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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.”

Monday, January 16, 2012

Tom Meade Update: October 2011 - 2012 -Part 1

Tom Meade Update
From: Elysee Bakery and Café, Westwood, California.
October 2, 2011

Artwork and writing by Chad Glass

As the October morning sun permeates the Sepulveda Pass, heading south out of the valley, I find the Sunset exit and the old drive comes back: I’m going to UCLA in Westwood to visit Tom Meade. It’s long overdue as I ponder the months, as they came and went. Sparked by my recent viewing of a resurfaced “60 Minutes” segment on Tom Meade in Modena, Italy, in 1970, I am finally making time to meet him today, to resume where we had left off.

Thinking back, I believe the last entry I made about Tom Meade was on 12-29-2009. So for almost two years I have not been in touch with the man. Has it really been that long? Surely I must have spoken with him after the last entry but made no further writings. The thought of two years seems hard to believe, seeming like an eternity in this context. But life has a way of getting in the way, and things just seem to get on by.

Rising early to make the 11 am meeting, I rubber-band a couple of pens together, fetch a yellow legal pad, and a camera. I would take as many pictures as he would allow. I would write as much as he would give until I could not write anymore. Maybe a voice recorder was in order, but I did not prepare one.

Reminiscing over the last time I took this specific drive, I am taken back and begin to take personal inventory: Last time I did this I was in a sports car of my own. But it is now long totaled and sold for parts. I have since moved house, and lots of things in life have changed. But the sun is the same, and the twisting road presents the same enticing curves for a well-tuned suspension. Today I only expect good things. “Tom is still doing the car,” I say to myself. “That hasn’t changed.”

Calling ahead, as I am early to arrive, Tom answers and says he’ll be right there so come on back. Navigating the sloping narrow way around down to the back I find a spot, turn the car off, and get out. He hears me arrive and says to give him a minute.

As I’m standing by the car waiting he signals for me to come forth and I greet him on the porch. It’s good to see him again and we assume the behavior as if no time has elapsed. I’m glad to be there.

Ascending the sloping driveway we drive a short jaunt through some narrow streets and a back alley to Elysee Café, park, and order a coffee and a cappuccino. Seated prominently outside at a corner bistro table we begin our long visit among the wonderful humdrum of the in-town environs. The neighborhood humanity on parade and the bustle of a Saturday in LA frames this slice of life as I take a sip. As I’m getting the pen out to write Tom and I are already chatting:

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Driving the 246 Dino on Mulholland Drive

Dino illustration and writing by Chad Glass

Son of Enzo Ferrari, born in 1932, Alfredo "Dino" Ferrari was a young and gifted mechanical engineer, and central to the development of the Dino 1.5 L DOHC V6 engine. Acquiring muscular dystrophy early in life, Dino Ferrari could not; however, continue his work on developing engines. He died at the age of 24 in 1955, but his legacy carries tremendous significance: The Dino, an "un-Ferrari," ironically became one of the most important and famous cars in the Ferrari lineage.

Originally a racing engine platform, in 1966 Ferrari wanted to compete in the 1.6L class of the Formula 2 race series. The Dino engine was the clear choice but it needed a car. Not having the resources to be able to properly meet the 500-unit homologation requirements, Ferrari looked to Fiat to help produce the sports car. What resulted initially was not the Dino of interest here, but, instead, its direct cousin the Fiat DinoAs it was not initially intended to be badged a Ferrari, the Dino line of cars was to be a sub-brand, "budget" marque, built by Ferrari, with its engine as the defining element. The Fiat Dino further underscores the sort of indirect path of inception to the Dino phenomenon: As the son carries the DNA of the father, alas, the son is not the father --so is the Dino. 

Acting as an "engine carrier," the Pininfarina-designed, front-engined, Fiat Dino Spider was introduced at the Turin Motor Show in 1966, and a Bertone-designed coupe version was introduced one year later at the Geneva Motorshow. Fiat was, then, first to create a Dino iteration with engine married to road car. And thus the groundwork was laid for the more well known, mid-engined, "Ferrari" Dino of renown. The Ferrari Dino 206 GT, 246 GT & GTS were all equipped with engines identical to those used in the Fiats (2.0L and 2.4L respectively). 

