Monterey Auction Preview: 1949 Talbot Lago T26 Monoposto

Can we already be closing in on Monterey Week? I’ve barely had time to brace myself for the enormous influx of vintage racing giddiness that it brings each year. As a result, I’ll ease into the season by showcasing this repeat visitor to the Monterey auctions—this gorgeous 1949 Talbot-Lago T26 Racing Monoposto.

Gooding & Co counts this magnificent 1950 Paris Grand Prix winner among it’s featured cars for their Pebble Beach Auctions to be held on August 14 and 15. What a true beauty. This transitional immediate post-war period between the pre-war racers and the Grand Prix greats of the mid 50s is such an interesting time period for racing cars. They had much of the same visual aesthetic as the pre-war cars with their elegant boat tails and proportions that hide the enormous scale of the cars. The technology leaps of WWII were just starting to make the transition to civilian use. These immediate post-war cars present a fascinating period of technological transition. The beauty of the pre-war, mixed with the utility of the post-war.

This example, chassis #110006, wears her French blue paint with pride, having carried Frenchman Georges Grignard around 50 laps of the Autodrome de Linas-Montlhéry in 2 hours 05 minutes 38.8seconds to capture victory; 4 laps ahead of Louis Gérard’s Delage. The race must have been grueling indeed, only Grignard, Gérard, and fellow Delage driver Marc Versini finished the race at all. The other 8 racers all dropped out with mechanical problems (including Stirling Moss at the wheel of the #17 HWM-Alta which dropped out with a connecting rod failure). It’s no surprise that #110006 wears the livery today, with Grignard’s racing number 8 and driver identification hand-painted ahead of the cockpit. Grignard even played a part in the restoration of the car many years later when he provided the spare parts he’d kept from his campaigns with the car. I love the notion of Grignard caring for the car so many years after they’d parted.

Even without the marvelous history, this Talbot-Lago would be no less attractive. The aggressive stance that would surely strike a chord with any American hot-rodder; the bodywork and brightwork that any warbird pilot would feel comfortable in; that exaggerated steering wheel that would feel small in a bus driver’s hands – they unite in a singular display of shear racing beauty and menace. I find myself looking again and again at the simple hand-painted graphics on the car (if you can even call them graphics), just their simplicity and touch of personality communicate such romance and history. It’s simply perfect. If you were to meet Gooding’s estimated bid of $650,000-$850,000 and take this Talbot-Lago home, I’m sure you’d provide a warm and inviting home for her for many years.

Unless, of course, you were the buyer of #110006 at Bonham’s Exceptional Motorcars and Automobilia at the Quail Lodge last year. The car was just as stunning as she is today, and was expected to bring an even more handsome sum, with an estimate of $1-1.3Million. Selling without reserve, though, has its risks and I’m sure there was a very disappointed owner with more than a few shed tears when the car sold for a mere $557,000.

So it’s a year later and that very lucky buyer is looking to see if their good fortune has lasted another 12 months, with an estimated $100,000-$300,000 turn on last year’s investment—not a bad return just for keeping a car in good kit for a year. I hope that this Talbot’s next caretaker doesn’t think of her as a mere investment, and that #110006 finds herself back on the track, not locked in a vault waiting for the next sale.

Ex-Denny Hulme McLaren Formula 1 Car at Auction

RM Auctions will be hosting their first ever event in Monaco in a few weeks, “Sporting Classics of Monaco“, and they’ve certainly pulled out all the stops. The catalog is absolutely mesmerizing, with offerings including the 1937 BMW 328 Mille Miglia “Bügelfalte”, The stunning Birdcage Maserati we looked at a few weeks ago, and some high-demand Ferraris (275 GTB, Tour de France, Daytona Spider).

This car though, hasn’t been featured much in the sportscar press and I didn’t know it was included in the sale until I happened upon the full catalog today. You are looking at one of the three M14A Formula 1 cars that McLaren built to compete in the World Championship for 1970. The McLaren team entered the new decade in absolute dominance of the motoring world. Their Can-Am effort the previous year was in complete control of the series, with Bruce McLaren or Denny Hulme standing atop the podium at all 11 races of the season. They’d also claimed a handful of wins in ’69 in Formula 1 as well. It was time now to continue that amazing success into the 1970s. This car looked well poised to do it too, with a 2nd place finish in her debut race at Kyalami for Hulme—in this very car. The team was on the podium twice more in the next three races. Not a bad start.

