Bonhams will offer the ex-Jacques Swaters, Ecurie Belgique 1948 Talbot-Lago T26C for sale without reserve at their annual Quail Lodge auction on August 14th in Carmel Valley, California. It is estimated to sell for $1.0 to $1.3 million.
The bespoke French race car, chassis number 11006, was delivered new to Georges Grignard who campaigned it for two years – even winning the 1950 Grand Prix de Paris – and then, after buying another Talbot-Lago, sold it to Roger Laurent, Jacques Swaters and Charles de Tornaco – three amateur Belgian drivers who dreamed of an all-Belgian racing team.
Laurent was a race veteran of 37 years while de Tornaco had been racing since the age of 20 and had several successes to his name, chiefly 3rd place at the 1923 24 Hours of Le Mans and 3rd at the 1924 24 Hours of Spa. Together with Swaters and Andre Pilette, Ecurie Belgique was born with number 11006 as its weapon.
Of the car, Laurent is quoted as having said, “For our private race team, the Talbot has two advantages – she was available at a good price and is practically indestructible. What’s more, for me, I find the Wilson gear box very interesting from a technical viewpoint and extremely fun to use.”
With four drivers for one seat, the team resolved to pull names out of a hat and for their first public debut, the 1951 Belgian Grand Prix, Pilette was chosen. He came in 6th place. A month later at the next race in Holland, Pilette was again chosen to drive but during testing, in which he had the best time, he had an accident. The car underwent repairs at the workshop in Suresnes and then Swaters took over, finishing the season.
In 1952 the team changed its name to L’Ecurie Francorchamps and remained such until 1955 when they merged with the Ecuries Belge de Claes to become the Equipe Nationale Belges.
Eventually the car was retired and found its way to America where it underwent an extensive restoration, even receiving parts from original owner Grignard who had retained spares during the car’s early racing days.
Since then, the car has been part of renowned collections such as that of Henry Wessels, and has been campaigned by subsequent stewards in several historic race series, including Laguna Seca, and numerous auto events, including the 2006 Brussels Retro Festival honoring Ecurie Francorchamps. A complete engine rebuild was recently finished this year with zero running time since.
This exceptional car of heritage is to be offered without reserve and will appear alongside other rare competition cars such as the important 1939 Auto Union D-Type GP and the ex-works 1952 Siata 208CS Berlinetta, not to mention a 1937 Bugatti Type 57SC and 1955 Mercedes-Benz Gullwing. Additionally, cars such as Dean Martin’s 1962 Ghia 6.4L coupe, Frank Sinatra’s 1958 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham and a 1933 Duesenberg Model J Torpedo Victoria convertible formerly owned by Hopalong Cassidy, will also be offered, to name just a few.
Bonhams & Butterfields’ auction of competition and collector cars will take place at Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley, California, on Friday, August 14th.
For more information, visit www.bonhams.com/cars.