Bonhams returns once again to Monterey Car Week for its 26th Annual Quail Lodge Auction, held at the Quail Lodge & Golf Club in Carmel, Calif., on August 18. Among the rolling gallery of automotive art on sale is a 1949 Talbot-Lago T26 Grand Sport Convertible, a rarity in the extreme. French automobiles are like caviar and opera, all three are enjoyed by connoisseurs who appreciate things that are decidedly out of the mainstream . . . an acquired taste, if you will.
Talbot-Lago, founded by Antonio Lago in 1936, was born from the manufacturer Automobiles Talbot France, which closed its doors that same year. Talbot-Lago’s famed T150-C-SS Teardrop Coupe model is rightly regarded as among the most important—and beautiful—prewar cars ever made, but the company’s early postwar designs were ambitious and notable as well.
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Never a volume automaker, Talbot-Lago produced only 35 examples of the T26 Grand Sport, of which only three were bodied with open coachwork on the desirable short-wheelbase chassis. The heart of the T26 is its engine, a 4.5-liter, OHV inline-six topped with three Zenith Stromberg carburetors. The mill developed 190 bhp at 4,200 rpm. Like many other French cars of the day, this Talbot-Lago uses a four-speed pre-selector transmission, which eliminates the need for the driver to master a clutch in the non-synchro gearboxes of the era.
With the tendency for some postwar French automobiles to assume a wide, slab-sided appearance, the body on chassis No. 110117 features a design—penned by Claude Delaisse—that is both stately and flowing. And it was shaped in metal by Parisian coachbuilder Dubos, best known for the famous Bugatti Type 51 Dubos coupé.
The end result is that the “1949 Talbot-Lago T26 Grand Sport represents the triumph of engineering design, merging the power of Grand Prix and sports-car endurance racing from Anthony Lago and the artistry of renowned French coachbuilders,” says Rupert Banner, global head of specialists at Bonhams Cars. “This model comes with a history that intertwines the lives of passionate connoisseurs who understood its rarity and had the utmost appreciation for pedigree and aesthetics. This masterpiece encapsulates the ultimate driving experience, combining nimble precision, raw power, and unparalleled elegance.”
The car’s original owner, a Monsieur Paul Gerbe, likely held his prize for a decade or so, after which the car came to the U.S. in the early 1960s. It then went to André Surmain, the famous restauranteur and automobile collector with a penchant for French vehicles, who eventually brought the Talbot-Lago back to Europe with him in the 1970s. Surmain later sold the car to noted collector Anthony Bamford, and it subsequently changed hands again before coming to Lindley Locke in 1976. Locke possessed a number of spectacular Talbot-Lagos, though none were ever really used by him.
It’s rare that an important car like this has been preserved in largely original condition, not suffering the intervention of restorers (well-meaning or otherwise) in the decades since its manufacture. Very likely the only significant Talbot-Lago to remain in unrestored condition, this T26 Grand Sport Convertible presents its next owner with two compelling prospects: unabashedly enjoy the car in its current state of preservation, or commission a full-scale, concours restoration of this rare and worthy automotive gem. Regardless of the decision, the right to even make it will most likely cost upwards of $2 million when the car crosses the auction block.
Click here for more photos of this unrestored 1949 Talbot-Lago convertible.
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