That’s when everything went South. Denny suffered a bad methanol burn following practice at Indianapolis. Bruce of course died in a crash at Goodwood testing the new Can-Am car. Amazingly, Denny missed only two races and returned to the car for the French GP. In the next 8 races, Hulme would finish on the podium 3 times more and finished the season in 4th. Incredibly, he won that year’s Can-Am drivers’ championship—oh for the era of driver versatility.

The car itself, chassis M14A2, looks absolutely perfect. Although it had a short stint in her post-F1 years as a Formula 5000 car, the car was fairly quickly returned to the original specification (is this the original engine?) Ford-Cosworth DFV and Hewland gearbox. The car is presented in the livery she wore during the 1970 season and that orange shade is just so brilliant. The photography for the catalog is absolutely stunning and looks like you could just reach into the photo and take her for a spin. I’m surprised that RM’s estimate is as low as it is at $340,000 – $400,000. I can’t believe I just referred to $400K as a low price on something. But really, who needs a house (or two), when you could take a few laps in this.

More information in the auction catalog – I hope more auction houses follow this practice of releasing their full catalog online.

The Margin Between Champagne and Orangeade

Jackie Stewart Demonstration Lap in a BRM V16

Karl Ludvigsen’s BRM V16 Lecture

’67 Grand Prix de France

German Grand Prix ’67

Great soundtrack in this recap of the ’67 German GP. 1967 was the first year of the Hohrenhain chicane leading into the start/finish straight, which attempted to reduce the speeds. Even so, it’s still the Nurburgring, which with these light f1 cars means liftoff at Pflanzgarten.

Bad luck for Dan Gurney in this race, he broke the lap record 4 times in the early stages of the race (so much for attempts at reducing speeds!) only to suffer from a broken U-joint 2 laps from the finish.

Enough has been written about the differences in modern Formula 1 and the GP drivers of the pre-downforce era, but I’m especially struck by the starts. The narrower cars and wider classic tracks means that the start is a mob scene. Groupings of 6 and 7 wide weren’t uncommon in the dash to turn one. Today’s narrower tracks allows for a much more controlled and less chaotic, and certainly less exciting, start.

Around Rouen with Graham Hill

With a first row start and fastest lap in the race, the 1962 French Grand Prix really should have belonged to Graham Hill. But a minor bump with a privateer and later engine problems forced Graham to finish 10 laps off the pace. This race was made famous, of course, by Gurney’s win in a Porsche — the first Formula 1 win for both. Let’s take a spin around the forests of Normandy with Graham Hill at the wheel of his unlucky BRM, shall we?


Lotus Liftoff

I’ve heard it said that Formula 1 is what Europe has instead of a space program. That’s only partially true of course, but it does pretty accurately communicate the level of engineering prowess on the world’s Grand Prix circuits. On today’s 40th anniversary of NASA’s Apollo program, I can think of no better visual tribute on The Chicane than this Lotus trying to achieve escape velocity at (probably) the Nurburgring.

Brabham Looking Up

And this Brabham.

Endo Ferrari?

And a Ferrari doing an endo for good measure.

Exciting Racing Sounds Finale: Brands Hatch

It’s finally time for the final cut from the Exciting Racing Sounds of Grand Prix album. In this final track, Phil Hill visits Brands Hatch, and while I’d like to say that this final cut is the climax of the lp, it’s a bit more like ‘in with a bang, out with a whimper’. The visit to Brands is precious short on racing action, starting with audio from the Red Arrows fighter jet squadron flyover and finishing with the military band. It is nice to hear the podium celebration for Jack Brabham as the band plays “Waltzing Mathilda”. There you have it friends, your Exciting Racing Sounds of Grand Prix album is complete… now just flip back side A and enjoy.