Long-time IMPA member and the face of Chevrolet in Metropolitan New York Jim Rooney died December 14. The following are thoughts by Paul Weissler and Wade Hoyt as well as a note from Jim’s wife Loraine: The family did not stipulate any specific charity in memory of Jim, leaving the choice of a personal favorite to the donor in memory of Jim.
Jim Rooney, Chevy fleetmeister
Jim Rooney, who as Chevrolet’s eastern press fleet administrator helped turn IMPA Test Days into a major league event, passed away December 14. Jim, 66, who had been suffering from pulmonary fibrosis in recent years, had been a one-man show for Chevrolet, maintaining, scheduling and even delivering press cars through the 1970s and 1980s.
At the start, IMPA Test Day was a popular but relatively modest one-day event called “Flaunt Your Incompetency Day,” the brainchild of Joe Oldham and Fred Mackerodt. FYI Day drew just a modest lineup of cars for journalists to drive, and that was a limiting factor in its growth. Then, one year, Jim delivered a complete Chevrolet fleet — over 30 vehicles — to the event. Other manufacturers noticed the attention that Chevrolet received, and decided to compete. Today, IMPA Test Days have about 125 cars for the first day, often more than 150 for the second (track) day, and IMPA has Jim Rooney to thank for the impetus. Even though retired for some years, he always attended Test Days — including the 2004 event– to meet and greet his many friends.
Some of Rooney’s press vehicles were suspected of being ringers, and were affectionately referred to as “Rooney Tune” cars. IMPA even presented Jim with a crash helmet that had “Rooney Tune” script on both sides, and which he wore proudly at Test Days. Jim kept more press vehicles in the garage under the old NY Coliseum at Columbus Circle than the Manhattan Chevy dealer had at the showroom! He must have had more than 50 at times, including the occasional Chevy taxi or cop car, which were fun to play with. Jim was a dedicated Chevy booster who could often be found working on his vehicles in the gloom of the Coliseum garage.
Jim is survived by his wife Lorraine.
A note from Loraine Rooney:
Just flipped through ’04 Member Roster – so many familiar names I connect with faces – endless stories (and too many years alone – ha!). Some names are gone – Charlie Dole, Christian Science [Monitor], Charlie McGurk – have his old Christmas card from ? in newspaper format – priceless . . .!
Jim was devoted to Chevy – he and Ralph Kramer were a good team. IMPA members finished Jim’s job by providing the best media coverage on N/E Coast. You guys and Jim were a good team. Asked in September how many Chevys were at ride & drive – Flaunt Incompetency Day – ‘said didn’t see any. Ouch – could that be possible? Priceless . . . !
Can’t remember who gave him racing helmet aptly painted “Rooney Tuned” – the old-timers remember.
Good job – good times – good men – my man won’t ever be forgotten – Jim died peacefully – give Oscar a hug for me. Everyone – all at once – Jim will laugh from Heaven.