It was Tom Morris that was the relentless force behind the all-conquering PPI/Toyota factory off-road race team and the subsequent ORMHOF careers of Cal Wells III and Ivan Stewart. “I endorse Tom Morris for the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame,” said Ivan Stewart.”
Tom was the calculating talent behind the success of a Wide Open Baja experience that administered the high-performance off-road experience to thousands of off-road adventure seekers. Companies like Toyota, TRD, BFGoodrich, Bilstein, Fox Shox, Eibach, Can-Am and Polaris thank Tom for the expertise that drove their products and brands within the greater automotive universe.
“During our days together at PPI Tom was a cornerstone of our enduring success. Under his management Tom provided Ivan Stewart, Frank Arciero, Robby Gordon, Steve and Rod Millen, and so many more with off-road racing Toyotas that carried these extraordinary athletes to unrivaled success throughout the 1980s and 90s,” said ORMHOF Class of 2020 inductee Cal Wells. “Without Tom’s impressive leadership, PPI and Toyota would not have enjoyed the hard-earned success we did.”
ORMHOF Class of 2019 inductee Frank Arciero agrees. “Tom was ‘that guy’ who, behind the scenes and rarely celebrated, was the quiet foundation of Toyota’s decades-long success in the world of off-road racing.”
David Wilson, president of TRD USA, Inc, said of Tom, “Over the course of more than a decade I had the opportunity to work alongside Tom and his PPI teammates. One of the many, many takeaways I observed was the breadth of Tom’s technical knowledge and hands-on abilities. He had the intellect, experience, and capability to not only design a high performing racing vehicle, but had the physical skill set to build one as well. Tom is as good of an engineer AND mechanic as I have ever worked with in my professional career.”
Tom is also an innovator. “Through his consulting company Tom has led the development of everything from innovative complex suspension systems, wheel and tire advancements, factory production utility-based vehicles, and so much more that will have a lasting Impact on off roading,” Cal Wells said. “I can’t overstate how his innovations have influenced the fundamentals of off-roading.”
More significant is Tom’s unmatched service to our country via his massive resume with the United States military. His work on the development of modern off-road vehicles and training with special operations forces is unmatched in the history of our industry.
“I believe Tom’s greatest contribution has been to our US military,” said Cal Wells. “By applying his decades of off-road experience Tom has trained our most elite defenders of democracy on the fundamentals of how to navigate hostile environments overland. In addition, he has developed some of the most sophisticated military hardware that continually delivers these same distinguished soldiers into battle and back home safely.”
Jesse Chamberlain, a Tactical Vehicle Specialist with Polaris Government & Defense, and retired Navy SEAL said, “After working with Tommy for a couple of years, I quickly realized that he was a ‘jack-of-all trades’ type of off-road guy. He had the knowledge that our Operators needed to teach these guys to sustain the vehicles without destroying them before getting to target. Tommy was now being utilized for Operator driver training. Tommy basically had to gain the trust of the SEAL Teams and he had to learn how to talk to them, which seems simple, but it’s not. SEALs normally don’t listen to just anyone. Trust and respect must be earned, and it is only after this that these hardheaded Operators will truly listen. Tommy was accepted into the fold and yes, we occasionally would haze Tommy just so he knew that we loved him.”
Dave Berkenfield, a retired Navy SEAL who now serves as team manager for Chip Ganassi Racing’s Extreme E program tells of Tom’s involvement with the Tactical Ground Mobility Development Department, where the mission was - Build the very best Tactical Truck and do it now. “Over the next ten years Tommy became critical to our program,” said Berkenfield. “There are so many trips, tests, technical innovations that have a Tommy Morris stamp on them that I’ve lost count. There are so many young US Special Operators that have a greater understanding of the off-road world, its tools, and skills because of Tommy that it’s created its own legends of ‘the professor’. I could never put into a few pages all that Tommy has done for this Country and its Special Operators.”
Cal Wells sums up Tom Morris’ induction into ORMHOF this way: “There are few that have contributed more to the first principles of off-roading that include but are not limited to passion, ingenuity, engineering excellence, athletic achievement, social responsibility and, most importantly, freedom, than Tommy Morris.”
Jesse Chamberlain agreed. “Tommy Morris has truly done his part for the SEAL Teams, the US military and simply the United States of America.”