12-25-2009, 09:55 AM
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Palm Harbor, Fl
I just wanted to say a few words about my good friend Tom Robinson who passed away 8-years ago today.
Tom, who we all called “Skinny Tom”, succumbed to his injuries on Christmas Day, 2001, from a highway accident after being hit by another car while driving his homemade street-legal VW Dune Buggy.
Tom was one of those rare individuals who could make just about anything with a pair of pliers, a hammer and some duct tape. Ya know, one of those guys you love to have around your race car at all times.
Unfortunately, I only have one picture of Tom here on the bottom right photo of a 1970 Sunshine Speedway program where he is shown leaning against the front of my Brother-in-Law’s (Kenny Faircloth) Tornado car after a feature win.
Perhaps, the best illustration that expresses my feelings about Tom and his help & support for me at the onset of my racing career (such as it was) is explained HERE on my previous post about Tom in the Photo by Numbers Forum.
I won’t go into that whole litany here because it’s already covered there however this #14 Tornado car that Tom built and enlisted me to drive back then is a testament to Tom’s creative ability and the knowledge he had around a race car.
Even though this car exploded and burned to the ground on its second outing (which was a direct result of a conscious decision made between Tom & myself that night before the feature to provide an opening in the firewall whereby I could adjust the distributor advance after starting the race) we won the heat and feature the first night right off the trailer and had worked our way into second in the feature the second night out when the car blew up and I had to bail out on the racetrack.
Some of my fondest memories however of Tom were before we were racing together when I was a teenager and I first met him when we became co-workers at Big 3 Auto Salvage in Largo. Here are a few;
I remember when I first started at Big 3 I was amazed at another guy there (who shall remain nameless for the purpose of this post as his reputation is not exactly spotless in the eyes of some who still lurk & post here so no point in stirring that mess up) who could yank a motor out of a wreck in what seemed like a blink of an eye. However for the purpose of identification in this writing I will use his initials which are JM.
Big 3 at the time had an old boom truck for this task which was nothing but an old Chevrolet Truck Cab & Chassis with the roof of the cab cut off, a winch & boom on the back with an Acetylene torch mounted on the side.
When called on to go get a certain motor out of stock that was still in the car ol’ JM would disappear down the dirt road behind the office with the old boom truck and before the dust settled from his trip into yard (or so it seemed) he would be back with the damned thing hanging on the hook. In other words, he’d have a motor out and be back to the front while I was still looking for the wrenches.
As it turned out, Tom could do the same thing so since Tom was friendlier than the other guy, I expressed my amazement to Tom with basically the same quote I used above about the wrenches and he said; “That’s your problem, why are you using wrenches?”
He told me to leave my fancy tool box in my truck then proceeded to show me how to rip out a motor with just a torch and a 6-inch pocket knife. (I still have the original 6” Kabar in my toolbox that I used at Big 3 back in 69’).
The torch was used on the motor mounts first (because the trans fluid / power steering fluid would catch fire from the cut hoses if used second) than the knife on the hoses last (radiator, power steering, etc.)
Of course that gets the motor with the tranny still attached which we would than zip off with a rattle-wrench up front.
Pretty soon I was up and back with the best of them thanks to Tom.
Another fond memory at Big 3 was one of our stress relievers.
Big 3 at the time backed up to a Golf Course (Golf Course is still there but a condo now stands where the junk yard used to be) so naturally we would end up with a bunch of golf balls along the back row of junk cars.
Some of these errant balls would hit and break a $50 windshield so for payback (and a stress reliever) Tom and I would bat these balls back with baseball bats.
Then of course after a while it became a game where would challenge each other for the best hit landing on a green in the midst of a Twosome or Foursome while they were putting.
I can remember that like it was yesterday. We’d wait until just before a guy (or gal) would swing for a 10’ putt or so then WHACK, we’d try to get the ball as close the hole as possible.
Of course the automatic reaction of the group if the ball landed near them was to look back towards the group behind them and sometimes get pretty verbal about it with the second group just as vehemently denying they had anything to do with it. Man-o-man we’d laugh our a$$’s off.
Then there are all the nights after we started racing that we’d close down the Omega Lounge together in Largo but I’ll save those stories for another time.
Suffice to say, I’d wager strong money that where Tom is now, he’s either helping someone go faster or figuring out a way to do something better.
To his kids, Craig, Sherry and Donnie, I wish you as Merry a Christmas as possible on this tough day for you under these circumstances.
RIP Skinny Tom.
“Mama always told me not to look into the eyes of the sun, but mama, that's where the fun is”
~ Manfred Mann