Story: The Missing Talbot-Lago T26 GSL- Jay Leno’s Garage

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Jay Leno is my kind of car guy.  To have wealth beyond most of our wildest dreams, I really think he’s wearing the same jeans as I am, which cost me $17.86 at Wal Mart a few months ago.  And he’s so level-headed I could just imagine running into him at Hardee’s in Los Angeles pulling up in his 1966 Hemi Dodge Coronet to redeem his buy one get one free Monster Angus Burger coupon as I sometimes do.  It’s just really neat that seeking out the world’s coolest cars seems like it’s at the top of his priority list for things to invest in.  Last year, Jay made a deal with a 98-year-old gentleman to buy his Talbot-Lago T26 GSL, one of only around 19 that was ever produced.  But not before the owner asked to see Jay’s garage in person, to make sure that the car was getting into trustworthy hands and would be taken care of!  Jay recently posted a video which can be seen here on YouTube about his newly acquired Talbot-Lago.  It’s a little over a half-hour long and interesting to hear all the things Jay has to say about it.

The Talbot-Lago T26 GSL, or Grand Sport Longue, was introduced at the Paris Salon in late 1953.  It was a very short-lived endeavor though, as production shut down in late 1954 or early 1955 with only around 19 or so ever made.  These cars were largely hand-built in a factory, as the company was nearly bankrupt by the time the GSL rolled around.  The cars had quite a bit of wood used in the construction, including inside the doors and door jambs.  The curved back window was made of plexiglass, as the French didn’t have the technology at that time to produce curved glass.  One thing that is unusual is that all of the T26 GSLs produced had a pre-selecter gearbox, and Jay’s car is a manual.  Jay tells us that at one point his T26 GSL was raced and he believes the transmission was converted to a manual at the factory, possibly partly to cut down on weight, as the pre-selector unit was heavy.  Jay also thinks the fact that the gear shift knob matches the other interior knobs could be evidence that the conversion may have been done at the factory.

The story behind Jay’s find is that the person he purchased the car from went to France and bought the Talbot-Lago in 1965, then had it flown from France to the LAX airport and drove it one time from the airport to his warehouse in Orange County, where it sat the entire time until Jay purchased it in 2020.  It sat for 55 years with a full tank of gas and all of the same fluids.  Jay said the brake fluid was like gel, and that it took weeks to get the brake lines completely flushed.  But everything was tended to and the car is now running and driving.  Of particular note about Jay’s Talbot-Lago is that it was known as the “missing” T26 GSL until recently, as it had been stored away and unseen for so long.  Apparently, all of the other T26 GSL cars had already been accounted for.

The T26 GSL is powered by its original 4.5 liter 6 cylinder engine, which was designed with dual cams low in the block and came with hemi heads.  The 3 Weber carburetors are aftermarket, which Jay says were added when the car was being raced.

The interior has seating for 4 and Jay points out that the leather covering the seats is original, which he is attempting to re-condition gradually.  The car has an unusual horn placement, as you have to pull one of the levers on the steering column toward you to honk the horn.  Jay also mentions how far away the clutch pedal is from the brake pedal.

The spare tire comes inside the trunk, and Jay shows us that the gas cap is also inside there.  He said the bottom of the fuel tank was corroded after setting with gas for all of those years, but his mechanic crafted a new one using as many of the old parts as he could.  Jay shows us a view from the underside of this car in the video and the tank looks great now.

As he usually does, Jay ends the video by driving around in his latest acquisition and says that the car is quick even by today’s standards.  The car still has its original paint, original shocks, and part of its original exhaust pipe and he thinks that this car is a better candidate to maintain rather than restore.  I couldn’t agree more.  Barn Finds hopes you have enjoyed this story about Jay Leno’s Talbot-Lago T26 GSL!

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  1. stillrunners

    Cool on Jay for getting one out of storage and driven again !

    Like 23
    • Nevada1/2rack NevadahalfrackMember

      And for having no hesitation to get his hands dirty working on a machinery of any kind-a true gearhead.
      There are and always will be jealous detractors of his as we see here on any BarnFinds posting with him mention but a guy that will dive under another guys car (Lamborghini) in the driveway of a valet parking area and help him get it running is a cool car guy in my book!

      Like 32
      • Steve R

        There is a chapter in Tom Cotters first “Barn” book about Jay Leno and an “urban legend” Duesenberg in a Manhattan parking garage. As the story went, his wife liked to shop when in New York City, he didn’t, so he’d spend his time walking old parking garages looking for cars. He came across a 1930’s Duesenberg that had been parked for decades. Rumors of this car had been making their rounds among collectors for years of people trying to buy it. He contacted the owner through the garage and was able to make a deal when everyone else had been unsuccessful, that’s because he made them an offer that was based on the current market price. The story can be found by Googling “Jay Leno parking garage Dursenberg”. The book inferred, though didn’t go into detail, that he bought several cars over the years in the same manner.

