A classic car grabbed my attention as I walked the paddock during the 2010 US Vintage Grand Prix at Watkins Glen International Raceway. Owning a ’66 MGB during my first year after high school, I had a sketchy knowledge of Morris Garages products and their history with racing. Though not the chick magnet I hoped, I knew the “B” was a sporty car, fun to drive and a drastic departure from my parents’ battleship sized Plymouth wagon. Coming toward me, through the crowd, wove a green ‘49 MGTC, its chrome capped carbs singing, spoked wheels gleaming, engine calling for the track and the name “Tommy Hoan,” proudly displayed on the bonnet’s side panels. From that moment I needed to find out, “What’s a Tommy Hoan?”
During The Glen’s early days, races took place through the main street of town and out onto roads in the surrounding countryside. During an interview with the driver, John R. Wright, Canadian author for Vintage Racecar magazine, details how Tommy Hoan brought his MGTC to Watkins Glen in 1952 for his first race at that storied track. Not known for holding back, says John, Tommy, holding new SCCA competition license #464, behind his newly George Barrett rebuilt engine featuring new boring and oversized pistons, sodium valves, 1 ½” bore SU carburetors, milled surface plate and other mods, the TC cranked out an unheard of 6600 RPM.
John goes on to detail the race. 1952’s race sent waves of sadness through the racing community when, during the competition a child sitting at the curb in downtown Watkins Glen died when a car left the course, careening into the crowd. Tommy stopped racing along with the other drivers while officials cleared the scene. The race restarted, Tommy competed against several well-funded team competitors driving, among others, Osca & Simca cars, winning his E class with an average of 66.6 MPH. During the race, Tommy’s TC caught a hay bale at the side of the street, tossing it through the window of a grill on the corner. Surprise! Would you like some hay with your burger? The International Motor Racing Research Center of Watkins Glen awarded Tommy a star on their Walk of Fame in 2007.
At the wheel in this photo, David Holmes of Elmira, Ontario, Canada races the Tommy Hoan TC at Limerock and Watkins Glen. Lovingly maintained by Dave and his racing crew, the Tommy Hoan looks forward to another year of vintage auto racing in 2013. It’s great to see classics such as the Tommy Hoan MGTC in a world of carbon fiber and microprocessors.
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