Remembering one of the greatest designers in the automotive industry.
My earliest memory of my passion for cars is a white Matchbox De Tomaso Pantera, which I carried with me literally everywhere I go. I used to play with it or just admire its lines while my father was driving a Chevrolet Chevette that he bought from a junkyard in a time of very bad finances for my family. I was helping him by bringing the tools he needed during the repairs of the car. The Chevette was an instrument of work, which my father used to cover his salesman duties. I owe him, and the Pantera's father, not only my taste for cars, but also my profession.
So, I was really hoping that the report on Autofans.be was not real. The news of Tom Tjaarda's death was a shock. "We received the news from other Belgian journalists, who were saying goodbye to him and expressing their condolences to the family on Facebook. Tjaarda’s Wikipedia page has also been updated. We do not have a single source to name, but the people who knew him and were close to him when he died," said Sven Geiregat, editor of the site.
Tom Tjaarda is the father of the De Tomaso Pantera, the Ford Maverick, and the Fiat 124 Spider among so many cars he has designed. If you've never heard of the guy, let me tell you a bit about him.
Stevens Thompson Tjaarda van Sterkenberg was born in Detroit on July 23, 1934. He was the son of Joop Tjaarda van Starkenburg, who adopted the name of John Tjaarda when he arrived in the U.S. in 1923. Considering that he was also the creator of the Lincoln Zephyr, and a renowned designer, Tom was well-oriented from an early age. Tom’s career began in 1958 shortly after he graduated as an architect from the University of Michigan. One of his teachers suggested that he could work for the Carrozzeria Ghia and he thought the idea was great. He moved to Turin, Italy, and designed the Innocenti 950.
In 1961, Battista "Pinin" Farina noticed his talent and invited him to work in his studio. It was from this period that models like the Fiat 124 Spider appeared, recently reborn on the platform of the Mazda MX-5 Miata, the Ferrari 365 California, and the Chevrolet Corvette Rondine, the only Corvette to have a steel body.
In 1968, Tjaarda returned to Ghia, where he designed the De Tomaso Pantera. Over there, Tjaarda also designed the Ford Maverick. It is not known if there is a relationship between the two, but Ford would eventually buy Ghia in 1970. And Tjaarda would become, therefore, the creator of models like the first Ford Fiesta.
Tjaarda left Ghia in 1977, becoming Fiat's design consultant until he opened his own company, Dimensione Design in August 1984. The company changed its name in 2003 to Tjaarda Design. In his last years, the designer was dedicated to be jury in different competitions for classic vehicles.
Diagnosed with cancer, Tjaarda was treated at the Humanitas Gradenigo hospital in Turin until his death on June 1. Unfortunately, Tom leaves no offspring to succeed his talent, as he had no children from his wife Paola Bronzino.
Thank you, Tom, from the bottom of our hearts!