Besides being Ferrari's first mid-engined road car, the 206/246 Dino platform was later continued and developed for use in subsequent V6 and V8 power plants, used for decades thereafter up to the F360 (the 360 is technically a Dino). The one pictured above, on Mulholland, is an example of a Euro 1973 Dino, 246 GTS. And the owner, Scott McClure, was so generous as to allow our Elysee Wednesday group to enjoy driving it for the afternoon. 

With the initial meeting point at a Starbucks, off Beverly Drive and Mulholland, it became the Ferrari morning: The nearer I drove to the rendezvous, the more Ferraris I began seeing. First was a brilliant red 458 Italia, then a red 275 GTS, then a yellow 275 GTB --all on the road. Arriving exclusively only to drive Scott's Dino, I must not have gotten the memo about a Ferrari enthusiasts meet at the top of the hill. Upon arrival, I took the car sightings as a bonus and found the parking lot to be populated by even more Ferraris. Having brought my camera, I took shots of the proceedings while I waited for the rest of the group to arrive. 

After a time with the car in the parking lot, meeting everyone and comparing stories about cars, it was time to face the open road. With the Dino in front, we motored away and found a first location to film and photograph the car in action, with people agreeing to take turns behind the wheel. Once it was my turn to drive, I adjusted the seat and noticed how immediate the controls were at my fingertips. I realized I was in a Ferrari Dino. The steering wheel I was gripping was a Dino steering wheel. The interior was in good condition but tempered with regular use. Besides the analog gauge cluster and steering wheel, the standout feature for me was the gated shifter, a commanding piece of hardware that also happened to be beautiful. 

I tested the pedals and their spacing, the weight of the clutch, figured out how to use the seat belt mechanism, and set off east down the winding road. Not wanting to thrash someone else's prized possession, I naively pampered the car onto the roadway. However, Scott quickly informed that the Dino wanted to be revved high before letting out the clutch. It was not to be babied. As I began to immediately see his point, the car hesitated a bit as I was being too gentle. I pushed the clutch back in and throttled higher, let it out, and took off. It was then when I glimpsed the high-strung nature of the engine. It jumped ahead as if it were telling me "Umm... hey, look, I'm a Ferrari and you really need to jam on this." 

Coming from racing pedigree, the engine wanted to be revved very high. Otherwise it lacked bottom end torque. As 1st gear was to be left as soon as possible, I went to 2nd and revved it quite high anticipating 3rd. In the power band the engine and exhaust note sounded so fantastic. The ensemble of engine and chassis really came alive. I can say it was one of the best sounds from a car I have yet heard. As I am not accustomed to driving vintage sports cars, I found the experience to be surprisingly and wonderfully mechanical. The small go-kart-like Dino was quite nimble on its near 40-year old suspension. The rawness of the drive required that I pay more attention to the physical input. The more I gave, the more it rewarded. 

After about an 1/2 mile I came to a place to turn around. Easing off onto the shoulder, the pavement dropped off. Although slight, the maneuver revealed how rock-hard the suspension was (in this case, an asset). I drove back, up hill, and gave the car more aggressive inputs. Although taken in short jaunts, I drove the car properly, if not briefly, and it responded in kind: The cabin quickly grew hotter with the heat soaking through the firewall and transmission tunnel. I could smell the oil and gasoline and exhaust all thick and interwoven among the intoxicating sounds and wind. The targa top was the way to go in this particular car, a mixture of pure sex and bravado. After a few runs I turned around one last time to rejoin the group. 

Had I more seat time in the Dino I could have taken the car to greater extremes of handling, but it wasn't my car and the time was short. Although it wasn't among the more powerful cars I have driven, it handled and sounded exquisite. Of all the Ferraris I have yet piloted the Dino was the most fun, a raw but beautiful driver's car. The group was ecstatic over having had the experiences and joked with Scott about how we were going to keep the car safe for him, letting him borrow it on occasion. What a car indeed. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Tom Meade: Car Designer Part II, III, IV, V

I will publish in one post the rest of the installments from the 2009 archives, a reintroduction of the original Tom Meade interview session (Thomassima II pictured below): 
from Sunday, October 4, 2009
By Chad Glass

Default A Slice of Life, An Altered State: An Afternoon with Tom Meade, part 2
I see fragrances of a GTO Series 2, California Spider, 250 SWB, 275 GTB, others. But as whole cars they’re not any of those. Looking at Meade’s cars, the overall effect would be as if Ferrari were to add extra dashes of spices and herbs to the sauce, letting it sit overnight for that “2nd day taste,” resume baking the next day, producing a more flavorful car, with nuances overall to dramatically alter the visual experience.

