By aodwyer

In as much as this blog is about Carroll Shelby, another obviously important man for which I owe a great debt and appreciation is Mr. Bob Tasca Sr.  Like Carroll, Bob is also an automotive hall-of-famer.  Bob has done so many great things for Ford, Ford Racing, Shelby, John Force, drag racing, customer service, the Cobra Jet engine, race on Sunday – sell on Monday, and many other things.  Besides all that, from the few times I have spent with him, he is a great and honorable man.  And, his love for his family and customers shows in the way we all respect him.

There are so many articles and books about Bob.  I own the hard cover book he wrote called “You Will be Satisfied.”  For anyone who wants to know how to run a business based on taking care of your customer, this is a must read.  Just the other day while at a car show, Bob came out to spend some time with many of us.  I can’t tell you how many people came up to him and said how much they appreciated him and the things he’s done over the years.

His family are all great people too.  All his sons and grandsons run the business with him.  His grandson Bob Tasca III is now running against the famed John Force (another hall-of-famer) and daughter Ashley Force in the funny car races.  Wow is it awesome watching those races.  John Force just squeaked by, beating Bob III by only 0.038 seconds.  Bob III will have an incredible career.

As mentioned, there are so many stories about Bob Tasca Sr and his Tasca Ford dealership.  Below is one story I found to be very interesting.  I will provide links to other magazine articles.  Also, check out this link to a “First Make History, Then Repeat It” topic I posted in the forum.  You’ll see how I found some old pics of the Tasca dealership and my buddy Roger and I brought our Shelby’s down to the dealership and took some then-and-now pics.  I will also post a video of the speech Bob delivered at the car show the other day.  It was truly a piece of history.  Everytime I hear that man tell these stories, I just am amazed of the life he’s lead.

Thank you Mr. Tasca and Family.  And, thank you for making my car so special, thanks to Dennis Gomes too.

Bob Tasca 

Here is the whole story…


Prior to the current era of corporate sponsorship, many of the nation’s top drag racing teams relied on local car dealerships for financial and technological support. Quick to realize the benefits of the “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday” philosophy, dealers attracted many young buyers to their showroom floors by handpicking the top racers within their area to promote their automotive brand and the services of their outlets. Among the more popular dealer/racer combinations of this period were Albertson Olds/Leonard Harris, Yeakel Bros. Plymouth/Tom McEwen, Sachs & Sons Lincoln-Mercury/Jack Chrisman, Russ Davis Ford/Gas Ronda, and Ace Wilson’s Royal Pontiac/Jim Wangers.

Examples of dealers involved in motorsports are many, but in terms of behind-the-scenes developments, such as the creation of special engine/body racing combinations and potent engine packages and pioneering innovative promotional strategies, few dealers were more influential than Bob Tasca of East Providence, R.I.

Not only was Tasca the longtime sponsor of drag racing legend Bill Lawton and a major player in the development of such memorable cars as the 427-cid ‘64 Ford Thunderbolt Fairlane, but he also helped create the famed 428-cid Cobra Jet engine and was the man who lured 12-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force away from General Motors to compete under the Ford banner.

Tasca’s dealership involvement began half a century ago, when he opened his first outlet in Bristol, R.I., in 1953. He moved to the present East Providence location in 1956 after Hurricane Carol destroyed the original operation in 1954, and he became involved in motorsports competition in 1961.

Said Tasca, “Everybody was running Chevrolets back then, and there was this hotshot kid named Bill Lawton who always hung around our dealership and bragged about how his Chevy could beat our Fords. One day, I told him that he had just won his last race in a Chevy, and to prove my point, I had my top mechanics, John Healey and Dean Gregson, specially prepare one of our new 406-cid ‘62 Galaxies. The fastest Bill’s Chevy had ever run was a 13.66, and John shocked him with a 13.33 [in the Ford]. All of a sudden, Bill’s attitude about Fords began to change, and he asked me if he could drive our car. His first run was a 12.96, which didn’t surprise me because I knew he was a natural driver. After that, Bill came onboard with us to race Fords until his retirement in 1971.”

One of Tasca’s first innovations was campaigning a ‘62 Fairlane with a 406-cid engine for A/FX competition. The car, called the Challenger, was built by Andy Hotten’s Detroit Steel and Tubing firm and required many modifications to shoehorn the large engine into the midsize engine compartment. A second version, Zimmy I, was built in 1963 with a 427-cid high-riser engine, and Lawton drove it to a new A/FX national record of 12.21 later that season.

Ford was so impressed with the package that it authorized Detroit Steel and Tubing to construct 100 427-cid Fairlanes for NHRA Super Stock competition in 1964, and Lawton drove his ‘64 Zimmy II entry to new S/S national records of 11.69 and 122.22 at the Division 1 race at Maryland’s Cecil County Dragway.

The Tasca Ford Zimmy III, an A/FX ‘65 Mustang equipped with Ford’s new single overhead cam (SOHC) 427-cid engine, was the most potent of the series, and Lawton drove it to wins at that year’s NHRA Winternationals, NASCAR Nationals, and inaugural Super Stock Nationals.

With Lawton’s success on the dragstrip increasing the sales of new cars at Tasca Ford, Tasca also was becoming one of the country’s more successful merchants of high-performance Ford parts.

Said Tasca, “We always measured performance in car lengths. Let’s say one of our customers was getting beat by two car lengths. We’d sell him the right parts to win by a couple of car lengths. And if he wanted to win by four car lengths, we had the parts for that, too.”

