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.