I am impressed on many levels certainly, but the main thing going through my mind is the sense of respect and humility I am feeling upon seeing the legacy that this man has created. I’ve met many visual artists, painters, movie people, musicians, some of my childhood heroes –but never a living legend such as this man. I can’t stop repeating myself with saying “wow” and “amazing.”

“I learned all of this the hard way --the very hard way. Some of the things I have lived through would leave your mouth hanging open. It has taken me 50 years to learn how to make the new Thomassima.”

When he says this to me I am again taken to another level of thinking, like a slow bullet entering my skull. The cars, the coffee, the afternoon sun, the level of design, the memories and times of this man in Italy somewhat become my own –it all begins to penetrate as I speak:

“You are one of those types of people, a Clint Eastwood type. You’re much less mainstream, in relative obscurity today… you are a living legend, an icon.”

He appears happy to hear this, somewhat surprised, perhaps, to hear me assess him in this way. And I continue:

“Because you create boutique products, highly specialized niche products, exotic cars, only true connoisseurs will know who you are. I must be one of those people now because I was lead to this.”

“The Thomassima is more known than you think it is,” he assures me.

As a draftsman myself, a largely self-taught storyboard artist for Hollywood movies and tv commercials, I am well aware of many areas of design and art that are not really my niche. Insofar as cars are concerned, I am merely a bright-eyed hobbyist at best, having drawn original car designs only very infrequently.

And drawing something already made, as I have done hundreds of times, if not thousands of times, will never qualify me as an automotive designer. That is for rich kids who go to places like Art Center or somewhere else to learn industrial design. Worse, that is a special talent, perhaps, that I may not even possess. Only lucky people end up as car designers.

Tom responds: “Art Center creates cookie cutter students who make all the same kinds of designs. They’re trained to become the same.”

While chewing food as he says this, I stop chewing to laugh with the food in my mouth. I feel uplifted and in accord with his thinking. It’s easy and a release for me to assume that attitude, being someone who never went to brand name schools. But the weight behind Tom saying it brings a fresh validity to the statement.

Regardless, with no formal training in anything really, I often feel pathetically out of my depth when I attempt to render an original car design. At best I feel like a fake. And the feeling is only amplified upon seeing Tom’s cars. But, alas, he wasn’t formally trained either. Neither was Enzo. And that is somewhat unbelievable when looking at what they can/did create, and what Tom has yet to do.

Whatever fantasies I may have entertained long ago of designing cars, of being part of that culture in any way, have long since faded with age –but have they really? For all the times I’ve imagined being behind the wheel in a car chase, drawing the scene by placing myself in the driver’s seat, by collecting a long list of speeding tickets, of going to hundreds of car shows, import car events, I never crossed over into actually creating the fast cars to be admired and collected. In all honesty to myself, I am no one special as I have been, and am, just another admirer, a consumer. But an enthusiast, nonetheless.

I’m the type of person who considers the sound of the engine to be important enough that no radio exists in the cars I own and drive. The soundtrack of the exhaust and gears changing in a tunnel, the moments that a sports car is heard above anything around, can be among the most intoxicating sounds ever experienced. In this way I consider myself a connoisseur of the sound a car makes as well as of the car itself. And as my interests and tastes in cars continue to expand, I realize that about the most uniquely exotic sound is from a Ferrari.

Other makes are different, can be nice, but nothing is really like a Ferrari’s sound. It’s a less-heard, head-turning event when you hear it. And I’ve read that it has a lot to do with Ferrari’s penchant for using flat-plane crank shafts in their engines (where the shaft lobes are directly opposed, different than the more commonly seen crank lobes offset at greater or lesser angles to each other). What results is this high-strung, high-revving, high-pitched symphony, something similar to a Formula One car.

