Brussels Auto Show - 1953 24 Hours of Spa & Liège-Rome-Liège Rally
1948 TALBOT-LAGO T26 GRAND SPORT COUPE
Coachwork by Oblin
Chassis no. 110106
Engine no. 103
4,482cc OHV Inline 6-Cylinder Engine
3 Zenith Stromberg Carburetors
190bhp at 4,200rpm
4-Speed Pre-Selector Transmission
Front Independent Suspension Live Rear Axle
4-Wheel Drum Brakes
*Legendary Talbot-Lago Grand Sport on the short GP derived chassis with handsome Coupe Coachwork
*Exciting 1950s European racing history and displayed twice in period at the Brussels Auto Show
*Numbers matching and documented chain of ownership since new
*Eligible for the world's finest driving events and Concours d'Elegance
*Researched and documented in the book Talbot-Lago Grand Sport: The Car From Paris
THE TALBOT-LAGO T26 GRAND SPORT
When the design for the T26 Grand Sport was laid down in 1945 and 1946, it was Anthony Lago's intention to produce a new and very exclusive road-going sports chassis for the carriage trade. In its conception, feel and drivability, it was to be as close as technically possible to the Grand Prix racing cars, and a direct descendant of the fabled pre-war T150SS road cars, a few of which had received the immortal teardrop coupé body by Figoni et Falaschi. The first of these magnificent chassis was shown by Talbot without a body at the Paris Salon, which was held from October 23 to November 5, 1947.
Anthony Lago wanted precise sports car handling, so the Grand Sport was conceived strictly as a two-seater, and the layout and most of the mechanical details from the GP cars were retained. Lago simply mounted the engine, gearbox and suspension components on the short 265-centimeter pre-war Grand Prix chassis rails with a few modifications. The front suspension was independent with a transverse leaf spring, and there was a short transaxle between the engine and the gearbox, followed by a short driveshaft. It worked: the SWB Grand Sport chassis weighed a mere 850 kg compared to the 1,280 kg of the new T26 Record family car chassis, a savings no less than 400 kg.
The powerful, free-revving Type 26 4,482cc 6-cylinder engine had been developed by Anthony Lago and chief engineer Carlo Marchetti during the War and had first been shown at the Paris Salon in 1946. The twin camshafts in the upper part of the block operated large overhead valves inclined at an efficient 90 degrees via short pushrods and rockers on either side of the head, which made the engine look like a DOHC design to the casual observer. With two carburetors, the result was an impressive 170bhp when mounted in a T26 Record chassis.
The engine specification was further improved for the Grand Sport. Like the GP engines, the cylinders were sleeved, the cylinder head was in aluminum, compression was raised, and three Zenith Stromberg carburetors with no air filters were fitted. Grand Sport power was conservatively rated at 190bhp at an equally conservative 4,200 rpm. Quite simply, the T26 GS had one of the most powerful passenger car motors in the world at the time. This potent engine was mated to a four-speed Wilson pre-selector gearbox, which made it possible to shift the Grand Sport much faster than conventional gearboxes of the period.
In this way, the T26 Grand Sport was a true sports car chassis in the late 1930's manner, and more akin to a Bugatti Type 57S than a luxurious grand routiére as exemplified by the Delahaye 135 or the Delage D8 120. This new chassis was aimed at a moneyed and sporting clientele, which on the one hand wanted a fast daily driver and on the other would not be adverse to entering various rally and racing events as privateers, with the odd appearance at a Concours d'Elegance thrown in for good measure.
However, the price was astronomical, and the Grand Sport would remain a rare and exclusive beast, as very few had the necessary funds to join "the club". Research conducted by Peter Larsen and Ben Erickson in their book Talbot-Lago Grand Sport: The Car From Paris indicates that a mere 28 chassis on the short 265 centimeter wheelbase were built. Owning and driving a T26 Grand Sport is therefore a rare privilege which only a fortunate few have experienced.
