|Born||Thomas Lionel Howard Cole, Jr.|
11 June 1922
Llandaff, South Glamorgan, Wales
|Died||14 June 1953 31) (aged|
Circuit de la Sarthe, Le Mans, Pays de la Loire, France
Thomas Lionel Howard Cole, Jr. (11 June 1922 – 14 June 1953), also known as Tom Cole or Tommy Cole, was a British-American racing driver and co-creator of the Cadillac-Allard sports car. Afflicted by childhood polio, he served in non-combat roles in World War II, and then took up rallying, hillclimbing, and sports car racing full-time after the war. He died, aged 31, in a crash while driving in the 1953 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Cole was born in Llandaff, in South Glamorgan, Wales, U.K. on 11 June 1922. He contracted polio in childhood, and largely recovered, but the illness left him with minor disabilities, for the rest of his life.His family emigrated to America when he was seventeen arriving in New York City on 28 August 1939. He attended Harvard University for a year, served in the U.S. Merchant Marine and then drove an ambulance for the American Field Service. Upon returning from the war, he began to volunteer for Bill Frick and Phil Walters' famed Frick-Tappett circle-track racing team. In Frick's words, "Tommy Cole would meet us at the gate at races all around the East. He’d get on the running board of the tow car and we'd tell the man at the gate that he was with us. At first, he didn’t know which end of the screwdriver to use, but after awhile he became quite helpful. In the parlance of the circle-track racing scene, we called these people 'pit stooges.' They were just fellows who wanted to be around the racing scene and did not have a car."
Cole split his time between the US and the UK after the war. In 1947, Cole took part in the Bugatti Owner's Club (B.O.C.) Opening Rally in Bisley, Surrey, driving a "very transatlantic" Buick. He was noted as being a new member. 1⁄2 litre Jaguar SS100 for hillclimbs and sportscar races. In July, he raced the car at Gransden Lodge Airfield but it blew up on the first lap. In September, he drove it to second in class in the Brighton Speed Trials and made his first appearance in the Prescott Speed Hill Climb.Following this, he tuned his 3
Cole returned to Prescott in June 1948 and recorded the fastest time in his class,a feat he would repeat at the July meeting. He placed second in class at the Boscombe Speed Trials in August before returning to Prescott in September for a third class victory, this time in very wet conditions.
Cole then brought his Jaguar and an HRG 1500 to the United States, racing first at the 1949 Bridgehampton Sports Car Races, held on June 11 of 1949. Bridgehampton founder Bruce Stevenson recalled that "Tommy Cole was well known to all as a gentleman... charmingly forgetful of his passport, his wallet, his helmet and the unimportant details of daily life. But in a thrilling exhibition of driving skill, he piloted the Jaguar to second place using only one hand on the controls—the other was occupied holding the battery in position!"He drove his HRG 1500 to fifth place in the 1500cc heat, then drove his Jaguar to second behind George Huntoon's Alfa Romeo 8C in the 100 mile event. In September, he raced the HRG at the Watkins Glen Grand Prix to fifth in the supporting Seneca Cup and fourth in the feature race, winning his class in both.
Cole's ability soon exceeded the potential of the Jaguar and he approached Bill Frick, of Frick-Tappet Racing, to see if the car could accommodate a 331 cu in (5.4 L) Cadillac engine. It would not so he imported an Allard J2 from England through his father's shipping company and installed the engine into this car instead. The Cadillac-Allard J2, or Cad-Allard, fused a lightweight chassis and modern suspension system with a large powerplant, and would achieve considerable international success. Cole is credited with its creation.
