As owner of Chenowth Racing Products from 1979 to 2007, Mike Thomas took the brand around the globe, amassing an impressive list of accolades, including six SCORE chassis manufacturer of the year awards. By the time of Mike’s death in 2007, Chenowth race cars had 12 SCORE International overall victories at the Baja 1000, more than any other manufacturer. Chenowth cars have been raced by some of the top names in the sport, including ORMHOF inductees Rob MacCachren, Bob and Robby Gordon, Corky and Mark McMillin, Jack Johnson, Ivan Stewart, Roger Mears, Johnny Johnson and others, winning hundreds of races, and multiple championships in every off-road series in North America.
Competitive success in North America eventually led to interest from racers around the globe. Throughout the 1980’s, 1990’s and early 2000’s Chenowth cars won events in Australian and South African race series. Jean-Louis Schlesser took a Chenowth based chassis to several 2WD victories and two overall victories in the formidable African rally. Thomas is also responsible for selling the first recreational buggies in the middle east. In the early 1980’s several clients from Saudi Arabia purchased Chenowth recreational cars.
These early trips and subsequent sales in the middle east laid the foundation for a lucrative overseas future for several US based off-road buggy manufacturers.
Hollywood also came calling. Mike Thomas worked with motion picture and television studios, providing vehicles and training to stars like Tom Selleck, Chuck Norris, Wesley Snipes, and James Brolin. He provided vehicles for stunt shows at Universal Studios and produced six replica Batmobiles for Six Flags Theme Parks.
By the late 1970’s Thomas learned that the US Military was preparing for the battles of the future. Battles they knew would be fought in the deserts of the Middle East. The military needed a high speed, highly mobile off-road platform and Thomas had positioned Chenowth to meet that need. In just over two decades Chenowth built over 300 highly specialized off-road vehicles for several branches of the US Military including the Army, the Marine Corps Force Recon, and Navy Seals.
Mike accompanied the vehicles to the war zone, providing training and support to the troops on the operations of his Chenowth FAV Fast Attack Vehicles. At the time, Chenowth vehicles were the only “battle proven” vehicles to be manufactured from within the off-road racing industry.
“Mike Thomas took what he learned in the sand dunes and deserts here at home and mass produced reliable and safe desert vehicles for our troops and sending them overseas to help the United States win the war known as Desert Storm,” said ORMHOF inductee and chairman Mark McMillin. “Of the many generous and noteworthy things Mike did, this would be one of his greatest.”