Every so often, our editorial staff selects one aftermarket industry professional to get to know a little better. Participants are asked to respond to a series of questions that can be answered in about the same amount of time you might spend chatting at the office coffee pot or waiting for an elevator. This week, we hear from popular automotive expert, radio host and author Tom Torbjornsen. Read on to find out how the host of “America’s Car Show” got his start in the industry and what he considers his mission in life.
What was your first job in the industry?
Pumping gas. 1972. Willingboro, N.J. And then, I started changing oil shortly thereafter. I started pumping gas when I was 12 and they starting letting me change oil at 13. So, I learned to set up a lift and everything at that young age.
What do you like best about your current position?
Helping people. Educating people. Softening the relations across service counters across the country. Empowering people, if you will, so they can make quality decisions regarding their automobile. That’s what I’m all about. That’s what I’ve done for the past 22 years.
Did you initially intend to pursue a career in the aftermarket? If not, what drew you to the industry and what keeps you here?
The reason I started pumping gas at the local filling station was because I watched these other kids deliver papers and saw how hard they worked for the little money they made, and I decide I’d prefer to work just as hard at a gas station and make twice as much as they did. So the answer to the question is: I didn’t want to be a paperboy. Did I think I would end up staying in it? This industry [service repair] is kinda funny. It really takes its toll on your body on your back and by the time I was 22 years old, I had a bad back and all kinds of issues physically. I decided I wanted to try a different direction within the industry so I went into service management, dealing with people. That changed my whole view and I decided to stay with it.
What do you do when you are not at work?
Shoot guns, love collecting guns and shooting. During the summertime, I love planting. My wife loves it because she has the finest garden on the block. I like creating things in the garden.
What one word best sums up your personality?
What kind of car do you drive?
I drive a BMW 528i. Love it.
What was your first car?
Actually, there were two — the one my parents wanted me to have; and the one I wanted. My father gave me a 1968 Dodge Dart, four-door with 225 slant six in it. And if you can imagine a guy who was in auto mechanics class at a trade school going to school in a ’68 Dodge Dart when everybody else was driving Mustangs, it was quite an embarrassment but it was motivation for me to do something about the situation. So, I quickly found a buyer for the Dart, sold it and went out and bought a ’67 Camaro SS.
What is your favorite quote/mantra/motto?
“Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” — Henry Ford.
If you would like to participate in “Five Minutes With” or know someone who would be a great candidate, contact AMN Editor Amy Antenora by clicking here.