Creators

Tom Tjaarda. American passport, Italian heart

What face lies behind a masterpiece?

Photo credit: Wheelsage

Every car has a face. We’re not talking about its headlights or its front grille, but the face of the man who conceived it and pencilled its lines and style. We would like to start by introducing one of these faces, belonging to Tom Tjaarda, who created a significant number of masterpieces. Tom Tjaarda’s love for Italy and Europe can be clearly seen from the lines of his automobiles and from his passion for compact, agile and aerodynamic cars which were quite distant from the huge four-wheeled behemoths that were so dear to Americans. Notwithstanding his Dutch surname, Tjaarda was born in Detroit in 1934 and graduated in Architecture from the University of Michigan. During his studies, an industrial design professor who recognized his talent gave Tom the task of designing a sporty station wagon. His work was shown to Luigi Segre, then head of design at Carrozzeria Ghia. It was the beginning of a bright career that lasted almost half a century with collaborations with Ghia, Pininfarina, Fiat and Rayton Fissore until the creation of his very own independent studio. Tjaarda has designed, for most of the leading international manufacturers, more than eighty models including concept cars, show cars and production cars. Deceased in June 2017, he is widely considered one of the “masters” and is certainly one of the most characteristic designers of the second half of the last century.

We have selected some of his cars from among his many masterpieces accompanied by their history.

1963 Pininfarina Corvette Rondine
Despite the success of the Corvette C2 presented in 1963, Bill Mitchell sent several chassis to Pininfarina asking him to try to give his creature a new image. The result was the Corvette Rondine, built on a Sting Ray base with the big difference being the bodywork made from steel, unlike the original fibreglass. The style was based on the idea of ​​maximum simplicity and functionality and the limited use of chrome underlined the sober elegance of the design and the harmony of the whole.

Pininfarina Corvette Rondine produced in 1963
Pininfarina Corvette Rondine produced in 1963

1966 Ferrari 365 California
Presented at the 1966 Geneva Motor Show, this is one of the most successful examples of an Italian-style open-top car. Pininfarina entrusted the project to Tjaarda and clothed the refined mechanics of the V12 four litre plus engine with a car body of rare elegance and poise, transforming it into the reference model for the high-performance spider/luxury category. The high price and the exclusive image meant it was destined for an elite market: only fourteen copies were produced.

Ferrari 365 California produced from 1966 to 1967
Ferrari 365 California produced from 1966 to 1967

1969 Lancia Flaminia GT Ghia Marica
Using the last Lancia Flaminia GT chassis remaining without bodywork, Ghia made a unique model for the Turin Motor Show in 1969. It had a distinctly modern and elegant style, designed by Tom Tjaarda when Ghia was owned by Alejandro De Tomaso. The design of the “Marica” was in fact reused, with some slight modifications, for the 1973 De Tomaso Longchamp and later the 1976 Maserati Kyalami.

Lancia Flaminia Marica Ghia produced in 1969
Lancia Flaminia Marica Ghia produced in 1969

1973 De Tomaso Pantera II 7x Montella
In the 1970s the new American safety regulations forced European manufacturers to redesign their most extreme sports models to meet the strict homologation standards. This also affected the De Tomaso Pantera and Ghia made a restyling prototype that catered for these restrictions. The design of the “7X” was the work of Tom Tjaarda, who also studied the particular paintwork with its brown finish. The car was to remain a unique example, purchased by the president of Ford.

De Tomaso Pantera II 7x Montella produced in 1973
De Tomaso Pantera II 7x Montella produced in 1973