One Guy’s Years-Long Quest to Turn a Wrecked Classic Into a Racecar
Dave Hogye’s new car looked like crap. The paint had mostly worn off the 1959 Triumph TR3A. The windshield and windows, gone. Rust had eaten at the driver’s seat, the suspension had cracked in a few spots. Dents covered the hood and body. But hey, you’d look like crap too, if you’d spent three decades sitting in a Santa Cruz car port, partly exposed to the elements.
And you’d be glad to go home with Hogye, who spent every day of the next four and a half years bringing the pale yellow TR3A back to life as a racecar.
And race he did. He brought the two-seater to this year’s Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, where 550 vintage cars galloped around the winding 2.2-mile track, a spacetime vortex leading to the classic days of motorsports.
Hogye lives on a Santa Cruz ranch with his girlfriend, and spends his days taking care of their horses, cattle, goats, sheep, and chickens. As he hit his mid-40s, he decided it was time he finally got around to living out his dream of getting into racing.
His dad sold Triumphs in the 1950s and his neighbor had a garage full of the old sports cars, so Hogye handed over $3,500 and hauled one of the wrecks to his garage.
“It’s been a lifelong dream to do some kind of motorsport,” Hogye says. “I saw through all the dirt and the grease and grime and the rust, and thought well, this would be a good candidate to build a race car with.” So he got to work.
Growing up in Cleveland, Hogye always had a mechanical touch. As teenagers, he and his brother Tom spent $550 on a 1963 Ford Galaxy to drive in winter, since their Beetle couldn’t handle the snow. They restored it, replacing the seats and carpets and repainting it. Tom moved to California, too; the brothers still share the car.
Hogye worked as a BMW mechanic and trained in mechanical drafting and welding. He has a taste for doing things himself. When he bought the TR3A, he stacked up yellowing manuals and connected with Triumph fans around the country he could ping for advice. He let the car leave his garage just once, to have the old paint and rust blasted off.
It took months to beat the sheet metal into its original shape, down to the S-shaped curve in the front bumper. He designed his own roll cage and built a wooden rig to support the car while he worked on it, and he set up one bay of his garage as a paint shop to return the TR3A to its original color (what the Brits called “primrose”). When Hogye needed a trailer to haul the Triumph around, he designed his own.
The new dashboard favors reliability on the track over authenticity. The gauges are aftermarket, and Hogye turned the tachometer 90 degrees counter-clockwise, so the steering wheel never blocks his view of the all-important red line.
Hogye fixed up a 2.2-liter engine, which is street-legal and good for about 125 horsepower. A self-aware rookie, he figured he’d master the car on the track before upgrading to the more powerful racing engine. A few years ago, with some help from the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust, Hogye tracked down his TR3A’s original engine, which turned out to be sitting in the same shop where he bought the car. He brought that home too, to keep as a spare.
All told, Hogye put about $25,000 into his Triumph, but doesn’t seem bothered by the money. “I don’t play golf. I haven’t been to Europe,” he says. The car is his passion.
Since finishing the Triumph about four years ago, Hogye hasn’t had to fix much. He put air in the tires, gas in the tank, and replaced one axle seal. “I’ve finished every lap of every session,” he says.
All that leaves is learning how to race. Hogye took a Skip Barber driving class back in 2007 and has raced motorcycles a bit, but has mostly been training on the job. This month’s competition at Laguna Seca was his eighth race in the Triumph. Facing more experienced drivers in more powerful cars, Hogye finished 24th out of 41.
After the 30-minute session, Hogye pulled off his helmet, climbed out of the Triumph, and unzipped his white racing suit. Despite what on paper seems a mediocre finish, he was beaming, and already had his silver lining. “I’m happiest I kept that Ferrari behind me,” he said.
Now, Hogye’s thinking about upgrading his engine, to keep up on the straightaways. “I’m itching for more power,” he says. And back in his Santa Cruz garage, he has another rusted out Triumph—a 1954 TR2—waiting for his touch.
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