Meet our Master Mechanic
Tom Lowe is not only the Founder and President of Round 2, the Auto World Garage is also his brain child.
As a boy, Tom frequently ordered slot cars and model kits from the Auto World catalog that arrived in his family’s mailbox. And like many other youngsters who built and collected model cars, Lowe says he dreamed of visiting the company’s one and only retail store in Scranton, Pa. But I never got to go,” he says with sadness in his voice. If you have ever talked with Lowe about slot cars and die-cast vehicles, you might feel for him never having had the chance as a youngster to visit the mecca of hobby stores that ended up closing in the mid-1980s.
Lowe cannot hide his passion for collectible cars as an industry, his enthusiasm for the way the cars are crafted and designed, and his pride in the various lines that he had a direct hand in developing, manufacturing and putting on retail shelves.
You see, when Lowe took over the Auto World brand from founder Oscar Koveleski in 2005, he already had years of experience behind him. Lowe, son of the late Cassopolis entrepreneur Edward Lowe who developed Kitty Litter, spent much of the 1990s building a Mishawaka- based company called Playing Mantis, after he acquired the rights to the Johnny Lightning name. Playing Mantis, which employed about 50 people, manufactured die-cast collectible cars in China while its staff created, designed and marketed model kits and collectible figures in Michiana.
In 2004, Lowe agreed to sell his privately held company to suburban Chicago toymaker RC2 Corp. “Not only did I sell the brands and the tools and everything, but you sell part of your life with it,” Lowe says. “It’s kind of a common thing for large public companies to buy smaller companies and think they can do it better. They try to weld smaller passionate companies into their culture and in many instances that can’t work.”
Lowe worked at RC2 for more than a year, before it began moving in a different direction, as he puts it, and away from the die-cast car brands. This allowed Lowe to buy back the Johnny Lightning slot car line and tools he had sold them, along with a few other brands he had sold them, and he also purchased a few other model kit lines. He began making new slot cars in and selling them under the Auto World trademark.
Creating the Auto World Garage has been an idea that Tom has had for a couple of years and now his dream is realized. Enjoy!