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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Tom Meade: Car Designer

(left: Tom Meade; right: Chad Glass)

For the next few weeks I will be posting content as a series of articles about Tom Meade, an exotic car designer and friend. We met through a mutual friend, author and film director Stephen Mitchell, in Westwood during a Wednesday evening Ferrari meeting at the Elysee cafe and bakery. 

As preface, I will post the original articles that arose during that time, almost 2 years ago to the day. After we have gotten caught up, I will post the new articles as updates to his activity. 

from Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Slice of Life, An Altered State: An Afternoon with Tom Meade

By Chad Glass

Having arranged a meeting today for conversation and coffee, I sped down Sunset Boulevard in Westwood, pretending I was in a Ferrari. The drive en route to have a second meeting with Tom Meade, whom I had been introduced to the prior Wednesday evening, became an exotic trip without having to leave town. It was sunny and mild as I downshifted through sweeping s-curves and hills. Tighter and turning, I could feel the front end gripping with the steering input; not bad for my modified Nissan, and enough to have me fantasizing about brief snapshots of a race I was never in, of memories I never had. 

What was real was the journey to visit someone who not only had Enzo Ferrari himself provide his personal contact information to (and talk for 40 minutes with Tom –an unheard of event for nearly anyone in the world—to speak with Enzo for one or two seconds is a long time), but pay a visit to a man who perhaps outdid much of that marque’s iconic styling in it’s vintage heyday of the 1960s. Included in the pantheon of Italian coachbuilders of Pininfarina, Giugiaro, Bertone, Ghia, Vignale, Zagato, etc... the American born Tom Meade defies tradition, being perhaps more Italian than all the prior mentioned. Goggle the word “Thomassima” (Toe-MASS-ee-mah), and read about his rise to notoriety.

As for me, being a storyboard artist in the Hollywood industry, I was excited to be meeting a car designer, and yet more amazed to be meeting someone who had rebodied and redesigned Ferraris specifically. As I have grown more interested in Italian automotive design, while dabbling in trying out some sketched designs of my own, I was eager to have Meade look at what I had drawn, but more interested in experiencing what this man had to say in general. 

Being a student of the world, I tend to absorb things that are interesting with free abandon. To be given an opportunity to learn something --anything-- from someone such as Meade, is a privilege and honor. Yet I choose to take it all in fun. Whatever we would discuss I already knew would be interesting. It would be because it’s about cars, extraordinary cars. Between gear shifts while looking down at my directions, creeping down the last street, I neared his residence and pulled off to park in the shade. 

His residence is designated as a whole number and a half, like “367 ½”. So even though I am actively looking for a half-number, walking around the premises, I become challenged to find the front door. The half number somehow doesn’t make itself very obvious. I eventually find it by calling his phone number and listening for the ringing. It works as I find myself standing on the landing of a unit one floor up and across from his.

Upon arrival and greeting, Tom wants to go back to the corner coffee shop where we had first met. I sense and get the idea that this is the main rendezvous for future meetings. Coffee sounds great and I find that is but a short drive from his place. As we make our way through some back streets, I voice that to Tom: “I see, this is some kind of back way; I can see we’re near it already.”

“Yes, just like in Modena, I know all of the back ways to places,” he says as we approach nearer.

Arriving shortly, he suggests an ideal place to park, a sort of secret spot. He is correct and this makes everything flow very nicely, like the lines on a Ferrari. And finding a table outside on the sidewalk, among the din of the traffic and the people, he plunks down a thick book for me to see, what appears to be a collage of pictures and articles –memory lane for him, an expose’ of his life for me. 

Straight away I open the thing as he begins to describe what I was looking at: Black and white pictures, all crisp and vivid, then color, abound. Very nice, and they all look like Ferraris to me, beautiful ones from the 60s and early 70s, but something strikes me: 

They’re almost Ferraris. I see familiar cues making me want to say what model that one is, what this one is, to show him I know about Ferraris, and….. I can’t place any of them. They’re not Pininfarina or Bertone designs. They’re his. But they look like factory production cars. 

“That’s a Nembo Spider,” he says. 

“Wow,” I say, “that is just gorgeous, the best spider version of a Ferrari I’ve ever seen.” I could stare at it for the duration of our time together, but other pictures await.

Page after page I have the same kind of reaction. The different models of cars are all equally as compelling to see, somehow looking a little better than the factory cars. They’re at least models that Ferrari should have built. 

stay tuned for next week's installment


  1. I'm a car designer writing from Tuscany (italy)
    Few years ago, Eng. Giotto Bizzarrini told me about the Meade's story and his fabolous Cars

    Tom is a genius

    Thanks, Mr.Meade

  2. I read an article on him in Motor Trend in the early Seventies and tracked one down on eBay just for the article/pictures.

    1. rglater, very good. That is a keepsake issue and article. Tom Meade is a very obscure but important figure in Enzo-era Ferrari history.