Tom Wood’s Custom Drive Shafts might be a fixture of the 4×4 community today, but it almost never happened.
In the early 1990s, Dan Mick found himself in a bit of a predicament. He was building out a CJ-7 and needed a driveshaft, but he didn’t need just any driveshaft. This one had to be indestructible to save him from any further headaches. The only problem was that this driveshaft did not yet exist. Mick set out to find a solution when a buddy of his referred him to none other than Tom Wood, who was working for Six States Distributors (SSD) at the time.
“I built driveshafts for SSD for about 20 years before I met Dan,” said Wood. “I built plenty of 4×4 driveshafts during that time. Afterwards, I went on to learn a lot and develop a lot of products.”
At the time, SSD had just ordered around 2,000 long-spline stub for use in mid-’70s three-speed manual F-150s. Bearing in mind this was the early ’90s, Wood didn’t exactly have people beating down the doors for the special part. But Wood knew that with a little machine work, the spline stubs could prove useful.
Tom Wood Receives A Fateful Call
“About this time, Dan called the shop and introduced himself, explaining what he did and his involvement with the Red Rock 4 Wheelers, along with asking about a driveshaft for a CJ,” said Wood. “I would often get requests for free product, from people who claimed to be influential. For the most part, I would refer them to corporate headquarters, knowing that nothing would become of it and I wouldn’t be seen as the ‘bad guy’. By some stroke of luck, or providence, I took a chance with Dan.”
Wood took one of the splines and machined it to fit the desired application. At the time, Wood though it to be a one-off. Being close to Christmas, he sent off the custom driveshaft free of charge with a short “Merry Christmas” note. Wood simply asked that if Mick liked it, he tell a friend. If not, he wanted to know.
In short, Mick was thrilled. All vibrations disappeared and the driveshaft worked like a champ! Mick happened to be good friends with Phil Howell, the editor for a print 4×4 magazine.
“Dan showed the driveshaft I had built for him to Phil and he liked it,” said Wood. “Shortly thereafter, Phil called me and asked for a driveshaft.”
Wood made a similar request to Howell, asking that if he liked it, he simply include a snippet in his magazine. Howell, like Mick before him, was a fan. He went on to place a 1/3 page review in his magazine. “That simple exposure, along with considerable advertising, ended up tripling the business,” said Wood.
A Business Is Born
Wood’s phone wouldn’t stop ringing. His boss ended up delegating any and all Jeep work to Wood alone. Business went like crazy for over a year before Wood finally began contemplating the idea of opening his own shop.
“Without this chance exposure to Dan, it is difficult for me to imagine where I, or the industry, would be,” shared Wood. “The very spline I was using was modified and copied by major manufacturers from all around the world. That is a good thing, because after getting some exposure, we ran out of the surplus splines rather quickly. Nowadays, this spline is available to almost any driveshaft company.”
Mick and Wood’s chance encounter led to what would become a full-on revolution for the 4×4 industry.
“I look at how this successful experience has changed the life of so many. Had I not gone into business in 1998, I would probably be looking at retirement soon, with not much more than social security,” admitted Wood. “Now, I feel secure. I have 13 people on the payroll, all with good-paying jobs.”
The Benefit Of A Friend
“He’s built the driveshaft industry as far as I’m concerned,” says Mick. However, Mick not only respects Wood as a pioneer in the auto industry, but as a great friend as well. Over the years, the pair have shared many adventures, including rebuilding the Mick residence when it burned down in a house fire.
Mick fondly professed the kindness and sincerity of Tom Wood, who dropped everything to help the Mick family. “We’re lucky,” said Mick. “We’ve got thousands of people that would drop anything to come help us.”
Ultimately, the pairing proved to be a benefit for everyone in the off road community. “It gives me great pleasure too, to think about the downstream effect,” reflected Wood. “My suppliers have increased business. New product has been developed and the 4×4 market has better options for their vehicles. We are all winners! There is hardly a day that goes by that I do not reflect on how thankful I am for the chance encounter with Dan.”
Without the fateful meeting of Dan Mick, who knows where Tom Wood might be today. One thing is for sure however, everyone is grateful for it. We encourage you to check out more from Tom Wood’s Custom Drive Shafts by checking out the official website, as well as the Facebook page.