Colors and Symbols and the New Thomassima IIII*
*(yes the "IIII" is spelled that way intentionally)
“Lots of new cars are running Thomassima-type reds. Contrary to what it may look like, it is not a ‘candy red’ or modern multi-stage process. The paint used on prior Thomassimas was made for the Thomassima. And that company who made the proprietary color is now defunct. I took a full day to develop that red color at the paint factory.
“The colors of my cars are created by God and Nature. I don’t like plastic paint. There are plastic compounds in paints today. So you get what you use. When you use plastic in paints, the cars will look like plastic. But mine must look like glass. This is also why I use glass components wherever possible.
“The tail lenses are organic in shape, like kidney beans and/or the thorax of an insect, with a valley running north/south on the lens’ surface. There are then 4 east/west sections of differing colors that indicate the main light, brakes, backup, and turn signal. This all becomes one unit of glass, which is fired then re-fired to fuse the different colored lenses together. The tail lenses will then be ‘frenched’ (countersunk) into the rear of the body.
“I had major American manufactures telling me that it was impossible to do that, to fuse the glass in the form I wanted, but I did it in my own workshop.”
To jump ahead a bit, I will add that, after our time at the café, we later went back to Tom’s workshop where he showed me several pieces of the car. Among the various things I did see the prototype casts and ‘stages of states’ of the tail lenses. I can say that one single lens itself is an entire thing of its own, a study in glass sculptural form. It could have been a rare decanter of some kind, from some unknown time, or maybe even an American “Lalique.”
Were one to be handed a rear lens, for example, it would probably not be identifiable as a part from a car. It looks like an aquatic animal, with myriad raised dimples on the inner curved surfaces. The various pieces out of context resemble organic and/or robotic objects, mysterious components from an alien craft.
Tom clarifies that he values my opinion as I am a visual artist and asks for critiques of the various pieces. I offer what I can and he considers some of it. I only wish I could have seen some of the engineering drawings –anything- but I was not allowed access to those.
At this point in the interview I stop for a break to eat as it has been a couple hours at least (I suppose), and I begin having a telltale hypoglycemic moment, my composure starting to fade with my hands beginning to shake. For that I order a chicken and eggplant sandwich that reinvigorates me to continue on with the remainder of the note-taking:
“My Thomassima emblem, which came to me in a vision, happens to resemble the Greek Chimera, a mythical animal. The animal figurine is backlit by an LED and floating within a glass teardrop of blood. As all of the steering wheel’s buttons are backlit by LEDs, the Thomassima emblem is within the steering wheel’s center and is also countersunk into the structure of the Thomassima IIII’s nose.
“The animal figurine is created from a unique process and material and technique that encases it within the glass. The prototype you’re looking at is cast in a vacuum and pressure tank. The process is of my own invention.
(Tom Meade emblem logo ®)
“When anyone says I can’t do it I’m the first one to say ‘screw you, I’m going to do it.’ And I’ve never once failed –knock on wood.
“I work from 5 or 6am to 11pm or later each night, 24/7. Sometimes I’m up until 3am. Many people ask me for favors and I have to decline because of my strenuous work schedule. But I get the occasional one who doesn’t believe me and I come across as a brutta figura (ugly person).
“So when you’re sound asleep I’m up creating new designs for the next morning. With 3 or 4 hours of sleep a night I can say that is too much time wasted sleeping. My drawing board is my throne, not my bed!
“All control buttons on the steering wheel are 50% leaded crystal with fabulous light refractions. The dashboard is nude, as one flowing ‘melted honey’ form. Including the buttons, everything is hidden. The carbon fiber rear view mirrors are hand-made based on F1 designs. Thomassima IV has double headlamps.”
Tom allows me to see and hold the steering wheel, the 3-pedal clutch, gas, and brake assembly, the shift gate assembly, a front rim, the spinner knock-offs, various trim pieces and bits. He has a kiln in his shop and piles of notebooks with reams of things shoved into them in a rhyme and reason that only he understands.
