The celebrated stylist and designer of the Fiat 124 Sport Spider :
AN EXTENSIVE INTERVIEW
( January 2004 )
John McElroy, a wellknown American car expert and journalist
interviews here for AUTOLINE DETROIT RADIO: Tom Tjaarda.
His introduction for this interview runs:
Tom Tjaarda is an American who spent his 45-year
career in automotive design primarily in Italy. He has worked for some of the most famous design
studios of Europe and produced an amazing portfolio of cars, perhaps most famously the DeTomaso
Pantera. Although he celebrated his 70th birthday last year he has a keen eye for what makes design work, and as you're
about to hear, he has a very interesting background.
Click on the image here to listen in as AutoLine's John McElroy presents Tom Tjaarda.
HE IS A NATURAL AT WHAT HE DOES
Tom Tjaarda was born on July 23, 1934. The son of John Tjaarda, a noted stylist whose creations
included the streamlined Lincoln Zephyr of the 1930's. From Tom's youth it was obvious to those around
him that he would one day become a superlative designer.
While majoring in Architecture at the University of Michigan, a professor in industrial design
gave Tom the assignment of constructing a scale model of a sports station wagon. Upon seeing his
student's finished project, the professor was so impressed that he showed it to his friend, Luigi
Segre, the then, head of Carrozzeria Ghia of Turin, Italy.
Segre immediately offered Tjaarda a job and, as they say, the rest is history. After moving to
Turin, over the next two years, Tjaarda designed several production cars, prototypes and show cars.
After spending a year working on the city of Turin's Italia '61 Design Exhibition, Tjaarda was
subsequently hired by the famed coach building firm, Pininfarina. Here, several production cars and
prototypes were his designs, including two Ferraris, the Fiat 124 Spider, a Lancia, a Mercedes-Benz
and the one-off show car, the Corvette Rondine.
In 1965, Tom was hired by OSI-Fergat, where he was involved in the production of automotive
stampings and wheels. When Giorgetto Giugiaro left Carrozzeria Ghia in 1967, Tom soon found himself
back with his former employer, now as head of design. For the next eight years, he was the styling
force behind numerous, memorable Ghia designs, including two of its most famous; the sleek,
mid-engined DeTomaso Pantera and the Ford Fiesta economy car.
By the mid-1970's, Tom had caught the eye of the styling executives at Fiat. In 1977, Italy's
largest automotive concern hired him to run their Advanced Design Studio. Here, he oversaw the Tipo
4 proposals, the Lancia Thema, Fiat Croma, and others.
Rayton Fissore became his new home in 1980. Besides working with Chrysler in Detroit and Citroen
of France, Tom put his stamp on the off-road, sport-ute market in 1985 with the Rayton Fissore Magnum
4X4, a vehicle that remained in production well into the 1990's.
In the mid-1980's, Tom left Rayton Fissore and formed his own company, Dimensione Design, now
known as Tjaarda Design. By properly utilizing his talents and those of a small, hand-picked group
of Turin's top, sub-contractors, for the past number of years, Tjaarda Design has been able to offer
manufacturers an intelligent, cost effective alternative in the study and production of design ideas,
prototypes and production cars.
1969: the Fiat 124 Sport Spider BS
as designed by Tom Tjaarda
click on this image for more reproductions from the original brochure
TODAY - Tjaarda Design
"Quickly and efficiently responding to a client's desires is key in today's rapidly changing
Located in the heart of Turin, capital to Italy's styling industry, Tjaarda Design was originally
formed in 1985 under the name of Dimensione Design. Since its inception, the firm has worked with some
of the automotive world's most famous and respected names, from all market sectors. Included are
mass manufacturers such as Chrysler, Saab and Fiat Iveco. Niche market and performance clients include
Aston Martin, Bugatti and Bitter. Off-road/Sport-ute studies were done for LaForza and Sermac, while
other clients have ranged from America's ASC Incorporated and PPG to Zastava and Piaggio. All were
given timely, cost-effective solutions to their targeted market and design queries.
How is Tjaarda
Design able to accomplish this, when production costs seem to spiral continuously upward? Simply,
Tom Tjaarda has long maintained that a tightly-knit group of talented designers and craftsmen could
best serve the global automotive community, thus displaying a "lean and mean" attitude similar to
that found today in numerous American corporate entities in this era of downsized corporate
structures. Such an approach allows Tjaarda Design to quickly respond to markets that undergo changes
or suddenly open and develop at a rapid rate. Additionally, for mature markets such as North America,
Europe and Japan, studies and production of high performance motorcars, sport-utes and other niche
vehicles have remained a cost-effective reality at Tjaarda Design.
At the center of the firm is Tom
Tjaarda himself. The wealth of knowledge he has accumulated during boom and bust periods of the
business cycle over the past four decades has allowed him to survive and prosper in all business
climates by being particularly responsive to an individual manufacturer's needs and requirements.
Tjaarda's lengthy experience in Turin has also led to a tight association with several hand-picked
subcontractors who understand manufacturing deadlines and budgets. This allows Tjaarda Design to act
incisively as a sounding board for design studies, develop scale and 1:1 models, design and build
running prototypes, or oversee the production of limited production and niche vehicles.
© Copyright Anthony Westen
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Click on this legendary Ferrari 365 California Spider - designed by Tom Tjaarda as well -
to see more specific details of this unique design.