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Monday, January 23, 2012

Tom Meade Update: October 2011 - 2012 -Part 2

Artwork and Writing by Chad Glass

Car Design

“I don’t want to ruin the mystery of what the new design is so I don’t want you to draw a collage of sketches. Sketches would never capture what it is. I can’t have an exclusively valued car and have people not excited about what it might look like.

“They do it in Detroit and Italy, leaking out artist’s renderings. But nothing can replace the real car. Concept drawings usually make everyone prematurely disappointed in the new car prior to its birth, so I don’t want that.”

I smirk in agreement. I can’t say anything to counter his statement as he continues:

“It’s a very new and updated design but not in a crazy futuristic way. It’s recognizable as being born in the Thomassima cradle. It’s going to be beautifully different and new, an accumulation of 50 years of designing cars. In reality its really  thoughtfully honed to exude great beauty. But it’s not going to be a 2020 rocket ship, like the others are doing today which I find unbearably homely.

“I’m not building a car for a 300-pound man or a 3-foot tall woman. The Thomassima was never created for them. It is created for one person, like an Armani suit for an individual. The bigs can’t do that. My weapons against the big automakers are my ingenuity, creativity, and imagination; they’re the only weapons I’ve got.”

Tom indicates (and reiterates from prior discussions) that he is disappointed generally in the direction of the design ethos coming out of Italy:

“I don’t particularly care for any of the new Ferraris, Maseratis, Lamborghinis, or Bugattis; they’re not my cup of tea. I feel that all of the genius and historical designers in Italy are virtually dead an gone.

“The old man Pininfarina is dead. His son is dead (killed in 2008 in Turin in a scooter accident) , and there’s nobody left. Marcello Gandini (who designed the Countach, Diablo, and the Diablo-like Cizeta Marauder V16T –meaning a V16 engine that is transverse mounted) is not active anymore. Even though I liked his Countach, I never really cared for some of Gandini’s other designs in general. And many of his designs were modified by the factories anyway. In this way they were not pure because they were not accepted for what they originally were.

“Vignale, Bertone, Zagato --they mostly do one-off show cars today, and some still create production models. But none are super active anymore, and their sons are not exactly chips off the old block.

“A lot of people will hate hearing this, but my opinion is that the modern cars abuse the names of the originals, such as the so-called ‘supercars.’ Recycling and assigning the original names of the vintage racecars to the new cars does not make them supercars.

“Speaking of which, I invented the ‘supercar,’ which is defined as a race car from the factory modified for street use. The first one was the 1957 Maserati 350S (V12), followed in 1962 by my Thomassima I, then followed in 1966 the Thomassima II, and in 1969 the Thomassima III (all V12s). These are true supercars, race cars for the street; not show cars, not concept cars.

“However, in direct opposition to that idea, the newer, technologically advanced, cars of the present day never earned in blood, sweat, and tears the historic racing prestige of the original race cars. So today people are brainwashed into accepting the ‘cutting edge,’ and the unfixable ‘high tech,’ as desirable things.

“This is strange to me. My philosophy is the fewer of the high-tech components that are incorporated into a car, the fewer things that can go wrong. For example, back in the old days, in Italy, I owned many many used Ferraris. And no matter where I bought them, they always got me back home to Modena. With the old cars, if the car stopped running, the first step would be to check the gas gauges. The second step was to get out of the car, open the hood, and tinker around until you got it started.

“With the new cars (of any make), the first step is to check the gas gauge; the second step is to pick up your cell phone and call a tow truck –don’t even begin to attempt to get it running. There are so many covers, shields, plates, wires, tubing, and other apparatus, that it would take an octopus with highly advanced and proprietary electronic equipment to get into it to try to fix it.”

Sirens wail in the closing distance and a couple of fire trucks and an ambulance clear their way through the loose traffic and we have to pause. I spoon some of the froth off the top of my cappuccino and drink some more. The ambulance pierces the day and I cover my ears. As the noises recede we resume our talk.

“If I didn’t have my cars I’d certainly have died in the hospital. The stay there forced me to adjust my aptitudes. I came out of there feeling better than I was before, more honed and balanced in the details.

“I’m more focused with my crew, asking them to triple and quadruple check everything. I lay awake at nights thinking about this car in every detail. I check the details of the body shape and the mechanicals in my head over and over and over.”

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