I can only imagine what the sounds the Thomassima cars are like; better yet, how they feel to drive. I’ve been around car culture for years but only rarely have I driven the cars of my admiration. I’ve driven some, but not enough.

Amid my enjoyment of the afternoon, our meeting begins to elicit certain feelings, as if I had missed/am missing the big party, born into a time and situation that unfairly places me far and away from ever being able to grasp or have what I want.

Yet, paradoxically, I feel as if I am living in a moment of the beginning of something greater and more involving than most things I have pursued up to this time, at least in a long time. I feel that I am in an altered state, as if faerie dust is being sprinkled over the whole afternoon. It’s not just the black coffee. I feel empowered and excited, not down on myself. What I have not become, what I never had, who I am not… none of that matters. I’m not dead yet and I’m riding a wave of happy magic.

A Slice of Life, An Altered State: An Afternoon with Tom Meade, part 3

I still want to show Tom my drawings, even though by now I fully realize they will be seen as inferior. Not in how they are rendered per se, but in how I designed them (or lacked in the designing of them). My lack of imagination will surface immediately and I will appear orders of magnitude naïve. I begin feeling intimidated as I voice this to Tom.

I have not felt this way about something in a long time. After all I have attained and realized to a level of proficiency with my drawing skills that typically impresses others. Certainly, the rise I may get from an admirer are wonderful, even as the shelf-life of a compliment tends to be fleeting and ultimately dissatisfying.

Alas, this was to be a lesson, yet again, in humility. Literally I would soon be humiliated. And I was asking for it. I have been asking for it all my life, throughout the many chapters I have encountered. Moving out west to LA was a movement in this direction into humility and fear –headlong into a risk that guaranteed only that I would encounter unknown things. Some terrible, some great. And I am there again.

As Tom and I continue talking and sharing our lives’ stories, my role fast becomes the listener, the one absorbing from the elder statesman. What I had done up until this very hour begins to shrink and disappear into a shadow of a figment of an imaginary thought. But somehow I manage to blurt out something:

“A dream of mine, a big one, is to have a spot of land with a big house by the mountains and the ocean, with a giant multi-car garage, and a soaring workshop space where I can create giant paintings of cars and other amazing things –to have some level of renown”

“Yes, I’d like to see your drawings,” he says.

With that, reaching into my leather case, I produce 2 finished concept sketches of a red Ferrari front V12 GT, and a fantasy version of the Dino, in yellow. They were drawn last year sometime, yet I don’t bring that up as an excuse. I am already fully exposed.

He gives them a look and says in a supportive tone: “Oh I see you can use what I can show you. This first one, it kind of looks like the 599. Did you have a picture of the 599 in front of you when you drew this?”

“No, it’s from my imagination,” I say

Tom responds “One of my main weaknesses is that I love beauty, and your drawings, they’re not more beautiful than the basic Ferraris. Would someone pay for a one-off like these, over 1 or 2 or 3 million dollars, when they can buy a mass-produced Ferrari that is already as beautiful, for about 3 to $400,000? They can just go out and buy a 599.”

Looks like I will not achieve any renown with these drawings.

Likewise, I cannot say anything in rebuttal. Looks like a checkmate to me. I admit as well that I am not entirely ready to hear what he is saying as it’s something nobody has ever really told me. Being that I am prepared for criticism, I am not so crestfallen. Yet I am unsettled. I feel it in my whole body as I hear the truth being laid down about my work.

By now I have learned, from years of being exposed on jobs in Hollywood, to just take it like a man and shut up and be glad for the lesson. So I don’t take the criticism so personally as it is an excellent gift. The pangs of hurt are treasures.

“I want you to begin thinking of everything in terms of beauty,” he offers, “but these drawings do not show beautiful cars; they show nothing new or different.”

Up to this time, I never had things put to me this way… beauty? So simple yet something I honestly had either forgotten about or did not consciously implement. Whatever the case may be or might have been, I awaken out of a sort of sleep upon hearing this.