        Steve R

        Like 17
      • Todd Zuercher

        Got to see that parking garage Duesenberg at Jay’s garage a few weeks ago. I had read the story in Tom Cotter’s book as well so it was neat to see it in the flesh. There was a lot more to the story about Jay finally getting ownership to the car that didn’t appear in the book.

        Like 5
  2. Jake8687


    Like 1
  3. MattR

    Lovely car. I bet it’s a joy to drive. I hope Jay will craft a will that leaves his cars to a car club or an individual like him that would continue to drive the cars instead of a museum.

    Like 10
    • Steve Clinton

      And not left to be broken up and sold, like Bill Harrah’s collection.

      Like 8
  4. 86_Vette_Convertible

    Absolutely great story. IIRC Jay once said he didn’t “own” the cars, rather he was their care taker. No matter your opinion of Jay, you have to give him credit for saving some really special and rare vehicles from a fate worse than death (the crusher). I especially love the video where he got out a massive fire truck and another with some steam vehicles. And unlike many, he is not a checkbook car owner, he will get into the thick of things fixing the vehicles where he can.

    Like 16
  5. pebblebeachjudge

    The Talbot Lago Grand Sport is indeed a great car, one of the best and rarest in the early 1950’s. This one is indeed a rare find and indeed the missing GS. The 4 speed gearbox is certainly original to this car, and the build sheet clearly states it without any mystery. It was optional, as Wilson was standard. Last week at Pebble, and in this video, I noticed Jay has started to slur his speech. I wish him wellness. I hope he continues to provide us with interesting videos and that he stays healthy , wealthy and wise.

    Like 10
  6. Ken VranaMember

    Interesting side story about Jay. One day when I was living in LA, I was inside a hardware store in Burbank and my stayed by our car, with our new born daughter in her baby buggy, When I’d finished inside the store I started walking to the car, only to see Jay walking away from my wife. When I got to the car I asked her what he wanted. She had not even recognized him, but that was the way she was. He had walked up to her, looked down at the baby buggy and said, “Is that a real baby?” Then he proceeded to flirt with her for a few minutes. I told her she shouild have gone for it. She would have ended up a lot better off.

    Like 17
  7. John Clemson

    Would have been a Carl’s Jr in Los Angeles not a Hardee’s

    Like 7
    • Steve Clinton

      I LOVE those BOGOs at Carls Jr.!

      Like 1
  8. Car Nut Tacoma

    Beautiful looking car. I love Jay Leno. I love his YouTube channel, Jay Leno’s Garage. I’d love to one day meet him. I’ve heard of the Talbot car. But I’ve never seen one in person.

    Like 5
  9. TMk

    here my question , you ever wander what going to to happen to all of Jay’s cars when he leaves this life.That’s going to be a hell of a Mecum auction.

    Like 4
  10. Bob M.

    Think about this for a second: All the people that Jay employs, all the people that Jay purchases services from that he can’t do inside his garage, all the materials Jay purchases to restore and maintain the collection, the utility, insurance, health care and more that he purchases every month for his employees, plus all the personal visits, car shows, charity events and more. One man writes the check. Jay.
    And he’s a car guy to boot, plus a great ambassador for our hobby.
    Quit whining about his wealth. Practice his work ethic.
    No man on welfare every employed anyone. Ever.

    Like 4
  11. Steve Clinton

    Isn’t it time Mavis updated ole Jay’s wardrobe?

    Like 3
    • ErnieSC

      To Steve Clinton: “No”. Jay wore suits many, many years. He now enjoys his Jeans and regular shirts. I Love Him the way He is. Ever read his book? He has ALWAYS been a Down to Earth Guy! I watch him on YouTube on my ‘Smarter than Me’ TV and Love it when He’s on ‘Last Man Standing’. Someone above commented some People don’t like Jay. Why? All He’s ever done that I know of is be kind to others and provide many laughs. As opposed to other Comedians, even his jokes about Politicians were always Mild Pokes! (And Mavis has ALWAYS insisted to NOT be included in his Jobs, Jokes, Public Events, etc.!)

      Like 7
  12. Steve Clinton

    Unlike many Hollywood celebrities, Jay is a down-to-earth nice person with a real passion for cool cars!

    Like 16
  13. smokeymotors

    At first a long time ago, I didn’t think he was a hands on guy, but he is, even though he has a first class crew working on his cars, true blue car guy, there’s one of the episodes were he meets Billy Crystal and they talk about the days when they started out sometimes sleeping in an alley ways, both are talented, and blessed in America for there hard work, down to earth guys. forget his clothes, he wouldn’t tell you what to wear. Jay God Bless.

    Like 12
  14. Jon G.

    It was an In and Out grand opening in Bakersfield that I saw Jay standing in line! We passed a new Bently Turbo R in the parking lot and I commented that at least 1 millionaire was hungry and low and behold it was Jay Leno! Bluest eyes ever. They literally glow from 20ft.

