Restoring the Uni-Body of Saoutchik's 1948 Talbot Lago T26 100114
Laak Woodworks Is Defining Speciality Woodworking
In the winter of 2016, Brian Laak, owner of Laak Woodworks, was hired to restore the wooden skeleton of the 1948 Talbot Lago T26 Grand Sport
110114. It is to no surprise that Laak Woodworks, based in Berthoud, Colorado, has been chosen to complete this hardship task.
Laak is an expert in wood, metal, and moving parts. In addition to being a master woodworker & custom furniture designer, Brian also used to be a plane mechanic, sail boat captain, and logistician for Doctors Without Borders. Not to mention, that since hight school, he has spent his free time restoring motorcycles and for the past decade has created a niche in the restoration of classic English Triumph motorbikes.
Brian Laak has created a workshop and business culture that prides itself
on attention to detail, high precision detailing and patience that catalyzes an expertise of interdisciplinary trade skills into the creation of art. Laak Woodworks, and all who build under it's roof, understand that if they to truly make something of the highest quality that there is no easy way of doing it.
In order to understand the complexity of restoring the wooden skeleton of a hand built 1940's french luxury motorcar built by Jacques Saoutchik, one of the world's most extravagant coachbuilders, one must first understand the history of class European automotive production.
The History Of The Coach Builder & Wooden Skeletons
For the first half of the 20th century, automative manufactures actually only made the chassis and power train. The "car" would then be delivered to a Coachbuilder who was responsible for designing and building everything that is visible to the viewer's eye. This includes the body, cabin, interior design, doors, and fenders.
For luxury vehicles, like the Talbot Lago T26 11011, a coach builder would create a wooden skeleton atop the chassis that detailed all the lavish and unique curves of cars in this era. The skeleton would then be used as a chuck, or inverted molding frame, for the sheet metal that was to become the body. The sheet metal would be carefully hammered onto the skeleton in order to create the proper shaping of the body.
In addition to helping form the sheet metal body of the the vehicle, the skeletons were skillfully designed to act as a unified functional component of the car. The skeleton was designed to intentionally maximize the absorption, transference and dispersing of vibrations, movement and energy. They were also crafted to withstand extreme forces of wind, weathers, temperature, moisture, and wood flexing. The design of skeletons that acted functionally was known as creating a uni-body design.
The CHallenges of Restoring The T26 Skeleton
Since the T26 110114 wooden skeleton was designed both to help shape the metal and as a uni-body, there are multiple challenges that Laak Woodworks is overcoming in the process of rebuilding an authentic wooden skeleton.
Since it's debut exposition in France, the T26 110114 has been held at the wheel by many owners from around the world and has received multiple series of major modifications and restorations. This includes a removed and later reattached roof, many replacements of original parts with alternative parts, and crude or "quick" fixes to the body and skeleton. In addition, the car has had multiple periods of being left idle for long periods in harsh weather conditions leading to substantial deterioration including rusting and wood rot.
Challenge Number 1: The most evident first challenge of rebuilding the T26 skeleton is that Laak Woodworks will be building a wooden skeleton that shapes to the inside of the salvaged sheet metal body rather than the contra. Furthermore, due to some of the cruder restorations in the past and extreme weathering, the sheet metal body does not have the original shape or smoothness of curves. Parts of the doors and interior are covered in blubbery uneven layers of Bondo hardener. When Saoutchik built his cars, it is apparent that he believed that even the parts of the car that no driver will ever see should be as beautiful as the exterior but some next-generation owners seemed to adopt the restoration philosophy of "What mama don't see, don't hurt".
In the restorations of other Talbot Lagos uni-bodies, other modern coach builder have been able to user laser scan and 3D model the entire metal body and components, allowing them to create highly accurate digital blueprints for rebuilding a uni-body. It is assumed that these cyber-artisans were able to perform these scans due to a better condition of the metal body.
Due to the nature of this project, we will creating our uni-body through hand-made high precision estimates, with a