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Timeless French Grand Prix classic

 

The dawn of the modern F1 era, the early 1950s, will be represented by three fabulous Lago-Talbot T26C Grand Prix cars from Britain, New Zealand and Australia at the Phillip Island Classic historic race meeting sponsored by Shannons, the VACC and Jayair from March 9 to 11.

It’s the first time three of the beautiful 4.5-litre straight six French monopostos (single seaters) have been assembled in Australia. Ron Townley’s Lago (chassis number 110002) is the car Australian Doug Whiteford drove to victory in the Argus Trophy race at Albert Park, Melbourne, in 1955.

Dean Butler’s car (chassis 110006) is a very well known car in Australian and British historic racing circles and Peter Giddings’ T26C (chassis 110054) is one of the last of these charismatic cars built and will arrive fresh from an 18-month restoration in New Zealand.

A total of 22 26C Lago-Talbots were built between 1949 and 1951.

The 26C was a classic long-bonneted, sharp-tailed Grand Prix racer, and its inline six motor produced between 240 and around 270bhp, depending on state of tune and its internal and ancilliary specifications.

Rear suspension was by a solid axle suspended on semi-elliptic leaf springs.The gearbox was a Wilson pre-selector unit, and the car weighed 900kg.

New Zealand driver Allen Freeman bought a Lago-Talbot 26C, chassis C110011, from the colourful British sports car and occasional Grand Prix racer Duncan Hamilton.

It arrived here in 1955, and had its bodywork stripped and repainted in a light blue

Freeman fielded the car at Ardmore, but a misfire and gearbox failure kept it out of the 1956 NZ Grand Prix. The following year, he retired from that race with magneto failure. The car raced in NZ Grands Prix until 1960, but niggling problems meant its best finish was 13th in 1960. Freeman raced, sprinted and hillclimbed the car extensively between 1955 and 1961, taking several victories.

It failed to qualify for the 1961 NZ GP, and it dropped out of its final race, at Levin, with transmission failure.

It lay idle for about two years before being shipped back to England and restored.
In his book Historic Racing Cars of New Zealand, Graham Vercoe wrote that despite his problems with it, Freeman spoke of the Lago with great affection.

“It was a beautiful car to drive,” Vercoe quoted Freenman as saying.



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