The first race for the new car was at Palm Beach Shores in January 1950. Cole led for two laps before being passed by eventual winner Huntoon. He finished seventh after a spin, but was disqualified for receiving a push.In May, he won the heat race for the Heart Trophy at Suffolk County Airport and led the feature, but suffered a cracked rear wheel and finished second behind Briggs Cunningham. He took his first major race victory at Bridgehampton Sports Car Races in June, leading flag to flag and setting the fastest lap. The same month, he raced a Cad-Allard at Le Mans with marque founder Sydney Allard, placing third overall despite only having top gear for most of the race. The car was permitted to race as a prototype given that few units had been sold at the time. In July, he competed in the Leinster Trophy but retired. In September, he returned to the Watkins Glen Grand Prix; he slid off track from pole but Erwin Goldschmidt won in a Cad-Allard. Cole partnered with Goldschmidt for the inaugural Sebring 6 Hours in December; the latter wrote to Motor Sport hailing the Cad-Allard as one of the greatest sportscars of 1950, even above the Jaguar XK120 that had been so successful on the Continent.
Cole damaged his Cad-Allard in a crash. His friend and racing patron, John Perona, offered him a Chrysler Hemi powered Allard for the 1951 Buenos Aires Grand Prix. Due to the engine's massive torque, the car suffered from transmission problems during practice and the race. John Fitch won, ironically driving Cole's Cad-Allard which he had borrowed and repaired.His adventure in Argentina did not end there, as shown in a letter he wrote to his friend Vic Franzese (owner of the Glen Motor Inn in Watkins Glen, New York north of Elmira):
"He was in a light plane that had crashed in the jungle. The pilot had a .45 handgun and a knife. They survived eating snakes. It took them two weeks to find civilization in Brazil. They were found by the natives."
Returning to the US, he drove his Chrysler-engined Allard to another win at the Bridgehampton Sports Car Races, sweeping the S+3.0 support race and the 100 mile feature. 81.38 mph (130.97 km/h). He travelled to the Targa Florio but did not compete, and did not get back in time to take up his entry for the Tourist Trophy at Dundrod.He returned with Sydney Allard to Le Mans in a Cad-Allard, retiring with clutch problems around the 12-hour mark. He won the sportscar class in a Chrysler-Allard at the Leinster Trophy and set a sportscar lap record at the event, lapping the Wicklow Circuit at an average speed of
In March 1952, Cole took second place in the Vero Beach 12 Hour Endurance Road Race. He was surrounded by Ferrari drivers on the podium.That summer he launched his European racing campaign at Le Mans, with a Ferrari 225 S, serial number 0152EL, belonging to his co-driver ”Pagnibon” but entered by Scuderia Ferrari. They ran as high as 15th before retiring with ignition issues. Shortly after, he purchased his own Vignale bodied 225 S, serial number 0194ET. He drove it in two Italian road races: the Targa Florio (placing 11th overall) and the Dolomites Gold Cup Race (15th overall). August saw Cole return to Britain with his Ferrari. He took part in the Daily Mail International Festival at the Boreham Circuit, finishing fifth in the S+2.0 race despite fading brakes. A fortnight later, he partnered Graham Whitehead in the inaugural Goodwood Nine Hours, finishing second in a race of high attrition despite again suffering fading brakes. His Ferrari was photographed during this race and featured on the cover of Motor Sport in September 1952. Cole followed this up with second place at the Bari Grand Prix.
In 1953, Cole returned to Europe and purchased a 340 MM Vignale; the car's serial number was 0284AM. He sold the 225 S to Ecurie Francorchamps.He entered the 1953 Mille Miglia in April and, despite having never driven the 1,000 mile course before, finished fourth with Swiss navigator Mario Vandelli after a steady, controlled drive. He drove to second place in the sportscar race supporting the BRDC International Trophy in early May.
The same year, Cole began a foray into single-seater racing with the Atlantic Stable team. He made his debut in March in the Syracuse Grand Prix driving a Cooper T23, only for a burst tyre to cause his car to crash and burst into fire.At the International Trophy, he entered the main Formula Two race in addition to the sportscar race, driving a Ferrari 500. In Heat 1, he collided with Joe Kelly and later ran out of power in a separate incident, but finished the heat in 15th. He did not feature in the final, presumably unable to fix the issue with his car. Cole focused on single-seaters for the rest of May. Back in a T23, he was a reserve entry for the Ulster Trophy and Coronation Trophy but did not compete, and reached his first and only single-seater finish at the Grand Prix d'Albi, coming home 7th despite a broken gear-change forcing him to coast into most corners in neutral.