The faerie dust begins dusting the area even more; I instantly see my drawings and the photos of his cars with new eyes. The changeover is instantaneous. My drawings instantly appear as if some other person besides myself has drawn them. “I will never draw that way again,” I say to myself, assuming the position of someone different, as I am shown something greater.

Suddenly, too, I see how utterly hard it is to come up with something that looks good and new in the round, in 3D. It’s even worse because the subject matter is automotive. Everyone has an instant opinion and recognition with a car design. If something looks bad on a car, it looks really bad and is unforgiven.

He adds “Look at how your lines flow; they start and stop and have no meaning. What is this? (pointing to an area on the front of the Dino) What were you thinking? The front is too high, the fender arches don’t rise above the hood, the headlights are unattractive, the grille is too tall and flat. And there are no relationships between the different areas of the car.”

So much is wrong with what I had drawn that I sit wondering if I did anything right. Yet I don’t dwell on this. I am already a changed man and invite more.

“Do you like any of the modern Ferraris?” I ask.

“Mmm not much; I like some parts of them but generally no,” he says.

“What do you think of the 458, the new one?”

“It’s close but…. what about the tail lights? They look like… they remind me of someone with gum disease, the way they designed how the tops of the lights go into the body. They did that same thing on the 430, the receding gum tail lights.”

A Slice of Life, An Altered State: An Afternoon with Tom Meade, part 4

I laugh out loud when he suggests this, having never heard that before. I agree with him even though I like the 430 and 458, save for the strange headlights on the latter car.

“I don’t care for the headlights on it either, they’re too complicated,” he says.

“The 458 looks better when it’s moving. I’ve seen footage of it,” I say. He doesn’t really respond.

“The biggest problem with modern Ferraris is that the original maestro designers are gone. And the designs must appeal more and more to all kinds of people. I have freedom to make and do what I want. But I don’t compete with them on their level, so I have to go and make my cars more beautiful and of higher art. But I don’t have the billions to spend. Yet I have to try beat them. Otherwise I have nothing special; my cars will not be worth more than a Ferrari if I barely meet their standards. It’s like David and Goliath,” he says.

Agreeing, I say “You’re a boutique car maker, of the old world, how it used to be for Ferrari when they were still a company developing in a cottage industry.”

“Absolutely yes,” he agrees “it all used to be a cottage industry. Not anymore. It used to be about beauty, now it’s just about money. I never see a car which I consider especially beautiful.”

The surrealism of the day going into evening maintains a nice level of enjoyment, an altered state that I accept and have accepted. He is talking about creating a hand-built supercar without compromise to quality or performance, going directly to compete with everyone’s reputation and design aesthetic.

“The Thomassima will be entirely hand-built. The panels of the body will be hand-beaten in aluminum, with a hammer, around a mannequin (wire frame). Nobody does that anymore. It’s all computerized now.”

He continues: “Brembo is making the braking system for this car, specifically for this car. I was also going to use a Ferrari frame for it, but when I moved it was stolen. But this turned out to be a blessing in disguise. After the incident, I teamed up with an English engineer, an absolute genius, who designed the chassis and suspension for the Aston Martin GT race car last year for LeMans.

“He’s also designed chassis and suspension for Forumla One. For the Thomassima, we have teamed up together, designing the suspension and chassis to be at the avante garde of engineering.”

At some points in hearing him speak, I am taken by the matter-of-fact delivery of what he is doing. It is not phrased in terms of “someday, I will make a car; I hope it is… blah blah blah.” There is no nonsense here. Instead, the message is clear: He has actually started building the chassis, suspension, and many of the components. In my summation, he is a doer and not just a talker.

Most people in any given business that I typically find myself interacting with never approach this kind of endeavor for any reason. Even film directors talking about what they are going to do, how they want the scene to look…. all of that is great and fun to be a part of, but in this context seems to be a more common issue.

But not this.

This is different. The scope of what Tom speaks of takes all afternoon to recount, all day to hit me as more and more is further revealed, about the Thomassima project, and about myself. Rather, I am perpetually eased into a jarring string of moments that quietly present themselves in the gentle shower of falling faerie dust.

