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Robert F Tasca

Robert F Tasca

(1926-2010) ~ Inducted 2001

1926 - 2010 Car Dealer and Philanthropist Extraordinaire In the 1960s the quality of cars coming off American manufacturers' assembly lines began to slip badly. Problems ranged from poor door fits, window leaks, wind noise and squeaks and rattles up to vibrations and drivability issues in the power train. The causes were shortcuts being taken on the lines to cope with increased costs of meeting government mandated emission controls and safety measures. In 1967 these problems prompted Henry Ford II come to Providence to visit Bob Tasca, long a Ford and now also a Lincoln-Mercury dealer. Tasca had been approaching legendary status with both Ford Motor Company and the automobile industry since opening his first dealership in 1953—where initially he served both as general manager and mechanic and was the only full-time employee. At a time when virtually all dealers concentrated on price negotiations, Tasca stressed service, using the catchy motto: “You will be satisfied.” And satisfied his customers were. By 1957, he had relocated three times needing more space, and now operated the second largest Ford dealership in the world, outselling all seven other Ford dealerships in the Rhode Island-eastern Massachusetts area combined. What's more, Tasca Lincoln-Mercury annually captured 12 to 16 percent of the total new car market, compared to four to six percent the Lincoln-Mercury captured nationally. But, of course, there were other highly successful Ford and Lincoln-Mercury dealers. What brought Henry Ford to Providence that day in 1967 was Bob Tasca's thinking and operating outside the box. He believed that, along with you-will-be-satisfied service, what attracted customers was a dealer having a fascinating story to tell, and he always seemed to have one. In the early 1960's, speed, and particularly drag-racing speed, captured the popular imagination. So he devised his Performance program. He and his team of mechanics began to “package” performance cars by ordering parts right out of the Ford parts bins. “Back then, if you knew which parts to order, you could make a hell of a performance car for not very much money,” he said. “We learned how to do it, and we went around the country in a specially equipped tractor-trailer truck, teaching other Ford dealers how to do it.” To tell their story, they created Team Tasca, which became the country's most successful drag racing team—winning over 90 percent of their races. “I guess you could say we created the equivalent of the Detroit Show Car, except that our cars were based mostly on regular, production based street cars,” he said. “In 1965 we won the Milestone National Charmpionship NHRA drag racing Winternationals using a factory experimental Mustang.” In 1968 they created the Cobra Jet Mustang. Recognition of this performance go him inducted into the Drag Racing Hall of Fame and sold a lot of cars. By the early 1970s, however, the performance market had cooled off, and Tasca moved on to his next big “story”—blueprinting, a program designed to overcome the problems being created by the lax assembly lines and initially labelled “debugging.” When Henry Ford II had come to Providence it was to ask Bob Tasca to rebuild a standard Ford for him to drive. “He knew it wasn't put together right,” said Tasca. “We did it, and he loved it. And he said, 'Why don't you don't you start debugging cars for your customers?'” He did, starting with a Lincoln and advertising: “Buy Your Debugged Car from Tasca.” That brought in the customers, but it also provoked a reaction from Ford Motor Company marketing. They agreed to change “debugging” to “blueprinting.” Bob Tasca's well-known career in philanthropy began before he could really afford it when he contributed substantial funds to struggling St. Rocco's School in Johnston, which would likely have closed but for his generosity. Over the years he donated to causes and charities throughout the Providence and greater Rhode Island area, the major benefactor of his philanthropy being Providence College. On January 16, 2010, two Ford corporate jets arrived at Green Airport. Aboard were members of the Ford family—not Henry II who has passed away 23 years before—and almost the entire senior management team of Ford Motor Company coming to attend Bob Tasca's funeral at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul. Interstate 95 was shut down for the funeral procession. Delivering his eulogy, Robert F. Tasca III, stressed his grandfather's compassion. “Whether he was speaking with an executive at Ford or a widow at church, Pop never missed an opportunity to listen to the people around him,” he said. “He never turned a person away who had a problem and looked to him for help. Pop's heart was filled with a genuine desire to help those around him, whether it was saving a school from closing or simply listening to a friend.” Bob Tasca was inducted into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame in 2001.


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