Pilot: Tom O’Neil

 

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I’m lucky enough to call Tom a friend. He’s been a large inspiration in my past years experience. Watching him take his s13 cross country in a self defining trip. Overcoming the struggles of driving a swapped, low, kitted, 240sx on 18 by wide wheels. Incurring damages but pushing on and logging thousands of miles. That inspiration only quantified in our Final Bout experience which yet again he drove his car the 14 hour drive from central Pennsylvania with me just behind in my Miata. He shows up and holds nothing back. Sitting in the passenger seat on track, watching him dance gracefully and skillfully across the a course he’s never driven on, door to door with drivers he’s never drifted with. There is a lot of confidence not only in himself but in the machine he has built. It’s hard to find in the sea of enthusiasts.

Staring at my screen, flipping through top choices of social media  is a testament of what a difference 15 years make. Growing up before getting my first car in high school, browsing through Super Street magazines, picking which car I would have and what parts I want from the many of choices of catalog samples. Cities and towns felt like bubbles with their own particular taste and even more so from one coast to another, each with their own style. To now where communication to someone on the opposite side of the planet is instantaneous. Instead of feeding off so much locally and the biggest influence of what’s happening around the world being TV and magazines. It’s Instagram, Tumblr, and Facebook. The many of the photographers and builds packing the internet. The thousands hours of documentation from car shows to street sessions happening at any given moment somewhere. Pushing the car scene more than ever. It’s really rad to see. Just as anything though it comes with consequence. Half assed cars and poor decisions can get you famous over night. Spawning a new era of fame hungry “enthusiast” feeding off likes and comments to fill ego.

 

I’m not saying this is the end of the world or some reason the car scene will get a bad name. It will continue to grow and change just as it always has through history. What I’m getting at is that it’s a relief to find someone like Tom. With a long history of trial and error to find out what works. Still finding out and always looking to learn something new. A road trip does a lot for your perspective. While the many hours on the road gives you so much time to think about anything and everything or the ability to diagnose and get through obstacles while thousands of miles away from home. Experiences. People and places that you finally get to see in real life and not behind a computer screen. To new friends that you just happened to stumble upon in the process. Feeling alone in the middle of nowhere to feeling grateful and loved showing up at a friends house that you’ve never been to before in a different state. These are the type of moments that actually mean something and the type of moments that have driven Tom and inspired others to do the same.

There is nothing wrong with putting hundreds of hours in a car that rarely sees rain. Moving from garage or driveway to a parking lot filled with cars and people liked minded. I have a lot of respect for such perfection and attention to detail. While that process maybe your escape, mine is clocking thousands of miles. Showing up and pushing the machine I’ve built to the limits, whether is grip or drift, I love the feeling and gratitude from running a pass well. The feeling that if you mess up and spin you could be over a cliff or smashing into the person following just behind you. That process of destroying and repairing over and over again because it’s a eventuality in the type of thing we do.

 

“I try to strike a balance between function and from. Creating a car that looks like it can’t perform, but going out and showing the world that “Yes it can and it looks fucking dope.”… That’s all I ever wanted to do with drifting besides improve personally as a driver at my own pace. It’s just like skateboarding and if done right the people who drift are just like skateboarders. There is no competition, Only fun to be had. So relax and get stoked for people who want to have fun and stop tearing people down or trying to be a grassroots superstar. Those are the negative things that have come from social media”

~Tom                                 

Go outside. Drive far as fuck away as you can. See some awesome people and amazing places. They are cars, meant to be pilotted.

As for Tom’s 240sx history. It’s has a long sorted past. Tom’s acquisition began with love for the S30 chassis which on a low budget for a running one was just out of range. After resorting to a much more obtainable goal of a 240sx the first purchase was made circa 2006 from Monmouth County in New Jersey for a non running KA24DE swapped hatchback. Coming in green Tom wanted to learn and stored the S chassis in a barn and would go over from time to time to sort the car out. Eventually after getting it running only to find out the rings where shot. So back to the drawing board and now attempting to rebuild the motor on a budget only yet again to run into more issues in trying to save money and finishing the dual cam off for good. A SR20DET was sourced and swapped and the real adventures finally began. Now starting it’s life as a back road grip and autocross machine as well as a daily driver more importantly. Until eventually pushing too hard the front end met a tree after plummeting down a deep ditch. Some 9 months of saving and picking up his current hatchback in 2009. The SR got a new chassis as well as a long list of well needed upgrades and hasn’t stopped there. Turbo upgrades, a long list of suspension parts, exterior make overs through out the years. It hasn’t ended and there is no sign it will. At this point it’s a prized possession, handled with care and driven with intent and execution. Learning from mistakes and slowing moving from a grip setup to a quite capable drift chassis. The experience is important and Tom as well as this car has a long list of them to tell.

So here is a few pictures from an afternoon spent with Tom and friends.

Thank you for reading.

~Jordan

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Obligatory Final Bout II pictures.

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