2024: 90th Anniversary of the birth of Tom Tjaarda (1934-2017)


Chronological point of view:

1959-today

 

Bodyworkatelier point of view:

Section Ghia (1959-1961)

Section Pininfarina (1962-1966)

Section Ghia (1968-1977)

Section Fiat (1977-1981)

Section Rayton-Fissore (1982-1984)

Section Dimensione Design (1984-today)








4 cars are counted for this anniversary

The exciting season of custom-built bodywork in post-war Italy not only involved the few established specialists already working in the 1930s but also a myriad of new initiatives created by bold craftsmen with a great deal of professional experience gained with the major companies of the sector. At that time, there was an attempt to move away from mass-produced vehicles to exhibiting cars with unique aesthetic features, possibly prepared on the modest chassis of a Fiat 1100 if not on that of a Lancia Aprilia or Alfa Romeo 6C 2500. This innovative approach led to an all-Italian scenario in the early 1950s, not seen in other European countries, where the phenomenon was not so widespread. It was also influenced by the long delivery times of mass-produced cars compared to the faster time for those made by coachbuilders. The thriving development of the new generation of coachbuilders in Piedmont and other areas of the north inaugurated a fresh new family of bodywork designers with brilliant creative skills. Some of them were inspired by growing overseas aesthetic trends, leading members of which included Harley Earl and Raymond Loewy, whilst Carrozzeria Ghia, with a wealth of top quality production labour, courageously ventured into building huge captivating dream-cars designed by the American Virgil Exner for the generous car chassis of the Chrysler group. In 1952, the latter’s lucky encounter with Luigi Segre, commercial director and minority shareholder of Ghia, led to a long and profitable period of co-operation between the two companies. In this period, enchanting vehicles that profoundly changed the stylistic approach in the 1950s and 1960s could be admired at the main international motor shows.

Segre met Tom Tjaarda, born in 1934, a young architect of Dutch origin who had just graduated from Michigan University, during one of his many trips to the USA. Tjaarda’s father, Joop Van Starkenberg Tjaarda, had designed the Lincoln Zephyr in 1936. The futuristic saloon with monocoque bodywork, rigid and light, brought great fame to the Ford Group at the time despite the serious construction defects revealed by the ambitious new V12 engine.

Segre invited Tom, who was following in his father’s footsteps, to work in Italy, the home of automotive design. In 1959, Tom left without hesitation to join Ghia with the intention of attending a specialisation course lasting a few months. He ended up staying in Turin for over 50 years where he was the star of a brilliant career and where he still lives and works, perfectly integrated into the Italian coach building industry.


Tom Tjaarda’s 90th birthday

The virtual exhibition on Tom Tjaarda will cover the American architect’s entire career, starting from his first job at Ghia in 1959, where he completed his training in an environment full of new opportunities and stimulating suggestions for a youngster brought up on the other side of the Atlantic. He refined his sensitivity as stylist in the subsequent years, gaining a great deal of invaluable experience from working in close contact with panel beaters and assemblers belonging to a fantastic stock of extremely talented artisans. He lavished the knowledge gained, day after day, on a long series of gratifying projects, of great satisfaction to an artist like him.

The exhibition also includes the various bodywork designers for whom Tom worked with different positions and roles. Benefiting from the initial skills gained in Ghia, he joined Pininfarina, the famous international sanctuary of coachbuilders, in 1962. There, he played a part in the creation of many unique examples on the most diverse mechanics, from Fiat to Chevrolet, from Lancia to Ferrari; his most successful creation was the Fiat 124 Sport Spider, with over two hundred thousand models produced in 20 years.

On his return to Ghia in 1969, as head of the style department, Tjaarda focused on the research he had started as a university student and outlined in his thesis. His intention was to make the structure part of the bodywork so that perfectly smooth external surfaces could be obtained. The results can be admired in two elegant Lancia prototypes that were never taken any further because of Fiat’s takeover of Lancia in November 1969. Tjaarda then designed a range of De Tomaso models with different technical and construction features (some of which were marketed by Ford in the United States, with the Pantera that was also competitively successful). In 1972, he created a Wolf prototype that, reworked by engineers and specialists in Ford’s style centre, was launched as the Fiesta in June 1976, becoming a formidable competitor in the 1000 cc passenger car sector in Europe.

