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Piston Stories

Tom Truitt: Car Enthusiast and People Relations Expert

Tom Truitt has been a car enthusiast all his life, using his extensive knowledge of people relations to connect with like-minded individuals and share his appreciation for automobiles. He now hopes to give back to the community as a member of the Piston Foundation.

Christopher Perkowski

July 10, 2022

A Love for Cars That Goes Way Back

Tom would describe himself as having been a car person for almost as long as he can remember. “My first memory [of cars] was standing in my parent’s kitchen at the age of 12,” he says. “I dreamt of living in an apartment over a 4-car garage with a BMW 2002, MB 107, Porsche 911 and a VW bug.”

These lofty aspirations were further enforced in high school where Tom met and befriended other car enthusiasts. He was quickly swept into their group and with that, his perception of the car world expanded. His second year of college marked an exciting milestone with the purchase of his very first car: a BMW 2002tii, followed shortly by a VW bug. “I have owned all these cars and many more, but the Porsche and Volkswagen stuck.”

Co-Founding the Small Car Company

Now a full-fledged car junkie, Tom has since been involved in several car-related ventures throughout his life including his co-founding of the Small Car Company. “We founded The Small Car Company in 2013 to raise awareness and camaraderie, it started in my driveway with engagement and fun. Within a few years, I set out to create a rolls fundraiser, bringing awareness and donors to local charities.”

The Small Car Company’s most recent aim is to enlighten and support kids who need assistance getting into the car industry. To accomplish this, they’ve joined forces with a local auto tech school and together, held their first event of 2022 featuring 40 students and people within the industry. Now, Tom is eager to expand upon this model and implement this program with several other auto tech schools in the hopes of making connections and achieving a path for kids eager to succeed.

Cars, Sailboats, Bikes, and More

As it turns out, automobiles aren’t Tom’s only passion. Sailing and cycling also fall under his list of interests. Tom believes there are overlaps between these hobbies and his love for cars, which may be why he’s so drawn to them. “The sailing community weaves in and out of the car community. I would suggest 75 percent of the sailing community are car enthusiasts.”

Tom explains that sailing is no longer as popular as it was a generation ago. More people are trading in their sailboats in favor of souped-up powerboats. As such, the sailboat industry’s issues are not that dissimilar from those that Tom is currently trying to solve in the car industry. “I hope the sailing community will take tips from us,” he says.

Joining the Piston Foundation Cause

For 30 years, Tom has worked as a recruiter. He has run several of his own businesses and leverages the best of his interpersonal skills doing so. However, Tom felt that something was missing. He had a strong desire to give back to the culture that had gifted him his love for automobiles. It was time for a new approach. “My attention turned towards giving back. I have 15 good years left to build something and made the decision to back out of recruiting and find a new career in charity work.”

Tom wasted no time in making calls to people he knew in hopes of finding a charity group that resonated with him. Not long after, he found himself talking with Jerry and Robert at the Greenwich car show and quickly became enamored with the Piston Foundation’s vision of funding automotive skilled trade education. “The Piston Foundation fits like a glove. As colleges get more expensive and less relevant, the need to recognize alternative education is paramount. My desire to bring awareness and help kids enter careers in the car community is just what the Piston Foundation is doing.”

What Tom Adds to the Piston Foundation

“My life is people relations; my drive is connecting people.” Tom is all about communication and persuasion and these skills are exactly what the Piston Foundation needs when it comes to donor relations. Tom believes that from his years of studying the human psyche and engaging in executive negotiations, he has a firm understanding of his audience and what it takes to appeal to them.

“Some call me a doorbuster,” he says. “But my true calling is to find middle ground and create a solution from there.” Tom hopes that, through his desire to find the middle ground, he can develop a platform that will reach a broader demographic, and more importantly, convince people to contribute to the Piston Foundation cause.

Managing the Pistons & Pizza Fundraising Program

Pistons & Pizza is the Foundation’s newest program to raise money for skilled trade education. Pistons & Pizza is a series of local fundraising dinners with gourmet pizza, craft beer, and wine, hosted by local car enthusiasts at cool automotive locations. The goal is to develop the program into a national fundraising campaign. That’s where Tom’s expertise comes in. His role includes not only recruiting event hosts, but also managing the logistics and planning surrounding each event.

Tom says, “Building the Pistons & Pizza fundraising program brings together my passion for classic cars, my commitment to education, and my professional expertise as a people connector. It’s really a perfect fit for me and I’m having a blast doing it.”

Inspiring a New Generation of Car Enthusiasts and Technicians

Tom’s personal journey with cars has taught him how rewarding it can be to work closely with one’s passions. He would like nothing more than to encourage others to take that same leap of faith. When asked what he would say to young students who are unsure if a career in car restoration is right for them, Tom had these words to impart:

“If a student has enough passion for the automotive industry, they are halfway there. It’s my job to enlighten them to the possibilities and show them the way. We are creating solutions and futures in the auto industry for those who are ready to take their next step towards a productive life.”

Support skilled trade education for future auto restoration technicians.


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