Thomas A. Nell

Lake Leelanau, Michigan





Tom, his wife, Marilyn, and their red English Labrador live in Lake Leelanau, Michigan.  They have four children and eight grandchildren. They met in 1955 at Gettysburg College. Tom worked as an engineer for GM’s Pontiac Division from 1959-1973, and then he was a business owner (1973-1996, snowmobiles, cross-country skis, fitness equipment and bicycles). Marilyn was a housewife and mother (1957-1973), then Tom’s business partner from 1973-1996. They are both semi retired. Tom does volunteer work for their church, and his hobby is woodworking.


He almost never thinks about the good old days, but his fondest memory of those days is, “Our innocence.” The thing he likes best about the 2000’s is, “Knowing who I am.”


Tom is proud of …

“In 1963, I built and tuned a 421 SD Pontiac engine that won the Daytona Permatex 250. In 1965, I invented the modification to the GM THM400 transmission that allowed any GM powered funny car to be competitive. In 1965-1973, I built Pontiac racing engines for NASCAR, NHRA, and SCCA. In 1985-2002, I raced mountain bikes and won seven Michigan State Championships (in my age group, naturally). And last but not least, in 1955 I found Marilyn, my life’s soul mate.”


(Ed. Note: It’s a small world. My favorite hard cover car book is The Great Cars of the Postwar Era by Rich Taylor. In the Firebird Trans Am section, Taylor wrote, “There was a really good engine man named Tom Nell at Pontiac then … In 1973, Pontiac introduced an optional engine that Tom Nell had been working on for a couple of years. This was the race prepped 455 cubic inch V-8 …” When I read that, I hadn’t seen Tom Nell for over 35 years, but I checked and, sure enough, the guy Taylor wrote about is Tom Nell, EHS Class of ’54.)


Tom’s message to his classmates is … “Glad to know all of you.”


Tom has a BA from Gettysburg College, and a BSME from Penn State University. Marilyn attended Gettysburg College for two years.