For the last 20 years, Tom and his wife, Diane, have been attending Atlanta Falcons games, long before either of their sons were born. Not even pregnancy would keep these two away from watching their favorite team take the field on Sundays. In fact, they have not even missed an away game during the last 3 seasons. It would take serious fans like these to come up with their tailgate vehicle idea. Tom's original idea was to customize a hearse in Falcons' colors, complete with an opening coffin that would reveal a mannequin wearing the jersey and helmet of that week's opponent. Diane put a quick stop to that idea by letting Tom know that she intended to take only one ride in a hearse, and it would not be to a football game.
The most logical alternative to a hearse was an ambulance, and while they were much more expensive than a hearse, this turned out to be a far better choice. The vast majority of ambulances are diesels, which meant that he could buy an older model, but still have more miles left in the engine. In addition, ambulances are equipped with 120V power throughout, anything that can be plugged in at home can be plugged in at a tailgate party. This ambulance was a box on cab model so they can carry plenty of their tailgating buddies with them, along with a large television, microwave, refrigerator, blender, supplies, and have plenty of storage space for other tailgate gear.
This tailgate machine is truly family business. Tom and Diane's youngest son, Christopher, designed the logo, and came up with the name of the vehicle, The Fanbulance. Their oldest son, Matthew, did the murals for the exterior, and Diane painted the interior, including the Falcons head on the wall. Their nephew, Blake, and Tom installed the TV bracket, the tracking satellite dish, and fabricated the trailer hitch to hold the Freedom Grill. Tom admits that, Blake did most of the work, but he was incredibly good at handing him tools and cold drinks.
The Fanbulance is usually the center of the party of the "Falcons BirdWatchers." This is a unique group that Tom and Diane began tailgating with during the early 1990's. As with any other family, they celebrate birthdays, graduations, marriages, and other milestones. There are currently about 125 BirdWatchers, including members from many states and a few nations. Membership fees cover a t-shirt, postage for the newsletter, and funds for the routine expenses of the club.
Tom and Diane admit that the best part of having the vehicle is the many friends they have made through the years. They get to know folks from opposing teams, share some food and drink, and it's not long before they get invited to join them in their hometown. They have even built a network of fans in various NFL cities that offer up their tailgate and hospitality to other visiting group members. It makes attending the away games much more fun when you know other folks there who can show you the local traditions, foods, and the like. It definitely sounds like Tom and his family have their tailgating down to a science.