THE MOTORCAR OFFERED
110106 was the second chassis signed off by the factory on August 3, 1948. It was exported to the Anciens Etablissements J. Guerret, the Talbot concessionary in Belgium. Guerret sold the chassis to the English racing driver Goldie Gardner, who was living in Brussels at the time. Gardner commissioned a modern one-off fastback coupé body by Van den Plas for his new high-caliber sports chassis. The result was a brave attempt at creating a cutting edge slab-sided pontoon shape, which failed rather miserably from an aesthetic point of view. Not one of Van den Plas' happier moments, the completed car was first shown at the Brussels Motor Show in January 1949.
Gardner kept 110106 for about a year and a half. In 1950, Claude Nias, a Belgian privateer, bought the car and raced it twice with a Mr. Brancart in the Liège-Rome-Liège rally. He placed 20th in 1951 and 12th in 1952. As 110106 was too heavy to be competitive, Nias decided in 1952 to have the car re-bodied by Martial Oblin in Brussels as a lovely and sleek coupé in the style of contemporary Ferraris. Chassis 110106 still carries this exciting coupe body.
Beginning in the late 1940s, Oblin had been developing a number of modern construction techniques for light competition bodies. The result he achieved on 110106 was featherweight compared to the Van den Plas body, and included a technically advanced "spiderweb" of great strength, which supported the roof. The "web" consisted of thin steel tubes welded into a structure, which was able to absorb a considerable impact.
Oblin completed the body in a mere six weeks. Without resorting to any of the woodwork, which had weighed down the Van den Plas, Oblin constructed the new body using his network of steel tubes to support a thin 15/10-gauge aluminum skin. The resulting "Superleggera"-type body weighed a scant 145 kg including lights, glass and seats. Mounted on 110106, the completed chassis-body ensemble was exhibited at the 1953 Brussels show. In contemporary articles, much was made of the fact that the tubes under the roof would support the car in the event of a crash and roll -- a claim which would turn out to be substantially true almost half a century later in 2002!
Reminiscent of the coupe designs for the much smaller Ferrari by Giovanni Michelotti, the Oblin Grand Sport was a very pleasing shape, but not a copy of any specific car. Oblin moved the entire greenhouse towards the rear, which resulted in a racy fastback silhouette with a long sleek hood. He adeptly translated basic Italianate body volumes intended for small and low sports cars up to the scale of the powerful Talbot chassis and engine without losing any of the Italian elegance in the process. Grand Sport 110106 is not something small and delicate -- it remains a full-size, hairy-chested and brutally enticing car.
In 1953, Nias raced 110106 with its new Oblin body in the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps. Starting from the pole position in a very competitive field, he was in fourth place at the 8th hour, but was forced to retire with rear axle problems when a spring failed. He also participated in the Liège-Rome-Liège rally in 1953, but had to retire yet again after going off the road on a downhill corner. Nias sold the car in 1957 to a Mr. Vanderkele in Brussels. Venderkele kept 110106 for the next 19 years, but there is no record what he did with it during his long tenure.
In 1976, 110106 found another long-term owner when noted Talbot collector François d'Huart bought the car from Mr. Vanderkele. During his time with 110106, d'Huart rallied the car many times, including participating in the January 1987 Montecarlo-Sestriere rally. In 1999, chassis 110106 was sold via Christophe Pund of the Galerie des Damiers, who exhibited the car at Rétromobile. Its next owner, who retains the car today, subsequently raced and rallied 110106 extensively.
In 2002, 110106 suffered an accident at Spa-Francorchamps. The car rolled onto its roof, and Martial Oblin's marvelous 50-year-old web of steel tubes did a remarkable job of absorbing the energy. The roof did not cave in and the owner escaped with no injuries. Subsequently, 110106 was sent to Rod Jolley Coachbuilding in the UK for a sympathetic restoration.
This wonderful and exquisite Talbot-Lago is understood to retain all of its original mechanical components along with its original interior boasting an exquisite patina. It is a very rare, fast and competitive sports car eligible for many prestigious events around the world. With its documented, unbroken chain of ownership and interesting period rally and race history, this Talbot Lago Grand Sport presents a rare opportunity for a connoisseurial collector to acquire a unique and important addition to his collection.