In 1977, after leaving Ghia and Alejandro De Tomaso, its despotic owner, Tom joined Fiat as director of the Advanced Design Studio, where the bodywork of the Autobianchi Y10 and Lancia Thema and Fiat Croma were developed. Five years later he went to Rayton Fissore in Cherasco (Turin), where he was involved in creating the Magnum 4x4 and some prototypes that resulted in the Chrysler Le Baron, Aston Martin Lagonda and Saab 900. In August 1984, Tjaarda set up his first professional studio in Turin, “Dimensione Design srl”, later known as “Tjaarda Design”, where he lavished his creativity on other projects including the Isotta Fraschini T8 Coupé that caused a sensation at the Paris Motor Show, in an unrealistic attempt to become part of the prestigious international car scene once again. Today, his stylistic consultancy work still continues on behalf of many international manufacturers and sets the seal on a wonderful career featuring detailed formal research and marked creative sensitivity.

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The Curators

Curators are the historian Luciano Greggio and the general coordinator Automotive Masterpieces Sandro Binelli.

 

Co-curator of the exhibition is Luciano Greggio. Milanese, he graduated from the Bocconi University and was a firm supporter of the European Union even before Europe showed signs of setting it up – his degree thesis discussed the relationships and development of the car industry in the European Market. His almost maniacal passion for the international history of the car and knowledge of the main players made him one of the leading experts of the sector for many years.

 

Alongside Mr. Greggio, Sandro Binelli, enthusiast about design and history of the automobile, former organizer of the Mille Miglia from 2008 to 2012 and the concourse uniques special ones in Florence and St. Petersburg. Sandro Binelli today is General Coordinator of Automotive Masterpieces.

A special thanks to

Archivio Storico Tom Tjaarda

 

Centro Storico FIAT

 

Collezione Lopresto

 

Tjaarda Design





Cars that have joined the lab


Chronological point of view:

1959-today

 

Bodyworkatelier point of view:

Section Ghia (1959-1961)

Section Pininfarina (1962-1966)

Section Ghia (1968-1977)

Section Fiat (1977-1981)

Section Rayton-Fissore (1982-1984)

Section Dimensione Design (1984-today)

1959 Selene (Ghia/one-off)
1960 Innocenti 950 Sport (Ghia/series– see AM eligible categories)
1962 Chevrolet Corvair (Pininfarina/one-off)
1963 Chevrolet Corvette Rondine (Pininfarina/one-off)
1963 Fiat 2300 Lausanne (Pininfarina/one-off)
1963 Lancia Flaminia Coupé 2.8 (Pininfarina/one-off)
1963 Sigma (Pininfarina/prototype)
1964 Ferrari 330GT 2+2 (Pininfarina/series– see AM eligible categories)
1964 Mercedes-Benz 230 SL (Pininfarina/one-off)
1965 Fiat 124 Sport Spider (Pininfarina/series – see AM eligible categories)
1966 Ferrari 365 California (Pininfarina/smallseries)
1969 Lancia Fulvia 1600 Competizione(Ghia/prototype)
1969 Lancia Flaminia Marica (Ghia/one-off)
1970 De Tomaso Deauville (Ghia/series– see AM eligible categories)
1970 De Tomaso Pantera (Ghia/series – see AM eligible categories)
1971 De Tomaso Zonda (Ghia/prototype)
1972 De Tomaso Longchamps (Ghia/ series– see AM eligible categories)
1973 Ford Fiesta (Ghia/series – see AMeligible categories)
1973 Ford Mustela II (Ghia/prototype)
1973 Ford UrbanCar (Ghia/prototype)
1974 Ford Coins (Ghia/prototype)
1979 Seat Ronda (prototype)
1983 Chrysler Le Baron (prototype)
1982 Saab Viking (Rayton Fissore/prototype)
1985 Magnum 4x4 (Rayton Fissore/series– see AM eligible categories)
1987 Aston Martin Lagonda Coupé (prototype)
1991 Bitter Tasco (prototype)
1996 Isotta Fraschini T8 Coupé (prototype)
2002 Spiker GTSport (prototype)
2006 Shelby Series 2 (prototype)
2008 HSTAutomotive Mustang 700T (one-off)




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