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Major Tom

2 years ago

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Ian Callum | Designer


6 July 2022

Tom Walkinshaw was a well-known character in the automotive world during the Eighties and Nineties. He was a formidable man, both mentally and physically. He had friends and enemies but whatever you may have thought of him, he achieved an incredible amount during his lifetime. 

He was an excellent racing driver. He owned and managed teams and built racing cars, winning many significant races and championships, including Le Mans twice. He designed and built road cars and car factories, too. He owned and managed Gloucester Rugby. Those are a few of his better-known achievements. I worked for Tom for 10 years – what follows are just a few stories of my time with Tom Walkinshaw, in the hope they may just give you a better understanding of this brilliant man.

The first time I heard of Tom, or indeed Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR), I was living in Australia. My colleagues at Ford Design were getting excited about the up-and-coming Bathurst 1000. Bathurst is a very serious event in Oz, like the FA Cup or The Grand National in the UK and passionately tribal. You supported Ford or Holden and that was it.

But in 1985 an interloper appeared on the scene: Tom Walkinshaw with his Jaguar XJS race cars. My mates were laughing openly about the prospect of these ‘old’ Jags even competing with their beloved muscle cars. Then, to everyone’s astonishment, one of them went and won it, driven by the Australian John Goss. This was the start of a whole new era for TWR, Holden – which asked Tom to run its HSV race team – and me. I was already lost in admiration for this guy Walkinshaw and wanted to be part of his world.

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