Tasca’s extensive background in optimum engine-part combinations resulted in the development of the Ford 428-cid Cobra Jet engine in 1968.

“By that time, our Ford SOHC 427 was the fastest engine in Top Fuel and Funny Car, but it wasn’t something we sold for the street,” said Tasca. “The best we could offer our customers was the 390-cid engine, and it just wasn’t cutting it against the new 396-cid and 427-cid Chevy engines that had been out for a while.

“So I got together with Bill Gilbert, who followed my specifications and helped develop the unit,” he added. “We also worked with Bill Ennis, Bill Gay, John Cowley, Charley Gray, Danny Jones, Les Tinsler, and ‘Pop’ Sullivan, who did the work on the camshafts. We came up with the 428 Cobra Jet. It won right off the bat with a Super Stock victory at the 1968 Winternationals, and it proved to be the best street/strip engine that Ford ever had until that time. We ended up selling a ton of them.”

Another of Tasca’s unique talents was producing positive results out of negative events. “Bill Lawton broke a Hurst shifter once on the 3rd to 4th gear shift,” Tasca remembered. “Even though he won the race because he was so far ahead, George Hurst was furious, but I told George to calm down because we could turn this into a good thing. We promoted the fact that Hurst shifters came with lifetime guarantees, and before you knew it, the Hurst sales went right through the roof.”

Tasca’s reputation as a high-performance entrepreneur made him a major figure in all forms of motorsports, and he was able to coax Indy 500 hero Mario Andretti into taking part in a drag race.

Said Tasca, “I came up with the idea of having Mario drive one of our specially prepared Mustangs against Frank Maratta, owner of Connecticut Dragway, on the Sunday morning before the week of the Indy 500. Mario came in on a private airplane, which landed right at the track, and Frank was there with a hopped-up Camaro from Norwood Chevrolet, which was located in Warwick, R.I. We had Bill Flynn make some runs with the Mustang to establish a baseline, and he ran in the 11.4- to 11.5-second range. Mario went 11.46 on his first run, then beat Maratta on four straight runs. Someone asked Mario why a famous Indy 500 driver like him would want to drag race, and he said that he knew that Bob Tasca would build a very good race car for him, and that made us very proud.”

Following Lawton’s retirement in 1971, Ford asked Tasca to take over the operations of an unwanted Lincoln-Mercury dealership in seekonk, Mass., and with the assistance of his three sons, he introduced shortened trace cycles, unique option packages, and late-night service to become the largest-volume Lincoln-Mercury dealership in the -country. After setting a record customer-satisfaction score of 9.39 out of a possible 10 in 1994, the Tasca family returned to Providence to reopen the original Ford dealership. In just five years, the operation became the largest-volume Ford operation in southern New England.

Still a very hands-on manager of his company’s day-to-day operations, Tasca was quick to react to a unique opportunity that presented itself when Force visited his dealership in 1996.

Said Tasca, “It was a snowy afternoon, and John, who was driving a Pontiac Funny Car at the time, wanted to buy a Ford Explorer so that he could meet his 12 scheduled business appointments the next day. I told him to keep his money in his pocket because I’d lend him one of my cars for the weekend. he later confided to me that he wasn’t happy with his current sponsorship, and I told him I could probably help him get a deal with Ford.

“He didn’t say anything right away,” Tasca continued. “A couple of days later, 1 got a call, and it was John Force on the line. It was 8 a.m. Eastern time, which was 5 a.m. for John in California. That told me that I had his attention, and we began to talk serious business. Before long, we had a deal. Not only has John won a lot of NHRA championships with Ford Mustangs to help us sell cars, but he’s the best public-relations figure in any form of racing. We’re all very proud to be associated with him.”

Tasca’s own operations have not gone unrecognized either; he recently was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame as the recipient of the Bob Russo Heritage Award. Earlier honors include the Italo-American Man of the Year and Lifetime Achievement award in 1999 and the 2000 Time Magazine Quality Dealer Award. He also wrote You Will be Satisfied, which is now used as a textbook in more than 75 colleges and universities.

Perhaps no one can sum up Bob Tasca’s contributions to drag racing better than Force.

“What really impressed me about Bob was the love for Ford racing that you see in his entire family,” said Force. “It was something that I hadn’t seen in any other manufacturers that I had been associated with before. There is also a chain of command in the Tasca operation that just blew me away in how effective it was. Once I got hooked up with Tasca and Ford, I tried to instill as much of Bob Tasca’s way of doing things into my operations, and I credit a lot of our success to those methods. I think that everyone who has been associated with Bob in one way or another has benefited from his knowledge and his way of doing things. He has certainly helped me a lot.”

Copyright National Hot Rod Association Aug 29, 2003
Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved


3 Responses to “Tasca Ford”

  1. 1 chuck
    April 13, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    nice article-who is responsible for the name “cobra jet” given to that first 428 motor.Also-who was the original designer of the cobra jet logo-the snake with the smoke rolling off of the tires.O bscure facts I just can’t find-Thanks for any help or direction-best regards chuck

  2. December 18, 2009 at 12:56 am

    These are great questions. Since Bill Gilbert was one of the key guys, I would assume he had helped or at least knows. The next time I am down there at Tasca, I will ask them and report back.

  3. April 4, 2013 at 11:36 am

    Awesome issues here. I am very glad to look your post.
    Thank you a lot and i am taking a look ahead to contact you.
    Will you please drop me a mail?

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