Tom Bell Biography

Tom Bell


So who was Tom Bell? Born in Lansing in 1951, Tom grew up in the Lansing metropolitan area, graduating from East Lansing High School in 1969. He was a car guy, and came of age during the early years of Michigan’s golden age of rallying. Tom owned a Datsun 240Z during the mid-70s, and he occasionally would see another local driving around town in a 240Z that was nearly identical to his. It turned out that that 240Z was owned by none other than Bruce Fisher, another long time rallyist who has been the rallymaster for the Region’s legendary Press On Regardless rally since 2001. Tom and Bruce eventually met up and discovered their mutual love for rallying and decided to team up together and build up a car to compete in stage rallies. They acquired a 240Z (or did you guys build one of your cars?) and went to work prepping it for the hard duty of running stages in the woods. They entered the ’79 POR, with Tom driving and Bruce co-driving, and took 11th overall out 65 starters and just 28 finishers, a very respectable first outing. One month later they reversed roles and ran in the ‘79 Sno*Drift, finishing 12th out of 51 starters and 31 finishers – another very credible performance.

Tom went on to actively stage rally through the late ‘70s and early-to-mid ‘80s, with Bruce and others, including another well-known Detroit Region rallyist, David Stone. Tom rallied during the years that earned Michigan’s reputation for tough and demanding stage rallies, competing alongside legends like John Buffum, Doug Shepard, Rod Millen, Scott Harvey and Gene Henderson, among others, in events including POR, and Sno*Drift. The 1984 Sno*Drift rally saw Tom win the Divisional Championship for that year. In later years Tom continued to rally actively, both running and organizing TSD rallies. He was a regular participant in Detroit Region and Furrin Group (out of Grand Rapids) rallies and put on a number of Detroit Region rallies. Tom was a great ambassador for rallying – he always made a point of welcoming and encouraging newcomers.

In 2004 Tom was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Despite his health issues Tom continued his rally activity, continuing to run in and organize TSD road rallies. The last rally he organized was one that was a most appropriate cap to his long rallying life, the Detroit Region Dawnbuster TSD rally in February 2009, running out of Clare. It was an all-night rally, reminiscent of the all-night stage and TSD rallies that were prevalent throughout the 70s and 80s. What made this rally particularly memorable was the weather. Snow started up late afternoon on the day of the rally, and by the rally’s end the next morning more than 10” of snow had fallen! Truly a winter rally of majestic proportions!

In the spring of 2009 Tom underwent a stem cell transplant to address the ongoing issues of his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The procedure was successful, but in July Tom suddenly died from complications related to his battle with the disease. He is survived by his wife Judy and their two sons, Andrew and Tyler, both of whom Tom got involved in rallying.

Tom Bell and Bruce Fisher demonstrate the lightness of a 240Z stripped down to the shell.

Bruce and Tom after first outing with the 240Z they built. 1979 Press On Regardless.