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  Talbot Lago T26C Grand Prix      

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Country of origin:France
Produced from:1948 - 1950
Numbers built:23 (all versions)
Internal name:T26
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:October 18, 2013
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Click here to download printer friendly versionItalian born Anthony F. Lago took control of the ailing SA Automobiles Talbot in 1935 after the joint venture between Sunbeam, Talbot and Darracq had failed. Lago was a big fan of motor racing and believed that success on the track was the best marketing tool for the company's road going products. Using the existing three litre six cylinder Talbot as a base, Lago and ex-Fiat designer Walter Becchia developed a new four litre competition engine. The engine used Talbot's patented valvetrain, which used a single camshaft to operate the 60-degree inclined valves through 12 unequal length pushrods. The four litre engine debuted in a roadster bodied racer in 1936, and would also go on to power the legendary Figoni & Falashi teardrop-coupes. Excelling in reliability these racers scored several sportscar and Grand Prix victories.

After a seven year hiatus production recommenced in Suresnes in 1947. Helped by a new designer, Carlo Marchetti, Lago developed a 4.5 litre version of the familiar six cylinder engine, which was first raced in the late 1930s. One of the incentives to increase the engine's displacement was to meet the displacement limit for unblown Grand Prix engines; blown engines were limited to 1.5 litres. With 165 bhp the 4.5 litre 'six' was not going to be a match for the 300+ bhp supercharged engines used in the German and Italian single seaters, so Lago and Marchetti went back to the drawing boards and designed a revised head for the 4.5 litre engine during the War. Their new engine made its debut in the T26 road car range launched in 1947. The competition version followed shortly after.

Reminiscent of the old Riley engines, the new six cylinder engine Lago and Marchetti came up with had two lateral camshafts halfway up the block. Simpler in design and execution than a full overhead camshaft design, the lateral camshafts did share many of the advantages. Short pushrods were used to operate the 12 valves. In its initial guise the engine was good for a reported 240 bhp, while the twin-plug version introduced in 1950 was officially quoted at 260 bhp. The straight six was mated to a four speed Wilson preselector gearbox. This drivetrain was installed in a straightforward box section chassis. Suspension was by wishbones and a transverse leaf spring at the front and a solid axle at the rear. Both the chassis and the gearbox were directly derived from the 1930s Talbot Lago racers and also similar to the company's contemporary road cars. Huge drums provided for some braking power.

Dubbed the T26C, the new single seater Talbot Lago made its competition debut in the 1948 Monaco Grand Prix. Compared to the supercharged competition from Alfa Romeo, Ferrari and Maserati, the French cars looked obsolete before they even turned a wheel in anger. Maserati's two-stage supercharged 4CLTs outran the Talbots with ease, but in the race the odds were evened out. Whereas the Italians required at least one pit stop to refuel and fit new tires, the T26C could complete the race without ever stopping. Despite stopping halfway for fuel Nino Farina took the victory for Maserati, but with Louis Chiron in a T26C hot on his heels. Thanks to its superior mileage and reliability the T26C scored two major Grand Prix victories in 1949. Reportedly the victory at Spa Francorchamps convinced Enzo Ferrari to abandon his supercharged V12 racers in favour of a new 4.5 litre Naturally Aspirated cars.

In the following seasons the sturdy Talbots scored a large number of victories in non-Championship races and proved to be a popular pick for privateer racers. Convinced of the car's reliability, Anthony Lago prepared a T26C for the 1950 24 Hours of Le Mans. Keeping the modifications to a bare minimum, he simply fitted fenders, lights and a slightly wider body to accommodate for two drivers. All of which were required only to comply with the regulations. Piloted by Louis Rosier and Jean-Louis Rosier, the Grand Prix car turned endurance racer scored its most notable victory. In the next edition, a similar car finished second, but well beaten by the much more modern Jaguar C-Type. More cars were built along the lines of the Le Mans racer and some were even fitted with more substantial coupe bodies.

The Talbot Lago T26C remains as one of the last 'old-fashioned' racers that could win in Grand Prix sprint races and in the most demanding endurance events. On top of the T26C's Grand Prix and Le Mans wins, it scored many successes in minor and local races.

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  Article Image gallery (71) Chassis (3) Specifications User Comments (2)