The last surviving racer from America’s first post WWII road race, at Watkins Glen in 1948, Otto Linton, has passed away at the age of 100. Having fallen in love with the automobile at age 11, the Vienna-born Linton, engineering degree in hand, arrived in the USA during the early days of World War II and found work in a Philadelphia factory where defense work was being done. By 1943 he’d become one of the first members of the Antique Automobile Club of America, and was subsequently among the founders of the Philadelphia Region of the SCCA.
For that milestone 1948 race at Watkins Glen he drove a supercharged MG J4, but did not finish, although he went on to race a variety of cars, including the Siata 208 CS shown above (photo by Alix Lafontant), at more than 30 circuits across the country. His record shows 11 starts in the 12 Hours of Sebring, where he enjoyed a pair of class wins — with Harry Beck and Hal Stetson in an OSCA MT4 in 1958, and with Thomas Fleming and Jim Diaz in an Abarth Simca in 1964.
To support and allow his racing, Linton turned his hobby into a business, doing racecar maintenance and preparation for imported cars from his Speedcraft operation in Exton, Pennsylvania, which became known as the go-to shop in the Delaware Valley. He also developed a business relationship with fellow Austrian immigrant Max Hoffman, the famed auto importer, for whom he sold several Mercedes-Benz Gullwing Coupes. In 1966 he designed and built his own Toyota dealership, which he ran until 1984.
Over the years he received several awards from Watkins Glen, Sebring and the Veteran Sports Car Club of America, and was ultimately made a Legend of Watkins Glen.
Linton’s son, Roger, reported his passing, saying: “He was over 100 years old, suffered no illness, and maintained clarity of mind. You can’t ask for much more!”
To Linton’s family and his friends in the sport, Vintage Racecar offers is sincerest sympathies.
Indeed a great man has passed. My condolences to Roger and the family.
I met Otto and son at Watkins Glen recently. He was showing an interest in our Formula Juniors. Otto had driven one in period. Otto had amazing recall for a 100 year old; way better than many to years younger. Otto was wonderfully humble considering his achievements. Commiserations to Ottos family and friends. In the 15 minutes I spoke with him he truely made an impression.