Cole returned to sportscars for June. Staying in France, he partnered with Peter Whitehead to a victory in the rainy French International 12 Hours of Hyèresin Whitehead's Jaguar C-Type. However, the event was marred by the fatal accident of his Le Mans co-driver "Pagnibon".
On 13 June 1953, Cole started his fourth Le Mans in his 340 MM, this time co-driven by Luigi Chinetti. The race started well, with the car running as high as third during the first three hours, but it had fallen to sixth by the fourteenth hour as morning broke in fog. Cole began a charge, unusual for this phase of the race and for the conditions, and was catching the fifth-placed car of Peter Whitehead by 10 to 20 seconds per lap. At 6:14 a.m., Cole lost control passing a slower car at Maison Blanche. The Ferrari hit a bank and demolished a wooden hut. Cole was ejected from the car and died instantly from his injuries.
Cole had previously expressed his wish that, if he were killed during a motor race, he should be buried near the venue. He was interred at the Le Mans West Cemetery in accordance with this wish.
Born a British citizen, Cole had applied for U.S. citizenship and that process was still underway at the time of his death. He held an American racing driver's license,and his Ferrari at the 1952 Targa Florio was painted in North American racing colours (the FIA required cars to be painted in their drivers' national colours). He has been referred to as "an Anglo-American, who called both countries home."
Since 2016, the VSCC has hosted an annual race for 1950s sportscars known as the Tom Cole Trophy.
|1949||Bridgehampton 100 Mile||2nd||Tom Cole||Jaguar SS100|
|1950||Bridgehampton Sports Car Races||1st||Allard-Cadillac J2|
|Heart Trophy||2nd||T. L. H. Cole||Allard-Cadillac J2|
|24 Heures du Mans||3rd||S. H. Allard||Allard-Cadillac J2|
|1951||Bridgehampton Sports Car Races||1st||John Perona||Allard-Chrysler J2|
|Bridgehampton 100 Mile||1st||John Perona||Allard-Chrysler J2|
|1952||Second Annual Florida Handicap Vero Beach Endurance Road Race||2nd||John Perona||Allard-Chrysler J2|
|Goodwood Nine Hours||2nd||Tom Cole||Ferrari 225 S|
|Gran Premio di Bari [S+1.1]||2nd||Tom Cole||Ferrari 225 S|
|1953||12 heures d’Hyères||1st||P. N. Whitehead||Jaguar C-Type|
|Silverstone International||2nd||Atlantic Stable||Ferrari 340 MM Spyder Vignale|
|1950||S. H. Allard||Sydney Allard||Allard-Cadillac J2||S8.0||251||3rd||1st|
|1951||S. H. Allard||Sydney Allard||Allard-Cadillac J2||S8.0||134||DNF|
|1952||Scuderia Ferrari||”Pagnibon”||Ferrari 225 S Berlinetta Vignale||S3.0||DNF|
|1953||Luigi Chinetti||Luigi Chinetti||Ferrari 340 MM Spyder Vignale||S5.0||175||DNF|
(Fatal accident - Cole)
|1950|| A. E. Goldschmidt|
|Erwin Goldschmidt||Allard-Cadillac J2X||S8.0||50||DSQ|
|1952||Paul O'Shea||Allard-Cadillac J2X||S8.0||DNS|
|1953||William Lloyd||Bill Lloyd||Ferrari 340 America||S5.0||DNS|
|1953||Mario Vandelli||Ferrari 340 MM Spyder Vignale||S+2.0||4th|
|1953||P. N. Whitehead||Peter Whitehead||Jaguar C-Type||S+3.0||204||1st||1st|
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Cole had been stricken with polio at a young age and spent several years unable to walk, which left him with foreshortened legs. He was an enthusiastic and capable racer whose relative disability was not apparent behind the wheel.
B.O.C. Opening Rally: Held at the N.R.A. Pavilion, Bisley, this event was well attended, the cars ranging from such diverse types as Dr. Ewen's 1908 Itala – going better than ever with a new l.t. magneto now in use - and new member Tom Cole's very transatlantic Buick.
Cole's S.S. had an expensive blow-up on lap 1.