    Like 9
  15. Howie Mueler

    Everybody luvs Jay!! Saw him in Vegas and the Comedy Club in Hermosa Beach.

    Like 7
  16. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry

    Anyone see the show where Jay meets cooking show star Guy Fieri at Guy’s garage and he comes out with a huge motorized shopping cart. It was quite funny.
    Jay may you have many more years of life.
    God bless America

    Like 7
  17. Frank

    Way back before Jay was anybody, we saw him perform at the Great Gorge Playboy Hotel in Vernon, NJ. The next day, we were at a ski resort in the area that was set up like an amusement park in the summer. One of the things they had was a pretty extensive go cart track. Low and behold, there was Jay practicing his driving skills, making faster and faster times, till he was thrown off the track for what they termed “excessive recklessness”. He looked sad and lost standing on the side of the track with his hands jammed into his pockets. Was probably around the late 70s.

    Like 5
  18. 433jeff

    Some interview somewhere, someone asked about old cars they wished the had kept and not sold , they asked Jay which ones he sold and Which ones he would like to have back. Jay looked at the other person and said” I havent sold any of them!” so from that moment on hes been my hero.

    Like 8
  19. Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskeyMember

    It was probably in the late 1970s, when I was contacted by a guy in New England looking for parts for his 1955 Packard [I advertised Packard parts in Hemmings]. He had a few nice cars, and his collection was very similar to mine, so we corresponded back & forth by slo-mail for a while. Years later when he began his regular visits on the Tonight Show, I realized it was Jay.

    I have a habit of not throwing stuff out [except for trash, etc.] and I went thru my file cabinets and found our correspondence. I had the selection of our letters framed and they hung in my office for years, until my shop burned down from a lightning strike in 1995.

    Like 7
    • Robert Eddins

      Oh geez, i,m sorry man. Well at least you had what most car guys never get.

      Like 6
  20. Bob Koceja

    Jay has more than just a love of machinery, he loves anything mechanical. He is also a people person, and I don’t mean Hollywood. He is one of a few celebrities I would love to meet,
    and talk cars.

    Like 2
  21. Spit Grtzr

    Ok that’s it
    I’m signing up for a subscription.
    That article was awesome !!

    Like 5
  22. Pete.

    i just love this guy, wealthy with no airs and graces who knows the details of his cars and gets his hands dirty finding out the good stuff about these fine vehicles he owns. , Keep it up Jay!

    Like 1
  23. Nic Barile

    Back in early 2000’s a friend call and asked if I could put my carpentry skill to work. A neighboring business had a car that need some wood replaced to to attach the interior fabric to. Low and behold a Talbot-Lago America ,bbbbbbT14 with rotted out door jambs, sills, cowl, and rear light frame. Quit the task to work backwards ,inside out, to replace it all with new ash. Some mortice & tenon, through bolts, epoxy & patience found a new frame for the aluminum panels & doors.When I saw the chassis with running gear in place it was done to concourse quality, but never was able to see the finished car.

    Like 1
  24. Nic Barile

    In the 2004 a friend needed some wood replace to attach interior panels of neighboring auto restorer’s car.I arrived to find a Talbot -Lago T14 body sitting on a lift. It was a shell with a rotten wood frame.
    Rebuilding and replacing the door jambs, sills, cowl and rear with ash from the inside out was a challenge. But patience, through bolts, mortice & tenon,lap joints, and epoxy won out. Doors were rehung with perfect gaps when it left my charge.
    Saw the finished chassis done to concourse quality, but never saw the finished job. Heard it sold for $200 K plus.

    Like 1
  25. Nic Barile

    I did a search and found the car . Now if I could find my photo’s my portion of the work.
    “By 2004, a complete body-off restoration had begun, including the application of a new wood sub-frame for the body”
    “The engine was fully rebuilt, with an increase in compression and a slightly higher lift camshaft. The transmission, differential, brakes, and suspension were all restored to the highest standard. Additional work that took place during the restoration included the fabrication and installation of a new wiring harness, as well as fully refitting the interior, which was done in a chocolate over grey Connolly leather. This beautiful color, which now complements the highly attractive bodywork, was finished in an exquisite Verte Cendre Metallize, or Sage Green Metallic.

    The owner reports that the Talbot drives and performs exceptionally well since the completion of its restoration, and its cosmetic condition is in equally impressive condition. Attesting to this, it has been shown at numerous concours and events around the world, where it has always performed admirably, including at the 2012 Hillsborough Concours d’Elegance, where it received a class award and the Honorary Judge Perpetual Award. In 2013, the Talbot-Lago was dignified with an invitation to participate in the Concourso Villa d’Este, where it won Most Sensitive Restoration, which was an impressive feat given the significant entries it faced in judging at this highly exclusive European event.

    This supremely elegant and beautifully finished Talbot-Lago grand touring car, which is complete with its FIVA identity card, represents the very finest of France’s post-war efforts, and we encourage close inspection of this particularly rare and desirable example.”

    Like 2

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