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UTI Instructor Tom Brown: Keeping the Tradition of Racing Alive

"In five years come back and tell me how you’re doing. If you’re now an A-tech in five years, or the shop foreman, or own your own business, do you know how much pride I will get from that?"

 

For UTI Instructor Tom Brown, cars and racing are a family tradition.

His family’s history with cars starts with his grandfather, who was a mechanic in the 1920s and later went on to work for a GM dealership in New Jersey. Tom’s own father worked at the same dealership in high school, helping clean up the shop before getting a job as a tool and die maker for the Department of the Army. Finally, Tom himself worked there starting in 1982, taking on the role of body shop manager and other lead roles during his tenure at the dealership.

Not only was Tom’s father mechanically inclined, but he was a dedicated drag racer, having first gotten behind the wheel of a racecar at the age of 17. His father was heavily involved in the beginnings of drag racing and became friends with Wally Parks. Wally founded the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) in 1951.

Together they started the first national race series in 1955. Tom’s dad ran 46 of these races, starting with the race’s inception. His father helped transform drag racing into a respected sport.

“In the 50s they just thought it was a bunch of hoodlums running in the street. My father said ‘let’s take those guys and put them on the track where it’s safe’.” Says Brown.

Tom first started racing with his dad when he was 18. It was something that brought them closer together. Tom was there to make sure that his dad’s car was ready every year for the NHRA nationals.

Like any mechanic or racer knows, things don’t always go according to plan. In 1994 his dad got hit from the side at 150mph. Tom still gets choked up today talking about it - he thought there was no way his dad wasn’t critically injured. Outside of a headache, his dad had avoided anything more serious. But their racecar on the other hand, wasn’t so lucky.

Tom was able to take all that he learned and experienced in working on racecars and leapt into action to fix it. Using his Physics book as a guide, he converted the tire size, the header size, and with a bit of welding help took all that twisted metal and damage and made it right again.

He learned much in helping his dad out with their racecar. Today he shares a lifetime of experience with his students.

Tom had the drive and determination to help him reach his career goals. After high school, he went to a two-year college in Upstate New York, graduating second in his engineering division. After graduation, he went to work for a dealership where he made the leap to shop foreman in just four short years. Having a strong work ethic and setting goals are two lessons he hopes that his students learn from being in his classes. 

“I tell these students, if you want to do something for me, in five years come back and tell me how you’re doing. If you’re now an A-tech in five years, or the shop foreman, or own your own business, do you know how much pride I will get from that?”

Not only does he get the satisfaction of seeing his students succeed, but helping students realize their potential is a fulfilling part of his job.

“Teaching is helping others become better. As our motto goes, ‘We change lives’ and surely that’s what I fall back on, if I can change someone’s life for the better I get something out of it myself.”

Tom continues to help students in transforming their lives and pushing them towards their dreams.

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