1949 Talbot-Lago T26 Grand Prix

What this is about is the pre-war Grand Prix experience in an attainable, moderately bomb-proof and reliable package

The Talbot-Lago T26 Grand Prix 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 in the motor industry. In the 1920s he had produced “LAP” overhead valve conversions in London.

He then moved on to the Wilson Self-Changing Gear Company, which manufactured semi-automatic pre-
selector gearboxes, before becoming an executive of the Franco-British Sunbeam-Talbot-Darraq (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.

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, 6-cylinder overhead-valve sports car, which in 1937 won the French, Tunis, and Marseilles Grand Prix races and which also dominated the British RAC Tourist Trophy at Donington Park. 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 racing engine and to develop an alternative unsupercharged 4.5-liter power unit from the company’s now-proven high-performance sports car line.

Although the ambitious and undoubtedly hugely costly V16 program would wither on the vine, for 1939 he authorized construction of three entirely new single-seat Grand Prix cars using the 4.5-liter, 6-cylinder engines. These cars made their debuts during 1939, and after WWII they reappeared, one winning four times in 1947. This much-publicized success immediately prompted the ever-enthusiastic Major Lago to authorize production of no fewer than 20 Formula One 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 6-cylinder engine.

Thor Thorson

Thor Thorson - SCM Contributing Editor

Thor grew up in northern Iowa. His father bought a red Jag XK 150 in the late 1950s, and that was all it took; he has been in love with sports cars , racing cars and the associated adrenaline rush ever since. He has vintage raced for more than 20 years, the bulk of them spent behind the wheel of a blue Elva 7. When he’s not racing, he is president of Vintage Racing Motors Inc., a collector-car dealer and vintage-racing support company based in Redmond, WA. His knowledge runs the full spectrum of vintage racing, and he has put that expertise to good use for SCM since 2003.

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