As I looked at the oil pressure gauge going through Turn 9 on the back straight at Road Atlanta, my heart sank! My newly-built Spec Miata had less than 30 pounds of pressure at nearly 7,000 rpm’s on its initial practice session. So, I brought it into the paddock with a heavy heart and plenty of unanswered questions running through my head.
Tom Fowler (Left) Explains a ProcedureAs soon as I parked the race car, I began asking the other drivers near me as to what the problem could be, and received a multitude of answers, which confused me even more. Finally, someone said, “Why don’t you go over to the OPM tent and ask Tom Fowler.” That was the best advice I could have been given!
Though I was new to the Atlanta racing scene, I had heard of both OPM and Tom Fowler, but had no idea who he was or even if he would talk to me. When I reached the OPM area, however, someone pointed me towards a tall, thin man with curly hair who seemed to be moving around between cars, mechanics, and clients like a whirling dervish. Nevertheless, when I stopped him and introduced myself, he took the time to listen to my problem, asked me what oil I was using, advised me to change that oil to the brand that his cars were running, then gave me the oil I needed to make the transition. Since that day, I have driven 24 races and several track days, and no matter what the outside temperatures, my oil pressure has never dropped below 50 pounds.
Despite being born in New England, most of Tom Fowler’s life has been spent in the South involved with SCCA and racing in some form. His father was an SCCA racing driver, and campaigned a “Bug Eye Sprite” throughout the country, including several trips to the National Runoffs when Tom was a youngster.
During Tom’s college days in Florida, he volunteered as a corner worker and official at events in the Buccaneer Region, and began competing in autocross and rally events. Tom also started the Buccaneer Times newsletter, which is still active today.
Tom Fowler went to driver’s school at Roebling Road in 1985, and became the chief instructor at that school by 1989. During that period, Fowler had ambitions of becoming a professional driver, and he did. Tom’s accomplishments include four National wins in Improved Touring at the American Road Race of Champions (ARRC), a championship in the Southeast Enduro Championship (SEC) including five wins in seven races, two SEC championships with his father, Thomas Fowler, Sr., and a class championship in the Road Atlanta Pro-IT with six pole positions and wins in seven races. In addition to all of the club racing, Tom had a short but successful career driving in the World Challenge races all over the U.S. and in Canada, and had three second in class wins at the Mosport 24 hour race in Canada in 1988, 89, and 92.
Inside OPM’s New ShopOptimum Performance Machines, Inc. (OPM) was first opened as an import repair shop in Cumming, Georgia during 1994, but due to Tom’s racing affiliations and friends, it has slowly become one of the busiest and most complete racing businesses in the Southeast. Though OPM is still a very highly regarded repair shop for Honda, Acura, Toyota, Lexus, and Mazda automobiles, it is also a full-service shop for Honda, Acura, and Spec Miata racing cars.
Due to the tremendous increase in the racing part of OPM over the past year, Tom was forced to sell his old garage near downtown Cumming and move to a larger facility west of Highway 400. In fact, OPM went from servicing and maintaining about five race cars in 2004 to more than twenty in 2005.
Another reason for the expansion is the new engine building shop, which has been instrumental in developing engines for Mark and Matt Pombo’s dominant Spec Miatas. Also, many of the front running Spec Miatas and Hondas in the Southeast are sporting OPM stickers.
Though Tom Fowler is probably one of the most eligible bachelors in the Atlanta area, OPM’s growth is cutting a wide swath into his free time. Nevertheless, Tom still loves the racing, is excited about his booming business, and as I discovered the first time I met him, he loves people and will always go out of his way to see that others share the positive outlook that he has always had about SCCA and racing!
OPM Autosports is located just west of Highway 400 and Highway 9 in the city of Cumming, Georgia. Their address is: 2420 Oak Street West, Cumming GA 30041, and they can be contacted by phone at 770-889-8199. The web site is: www.opmautosports.com.