What strikes me about this methodology is the validity to the claim that a genius (a status ascribed to Meade in the Italian press) must be a madman --or at least somewhat of one, a contained insanity brewing to sharp focus. Not everyone can do this. It is a perpetual battle against will, money, and time. Although I never doubt his resolve. You can see it in his eyes. When he says something he means it.
“I’ve never wanted a web site to ring my own bell. Word of mouth is the golden way to introduce yourself to the world because it spreads based upon what you do, not what you say. The results speak for themselves. Have a look at my cars and make up your own mind.”
Family History and Life Abroad
“I’ve lived in Thailand, Malaysia, Fiji, Italy, Australia, Bali, Sumatra, the Philippines, and California. I was born in California but don’t consider myself particularly American having lived 51 years in Italy, but I was born in Hollywood and grew up in Malibu. My mother is from Auckland, New Zealand, from Happy Creanga Road.
“I went to school in Australia in Manly, Brisbane, and Sydney at Waverly College. My grandfather on my mom’s side was born in Fiji. My mom’s side grandmother was born in Tazmania. My great grandmother is Castilian; my great great grandfather, Count Roletti, is Italian. And my great great great grandfather Meade was born in Ireland.
“I flew to Australia in 1948 on a Super Constellation airplane, ie, the ‘Super Conny.’ The plane stopped in Midway to refuel and I recall getting out and walking down the mile long runway. It was this long white structure made of compacted coral. I walked out to the edge and saw these giant fish in a canal.
“And I was the first ‘yank’ there, and had the first blue jeans and surf board in Australia. These were the times of the world surfing champion-to-be Joey Cabell. He started the Chart House restaurant chain, today still owning one in Honolulu and one in Seattle. He helped me to make a surfboard at Waikiki (a guy named ‘Rudi’, at his house) when I was 12 years old. Joey Cabell, Squirrely, Rabbit Kekai –these guys were emerging into their heyday at this time.
“I surfed the entire east coast of Australia. Surfers Paradise, Bondi Beach, North Stein, South Stein, Queenscliff, Freshwater. Despite what is written, Duke Kohanamoko was not the first one to surf there. I was the first one there in 1952. Kohanamoko is credited out of prior fame of his name. I was only a kid. I had a short board for the time, a 9 foot 6 inch board. It was made of balsam wood and covered with fiberglass. That became known as the ‘Malibu Board.’ I named and wrote on the board ‘Moi Nalu’ (‘King Wave’ in Hawaiian or ‘Wave King’ in English).
“I lived in Manly in Sydney where I would take the ferry from Circular Quay, where the famous Opera House was eventually built is. In Hawaii I lived in a banyan tree on Kuhio Beach. I lived on Waikiki Beach and surfed at Queens, Canoes, and Bluebirds near the natatorium. We surfed Makaha, and near the blowhole at Koko Head. so many other places I can’t remember. In those days, the late 1940s and early ‘50s, it was a surfer’s paradise.
“I spent four years in the navy, from 1956 to 1960. I visited Guam, Japan, Philippines, and China. It was after that service that I hitchhiked to New Orleans from Newport Beach.
“In the early to mid 1990s I lived in the jungles of Sumatra, on Tuk Tuk, an Island in the middle of Lake Toba, an extinct volcano. The people there were all nice and happy. I also lived in Bali (where I had a house) where there lived the sweetest people on Earth --in the Malaysian archipelago (that’s the land of the Komodo dragon, the Dutch East Indies).
“I lived 11 months in Brunei and I’ve visited the land of the Sultan of Brunei. I was trying to arrange a presentation with the Sultan, to offer him a custom, hand-built, Thomassima. While I was there, I met a woman, Catherine Anderson, who had involvements in a business to extract oil from ‘dry wells.’ She made an offer and I worked for her briefly. While visiting Brunei, I saw the Sultan’s yacht. I was told by one of the sailors that it was called ‘Tits.’ And its lifeboats were called ‘Nipples.’ And the Sultan is the guy with a gold plated F40.”
