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Old 12-25-2009, 09:55 AM
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Jim Fenton Jim Fenton is offline
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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.

Your friend,

Jim Fenton
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Old 12-25-2009, 10:34 AM
Old Sunshine Fan Old Sunshine Fan is offline
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JM, thats for a great tribute to Tom Robinson. I didn't know him, but when you write, I seem to HAVE to read every word. I am sure he was as great a guy as you explained.

Question - Have you ever reached inside a firewall to make an adjustment WITHOUT having the car explode? (just wondering)

Thanks again for such a great read!

(now I'm going back to figuring out who belongs to those initials - JM)
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Old 12-25-2009, 02:41 PM
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Jim Fenton Jim Fenton is offline
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"Question - Have you ever reached inside a firewall to make an adjustment WITHOUT having the car explode? (just wondering)"

No, that was the first and last.

Actually, the only contribution from having that opening in the firewall caused to the overall outcome was to allow the fuel mist, then the resulting fire to enter the inside of the car instead of containing it in the engine compartment.

The cause of the explosion & fire came from the manual fuel pump which was too close to the frame on the right side as a result of the engine relocation and frame modifications to hide it. That's what Tom was alluding to in his letter to me that I posted on the other thread.

This was a 'perfect storm' situation where we had an electric pump in the rear feeding the manual pump up front. When I bumped someone in the first turn it broke the manual pump then the electric pump kept feeding the motor down the back chute while at the same time spraying a fine mist over the engine and into the driver's compartment through the hole.

I could smell the fuel and Tom had a flapper door over the hole so I could close it but I didn't so my bad. I just never dreamed the thing would grenade like that.


"(now I'm going back to figuring out who belongs to those initials - JM)"

I wouldn't fret too much over this cause I don't think you would know him. He had nothing to do with racing at all. He was a relative of one of the owners who does have other relatives that participate in racing today and also post here once in awhile. Not a big deal. He is long gone and I shouldn't speak ill of the dead.
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Old 03-14-2010, 08:30 PM
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Jim Fenton Jim Fenton is offline
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Craig -

After I posted this memorial you inquired as to whether
I had any more pics of your dad and sadly I did not.

Recently I was privileged with receiving a pile of old
Sunshine Speedway photos from someone and immediately
set about the task of going through them to identify as
many as possible and guess what I found??!

This photo was not identified as most of them are not
however I needed no label on this one.

This is definitely your dad, 'Skinny' Tom Robinson at
Sunshine Speedway, Circa early 60's.

Your dad was a great guy as well as a dedicated racer
and I thought you might enjoy seeing this piece of hidden
treasure as much as I did.

(Photo courtesy of Walt Craver & Gordon Lee)
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Last edited by Jim Fenton : 03-15-2010 at 05:24 AM. Reason: A momentary lapse of reason...
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Old 09-11-2010, 11:14 PM
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Jeff1888 Jeff1888 is offline
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I know this has nothing to do with the memorials
but when i saw Jim Fenton Four I had to respond
I was a fan off yours back in 72 at sunshine speedway
when i first started goiny there istill have a picture
ofthe four car orange chevelle I remember you in
the tornado class racing was real good back then
I raced at sunshine 79 to 82 my daughter races
at orlando speedworld I am 56 years old now
I am glad I saw your name you are one off
the great short track drivers
a fan
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Old 09-12-2010, 05:59 AM
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Jim Fenton Jim Fenton is offline
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Thanks for the kudos Jeff1888, I appreciate it.

I couldn't agree with you more about the racing
being real good back then but unfortunately it looks
like those days are gone forever.

Good luck to you and your daughter's racing
efforts man, hope she does well!

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Old 12-24-2010, 06:36 PM
crobinson76 crobinson76 is offline
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missing you more every year dad love an miss you merry Christmas
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