Tom Cole

ferrari, tom cole, klemcoll

This driver is the British-born American Tom Cole, who was active in racing in both America and Europe in the early 1950s. He is here seen at Silverstone during the non-Championship International Daily Express Trophy for F2 cars on May 9, 1953. The car he is driving is a two-liter Ferrari 500F2, owned by Belgian Charles de Tornaco in partnership with Ecurie Francorchamps run by the Belgian Ferrari agent Jacques Swaters from whom Cole had rented the car for the weekend. Cole had entered the Ferrari under his Atlantic Stable banner. Being owned by a Belgian team, it was painted yellow. The Trophy race, as usual in those years, was run in two heats and a final. For mechanical reasons Cole did not set a practice time and started at the back of the field for the first heat, where he stayed, finishing next to last, one lap down. He did not appear for the Final.

The Ecurie Francorchamps 500F2 had been acquired by Swaters from Ferrari in 1952 and there follows an amusing tale. As was not unusual at Ferrari’s assistenza in Modena, the car was not ready when promised and there were several days of waiting. Swaters had been planning to ship the 500F2 back to Belgium for the Grand Prix des Frontières at Chimay, but that plan would now be impossible due to the long delay in the delivery of the car. Not to be put off, Swaters decided to drive the F2 back to Chimay on the road, up Italy, over the Alps (this was long before tunnels under the mountains) and across France. No registration, no insurance and no license plates – a different world. Of course the 500F2 had no  headlights either, so Swaters had his wife lead the way with their Citroen traction avant during the hours of darkness. He arrived at Chimay on the Saturday night and had the 500F2 ready for his customer Roger Laurent to take the start the next afternoon.

Nevertheless, Cole had a good day in the International Trophy’s sports car race. Driving his Ferrari 340MM Vignale with which he had finished a superb fourth in Mille Miglia two weeks before, he came home second at Silverstone (see below) to Mike Hawthorn’s Scuderia Ferrari 340MM with Touring bodywork.

Cole then entered his 340MM for Le Mans with the very experienced Luigi Chinetti as his co-driver. They were doing reasonably well when tragedy struck early on Sunday morning. As usual there was mist in the early hours and Cole lost control of the Ferrari at the blind high speed turn at Maison Blanche, went off the road and was killed. The Francorchamps 500F2 also had a tragic history when Charles de Tornaco was killed in it during practice for the Modena Grand Prix in September.

Photos by Tom March and Louis Klemantaski ©The Klemantaski Collection –

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  1. As a young enthusiast, i was very interested of Tommy Cole with his efforts
    in America, after racing an old Jaguar SS 100 in native England, He really
    drove the wheels of the poor old Jag.!

    His fabulous 4th place finish in the Mille Miglia on his first effort was something–
    the result of some recon runs. Driving the same type Ferrari as winner Marzotto.
    It was real blow to read of his death weeks later at Le Mans, and I believe his car
    the only ” open” Ferrari as the works cars were Pinin Farina berlinettas.


    Jim Sitz


  2. Johnny Rives · · Reply

    Quelques jours avant les fatales 24 heures du Mans où sa vie s’acheva, Tom Cole avait gagné les 12 Heures d’Hyères en compagnie de Peter Whitehead, à bord d’une Jaguar C. I was there!


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