The History of Tom's Pit Stop
Submitted January 2012 by TVRCCNA Member Tom Kruze
As a 13-year-old living in Sunnyside, New York (Queens) I always read my father's Mechanics Illustrated and Science & Mechanics magazines. I would fall asleep reading the road lest of Tom McCall's MGTD.
For my 14th birthday I got a Columbia 26" bike and rode it to Bill Frick's car building shop on 1000 Sunrise Highway (Long Island, New York which was approximately a 25 mile bike trip from Sunnyside), The purpose was to see in person the cars that were raced and modified at his business. I was chased away by a boy who worked there (Gerry Sagerman) but never knew until I became his first dealer and good friend.
My family moved to Floral Park on Long Island and my falher purchased a 1948 Chevy Fleetmaster fastback. It was a beautiful burgundy color, which I waxed once a week. The car was nice but had a rod knock so my father and I replaced the bearings and I was stuck with removing the oil pan (while laying on my back in the sand on the driveway). I still remember the oil pan falling on my head and I became a "Grease Monkey."
My family moved to New Jersey and as my father took a new job. It was a whole new world on the other side of the Hudson River. I could drive at 17 and that is all that I wanted. With my new New Jersey friends we purchased an old 1945 eight cylinder Buick and were going to "Soup" it up. We could not drive it so the dealer drove it to a local gas station where I worked part-time, First thing we did was replace the plugs and wires 1-8. Who knew about firing order. Something inside the engine broke so we junked the car and all went our own way. I thought I was a mechanic so on my own purchased a 1940 Ford convertible, which was a beauty. I had no driver's license and my parents did not know I bought the car. My father gave me his 48 Chevy when he bought a 55 Chevy V8. I started customizing the 48 because the Ford developed a rod knock. so I sold it at a loss.
I got interested again in foreign cars and my neighbor was a Volvo/Saab dealer. He gave me a job as an apprentice. They sent me to Volvo and Saab schools. My next job was for MG-Jaguar dealer and then for a all-British dealership both of which sent me to specialized schools. I saw an ad in Road and Track which caught my eye for a job in Ohio working for Chuck Stoddard who was an Alfa racer and owned a Porsche, Alfa, BMC and Facel Vega dealership. Some of the cars I owned were an MGA, Alfa Romeo Coupe, Morgan, and the first XKE Series I Jaguar that I purchased off the floor at the New York Car Show.
1963 and On
I learned a great deal and moved back to New Jersey where I opened my own repair shop called "Tom's Pit Stop". Under my leadership as owner/operator of "Tom's Pit Stop" I trained many young men to be mechanics. At that time I also became interested in racing and prepared and drove an Austin Healey Bugeye Sprite. I also sponsored a BMW, MGA, and MGB Midget for SCCA racing for other drivers.
After racing one day at Lime Rock and trailing my Bugeye home I stopped to help a broken down TVR that just had finished racing. I gave the driver of the TVR an extra fuel pump that I had, Sometime later I learned that the driver of the TVR was Gerry Sagerman. Subsequently, he came to my shop in New Jersey to have a clutch job done on his TVR. The next time that I saw Gerry, in 1966, was when he came to my shop with a new TVR (Serial #001) and asked me if I would like to sell them. He left the car and took my check, walked across the highway and hitchhiked back to Long Island. I immediately sold the car and two more were delivered costing $3,717 each. That was the beginning of our friendship, which still continues today.
In the meantime Lotus was looking for a Central New Jersey dealer and asked Gerry about me. I became a Lotus dealer in 1967 and sold more cars than any other TVR/Lotus dealer in the Northeast, mainly due to my reputation as a foreign car mechanic.
I stopped racing when I got married in 1967 but still sponsored cars and sold TVR/Lotus through 1984 when I gave up my dealership.