The Mafia, Being Ruined, Recovering, and Other Things
“One day I had lunch with Michele Sindona, a Sicilian, and a man named ‘Zeni’ (prounced ‘Zay-nee’), in a villa northeast of Brecia. This is where they have the Mille Miglia. Anyway, Sindona was a natural financial genius, a de facto ‘da Vinci’ of finance. He committed everything to memory, with virtually no records of any of his business activities. Involved with the Vatican bank (Banca Anbrosiano), he orchestrated about 150 different businesses but kept it all in his head. Nothing was recorded, archived, or filed in any way on paper or on a computer. It was unbelievable.
“Sindona had a friend, Roberto Calvi, who was Sicilian. He, too, was a financial genius. As some time got by, Calvi was found hanging under the Blackfriars Bridge in London. And few years earlier, Sindona had gone to prison. He, too, was found dead, having had his coffee poisoned. But that wasn’t the only connection I had to death or the mafia, to whom the hanging was attributed.
“They came after my mother. They tried to kill her after I refused to sell my automotive company to them. Apparently my lawyer at the time colluded with a crime element that sought to oust me from Italy. So Zeni befriended me. He came from Albania, an impoverished country which is between Italy and Greece, working his way up from being totally poor to a billionaire stock market investor.
“The mafia ruined me financially and continued to terrorize my mother and I. And they tried to kill her again --not once but twice.
“The Modena police would just laugh in my face when I reported things as Italy is famous for frontier justice. I even went to the American embassy in Rome, but they didn’t help either. They were too busy drinking cappuccino and rushing to their cocktail and dinner parties to help a little church mouse, American citizen, like me. So this went on and on.
“For a time strange people would show up at my door with guns pulled. I was at their mercy. I realized that I was inadvertently caught in a turf war. As I became more known (as I would not only make cars but buy, sell, and prepare them for customers worldwide), buyers would come to me first to get cars and not the Italians. Even though I was fully immersed in the Italian culture and could speak their language fluently, I was not an Italian. I was an American and, in their minds, stealing their business. I was too successful in their circle and apparently someone resented me. From what I could see they were astonished that I could outdo them in business by being honest, having come from the gutters to boot.
“When I became dead broke, Zeni protected and took me in. Originally from Albania, he was a chain smoker and dabbled in cars with me. With my prior expertise I would tell him what cars to buy. And he taught me all about the inner workings of the Italian world of finance and banking. He taught me about the stock market and investing, in and around the Palazzo della Borsa, the financial center of Italy in Milano.
“Eventually the harassments stopped and I began male modeling in Milano as well as doing t.v. work and acting. Donatella Mauro became my talent agent. Without money for a hotel, during this ‘post-mafia’ time, my dog and I slept in my car, a Cooper Mini. This went on for a long time.
“I eventually left Italy to accompany some Ferraris to Houston, Texas, to oversee the importation of Zeni’s cars. I set up at the Beverly Hills Apartments, near the corner of Hillcroft and Westheimer. I had to set up a repair operation where I would have to rebuild the engines on them because a mechanic (a notorious Austrian local, with an alleged Nazi father, whose names I will not mention), would sabotage them in his workshop by removing a pin from the timing chains. This way he could ‘repair’ the cars after they ‘broke.’ He was one of the only guys in town that could rebuild Ferrari engines. And as my cars were already in his shop for DOT and EPA certification, how was I to know?
“So I was challenged with a bunch of about 10 Ferraris, with broken motors, that had buyers. I had big problems and had to pull the rabbit out of the hat. I had no other choice but to fix them all at the apartments. So with this awkward situation I began noticing this guy, John Rogers, who would peek over a fence to see the cars. Eventually I invited him over. He was curious and wanted to learn how to fix Ferraris. And I needed his help. He was glad to be given the opportunity to get involved and I trusted him.
“So we got to work and I taught him how to fix Ferraris in exchange for his labor. For ten bucks I bought an old, non-running, Ford van, and had it towed to the parking lot. As it had side doors, it became our fix-it garage. During this fiasco, out of the kindness of his heart, Zeni invited me on a vacation to the Caribbean. I had to stall him and finally say ‘no,’ and kept working on the cars. I never told Zeni that the cars were ever broken and fixed. He never knew. They ran like new.
“When Zeni died it destroyed me emotionally and personally. He became my family, like a father. He’s buried in Milano.”