful silence as if listening to an organ voluntary, remarking after I had switched off; ‘Merciful saints! I don’t believe it!

“The engine ran on methylated alcohol, and was lubricated by that wonderful old-fashioned oil, Castrol R, which gave it a real sort of Bisto smell. Of all the cars I have driven, this one holds my special affection…”

Typically Hamilton, the story in his fantastic autobiography Split Seconds continues with the memorable day when his team mechanics delivered his Talbot-Lago to Easter Monday Goodwood, ready to race in this now-legendary British event. The Duke of Richmond himself was standing with the proud owner as Duncan’s senior mechanic opened the doors of their Guy transporter with a theatrical flourish: “The crowd craned forward; then a gasp went up – someone had dropped a clanger – there was no car in the transporter! I looked at the Duke, and he looked at me, then we both laughed – there was nothing else we could do, and the crowd joined in…”.

Motor racing was often like that in those days, and the very sight of an imposing, much-louvered Talbot-Lago such as ‘006’ offered here, instantly evokes all the charm, insouciance and private owner fun and fulfillment of that historic – and oh-so-nostalgic - era. Run your hand over this car’s French-blue flanks, hunker down into its low-sided, deeply-upholstered cockpit, peer through its toughened-glass aero screen along that imposing hood, and ‘feel’ all that history – absorb the atmosphere of a long-gone and delightfully charming era.

Early in 1952, Baron de Tornaco drove ‘006’ offered here into 6th place in the Turin Grand Prix in Italy, while Roger Laurent piloted it to victory in the Finnish Grand Prix around the Elaintaharnajo Park in central Helsinki. Jacques Swaters then used the car for the last time in Europe during practice for the Albi GP in southern France, on May 31, 1953. Whether in the picturesque parklands of such historic European cities as Turin and Helsinki, or booming its baritone song around the tree-lined Provencal public roads of Albi, the Talbot-Lago was entirely in its natural habitat…

Into the 1960s, this imposing Grand Prix car was acquired by American Ray Dubois who later sold it to classic car enthusiast Gerry Sherman of Pennsylvania. He would recall: “The car was in a bad state before the Belgians sold it in 1955-56 to Ray Dubois, who was a New York garage owner of Belgian extraction. It had serious problems with the engine. Without spares then being available he tried to adapt the chassis to fit a V8 Corvette motor but, fortunately, he dropped the idea before going too far. When I bought it for $900 in 1964 it was above all a souvenir of my youth as a student in Paris in 1951-52, when I had seen the T26Cs race at Montlhery.”

Mr Sherman began a lengthy and difficult restoration, during which he sought original spares from Monsieur Grignard himself. The car finally emerged running “perfectly” apart from minor problems with the magneto ignition, and Gerry Sherman ran the car at Watkins Glen, NY, in October 1973, after which it was acquired by the prominent American collector and connoisseur Henry Wessels.

Talbot-Lago T26C ‘006’ is now in the ownership of a lady, who has invested in a full, absolutely no-expense-spared engine rebuild undertaken by nationally respected experts Mike Wolther and Gary Okoren. Scott Sargent’s Pebble Beach laurels-winning Sargent Metalworks Company of Fairlee, Vermont attended to the cosmetic refurbishment of 006. Work performed included re-shaping the exquisite but race worn tail section and re-upholstering the seat in a delicious shade of dark chocolate brown leather. 006 was then stripped to the rolling chassis and thoroughly cleaned with all of the exposed metal parts being polished. For the cockpit, every attention was paid to the refurbishment of the existing panels and components, with nothing being replaced. All relevant bills, together with a DVD of the engine rebuild, are available for viewing in the Bonhams office. 006 also comes with a purpose built cradle and jump pack. The restoration and refurbishment of 006 concentrated primarily on the engine rebuild at a cost of approximately $150,000.

Having benefited from all this work, ‘006’ is offered here equipped with an absolutely freshly rebuilt zero time engine, the work on which has been completed as recently as May/June this year. The documentation file accompanying the car reveals details of how the unit has been repaired and painstakingly rebuilt in every detail, featuring a renovated block, fresh crankshaft, connecting rods, cams, lifters, valves, retainers, keepers, pistons, clips and rings. Receipts for the work undertaken confirm the present vendor’s major investment for the car’s future which a new owner is now saved from having to undertake.

The finished product is simply beautiful to behold. Bonhams’ has been lucky enough to tour with 006 where it went to the Wine Country Classic, Sonoma and the Portland Historics in June and July, respectively. At both events the car was mobbed by admiring onlookers; 'wow' was the frequently heard expletive.

As offered today by Bonhams, this Formula 1 Talbot-Lago Type 26C is being offered for sale in effectively ‘zero miles’ condition, ready to run. It is surely one of the most charismatic designs from the highly-regarded French industry’s immediate post-war period. Throughout that era of the late 1940s to early 1950s, these large, handsome Talbot-Lagos achieved great success thanks to their reliable, fuel-efficient 4½-liter engines and an indestructible (pre-selector) gearbox.

Today the potential charm of this oh so Gallic Grand Prix Monoplace would grace any Vintage race meeting, or indeed concours competition, for in a period in which once-great Bugatti had faded from the International motor sporting scene it was Talbot-Lago which continued to wave the tricolor high. In period it was the T26C such as this which sustained the once-so-dominant motor racing honor of Les Bleues…

This race-winning classic will enhance any collection of competition cars, and particularly one of the finest French exotica. It is an enduring icon – an emblem of French Racing Blue at its best…and offered here freshly rebuilt in effectively ‘zero-hours’ condition and ready for competition.

Interested parties who wish to view 006 prior to the sale can do so at the Monterey pre-Historics on August 7th to the 9th at Laguna Seca. Offered on a Bill of Sale.

Without reserve
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