By: Jeremy McMullen
blog comments powered by Disqus
By: Jeremy McMullen
| Obscured by the haze of the Alfa Romeo 158's dominance of the first three places in Formula One's first season was a car from France that made its statement from the other side of the spectrum. While the 158s of the Alfa Romeo SpA team would utilize their superior horsepower and disappear into the distance, the Talbot-Lago exercised a different strategy reminiscent of the tale 'The Tortoise and the Hare'. Although often overlooked because it didn't have the power of many other cars it competed against, the Talbot-Lago T26C forced teams to think beyond power and speed. In its own way, the T26C helped define what a successful race car was and is.
It is the philosophy of most automakers that investing, if able, in motoracing will also benefit production cars. This was the viewpoint of Anthony Lago when he took over SA Automobiles Talbot. In that day and age, building a car and then entering it in some races to be tested and beat up was the equivalent of today's car companies and their vast proving grounds. In fact, Lago used his experiences designing and building grand prix cars to then apply that technology to the company's road cars. Lago started out building and designing the grand prix cars around the parts and features that worked or showed promise.
Using Talbot's existing 3 liter, 6 cylinder engine, Lago was able to improve upon this base and produced a 4 liter version for competition purposes. This engine would be widely used throughout the 30s. After World War II, Lago, helped by a new designer Carlo Marchetti, developed a 4.5 liter version of the 6 cylinder, but this engine was only able to produce 165bhp. This engine was later revised and able to produce around 240bhp. One interesting aspect of the design of the Talbot-Lago engine was that the pushrods that operated the valves were shorter due to the lateral camshafts located about midway up the engine block. This helped efficiency.
Before Formula One's first season in 1950, Lago further refined his 6 cylinder engine until it became capable of producing 260bhp. The horsepower increase, however, was going to be no match for the Alfa Romeos and others that were capable of producing well in excess of 300hp. However, the Talbot-Lago team found there were other ways that made themselves competitive. Talbot-Lago found that gas economy and reliability made up much of the difference.