This week the racing and auto enthusiast world lost a friend. Tom Armstrong (Issaquah, WA) was more than just a racer an d car collector. Tom, a retired packaging executive, was also known for his savvy business-mind, philanthropic way of life, and mentorship to many.
As lifetime members of the Society of Vintage Racing Enthusiast (SOVREN) Tom and Susan raced for years at Pacific Raceways in their ‘77 big-block Greenwood Corvette, ’63 Z06 Corvette, ’63 Split-Window Corvette, ’70 Webster CanAm, ‘68 Camaro Z28, ’69 Lola T-162, ’66 GT40, and the ’63 Corvette Grand Sport, one of only 5 ever made. Having had opportunities to race at other tracks as well, Tom has gone side-by-side with names such as Vic & Christi Edelbrock, Bobby Unser, and more. One such race was early in Tom’s racing history, the 1986 Rainier Vintage Classic race at the Tacoma Dome here in Washington, a race that has not been duplicated since. Tom also participated twice in the Goodwood Festival of Speed in England, a prestigious invitation-only hill climb, founded by Lord March, Duke of Richmond.
Tom was also a lifetime founding member of the SOVREN Guild, an organization that worked with SOVREN Race Club to produce the Pacific Northwest Historic Vintage Races, benefiting Seattle Children’s Hospital. For over two decades Tom mentored guild members and racers alike. Tom was a recipient of the Seattle Children’s Hospital Anna Clise Award for Outstanding Individual Volunteerism, and he and Susan both dedicated so much of themselves to helping Seattle Children’s Hospital.
Tom shared his love for- and knowledge of- cars through his long-time involvement in the Forest Grove Concours d’Elegance as an exhibitor, judge and senior judge. He was a judge at Pebble Beach, and in 2003 was the founding Chairman of the Kirkland Concours. In addition to SOVREN and SOVREN Guild, he also was a life member of the Classic Car Club of America and the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Club.
Tom’s love for cars carried over into a noteworthy car collection. Tom’s 1936 Cord Phaeton won Best of Show at Forest Grove in 1977. His 1931 Model SJ Duesenberg Convertible Sedan won the Forest Grove Sweepstakes Award in 1983 and was one of five ever built. Over the years the Armstrong’s car collection included many other remarkable vehicles. Tom was once quoted in a Vintage Motorsports article (Nov/Dec 2011) as saying, “Each car we have, we have for a reason…” In talking with Tom over the years we were honored to hear many of the stories behind the cars he collected.
The track is a little darker this week following Tom’s passing. We are forever grateful for everything that Tom brought to this sport.