The sun sinks lower, the chill of autumn begins to bite the air; we pack up our stuff and head out. Tom remarks on the process that he will use to create the tail lamps for the Thomassima –which will be made in Murano, Italy, from glass, not plastic. Many of the components in the Thomassima will be made of glass, but I’m not allowed to comment further.

After that visit we go to dinner. The day has tired me out, my head is reeling.

In moments between conversation, under the weight of dusk, I ask myself why am I hearing all of this? Why did I meet this person really? Certainly there are others with whom he has in close confidence to reveal secrets to instead of me (and throughout the day he does reveal such things to me that I am sworn to silence over).

In reminiscence, Tom recounts “I’m the last remaining one from that whole era. All of my contemporaries, the ones who I learned from –the Maestros-- they’re all dead.”

Certainly if such a maestro is in existence today it is indeed him. He’s been building cars and living in Italy all of his adult life –that’s 50 years, making him more Italian than American.

The solitariness of his condition makes itself very clear as I contemplate from what time in history he comes from. It’s quite a bit before my time, so this is like being in an animated time capsule. Inasmuch as I have in common with him, I am in stark contrast to him.

But the opportunity to board the train on this journey, as he builds a car in early Enzo era tradition, with the technology of tomorrow, is strangely wonderful. As he stands as a last remaining link to that distant time, I am anxious to get on with the next installment to this continuing saga…

A Slice of Life, An Altered State: An Afternoon with Tom Meade, part 5

Below are listed current specs on the new Thomassima:

“Old World body outside mixed with New World technology inside,” and, according to Tom:

“I have already made a trip to Italy and contracted with my old body man who used to work for me. I’ve brought him out of retirement, so the new Thomassima should reflect the original beauty of the vintage cars.”

-Supercharged 4-cam, front-engine V12 with titanium rods, springs, hollow valves, keepers, and locks, etc.

-6 speed transaxle, custom-engineered and manufactured solely for this unit

-2015 technology, monocoque chassis /LeMans competition race car design and construction using many lightweight and exotic materials
-Gas tanks of hand-formed aluminum, riveted with internal fuel bladder, with “yesteryear” look as seen on the 250LM Ferrari race car
-Target weight is below 2000lbs including fuel, water, and oil

-Carbon-ceramic/special alloy caliper Brembo, custom application braking system, made and created especially for the Thomassima; more advanced than the braking system on the Ferrari Enzo

-General Formula One racing suspension, with lightweight A-arms and rear axles of carbon fiber
-Magnesium hub carriers
-Computerized electric power steering

-Hand-hammered aluminum, 1.5mm thickness –done in the old style method akin to the 315S, 335S, and pontoon Testarossas-- with carbon inner panels
-Tail lights, emblems, instrument faces, created out of glass in Murano, Italy
-Ground clearance: 3.5” front/4” rear

-Hand-spun 356 T6 aluminum: 20” dia/11” wide front, and 13 1/2” wide rear
-Pirelli P-Zero tires –front and rear, featuring widest street tires made

Tom commenting on the wheels: “They’re for me absolutely gorgeous and very unusual and never before seen, designed especially for the new Thomassima”

-One-piece carbon fiber interior structure

-Integral to chassis/fixed

-On seats and kick panels only

-Movable hand-machined aluminum pedals that adjust and move to driver’s height, up to 6’-8”

-Power assist via variable computerized electronic steering
-Telescopic/tilt steering column
-Ebony-covered and hand-polished steering wheel, inlaid with 40-thousand year-old mastadon fossil ivory

-Polished/hand-shaped aluminum dashboard

-Black leather, black suede, and polished aluminum interior highlights made in carbon fiber

-Created in Murano, Italy out of glass, never before seen or attempted in a car

To add, one of Tom’s admirers, a longtime wealthy Italian Ferrari collector, has so much faith in the new Thomassima project that he has stepped forward and offered to financially back the endeavor.

This allows Tom to use all of the technology and technical innovations that he has wanted to incorporate into the new supercar. These facts guarantee its fast and high-level completion.

I can well imagine that the new Thomassima, upon release, will stun the automotive world. I can’t wait to see it come to fruition, and I’m honored to be given the duty of reporting on it’s unfolding process.