Tom Tjaarda

Car designer Tom Tjaarda has died. He was 82. DTW takes a look back at his career.

1959 Ghia Selene, Tjaarda´s first car: 95octane.com

Two things stand out about Tom Tjaarda. One was the prolific and varied body of work: the 1976 Ford Fiesta, the de Tomaso Deauville, the 1964 Ferrari 330 GT2+2 and Fiat 2300 coupe. The other thing is that he wasn’t as well known as Giugiario, Gandini or even quite a few younger designers with only a few cars from the same brand to their name.

As well as having talent, Tjaarda arrived in the world of car design at a time when there was considerably more room to flourish, not unlike Danish architect Arne Jacobsen – both had space into which their abilities could be projected.  Tjaarda designed a wide range of cars and Jacobsen could do everything from door handles to buildings.

1964 Ferrari 330 GT: source

Car design lay in Tjaarda’s background. His father worked for Lincoln in the 1930s so he grew up in a home atmosphere infused with design. However, he initially studied architecture but a visit by Ghia to Tjaarda’s department in 1958 offered an opportunity for Tjaarda to change tracks. He moved to Italy and stayed. From 1958 to 1960 he designed some concept cars (the Selene, for example) But he also draw the Fiat 2300S coupe and the Innocenti Spider. Like Giugiario at Bertone, Tjaarda was given a lot of latitude and scope. What these cars have in common is an economy of line and form: what they lack is a “Tjaarda signature”. Lesser designers seem to go over the same themes or flower for a brief period when whatever they are able to do is momentarily in demand. Tjaarda had the ability to originate but also subsume himself into the job, looking to provide the best design not the most Tjaarda design possible.

1969 Lancia Flaminia Marica: topcarrating.com

After departing from Ghia due to a dispute with Luigi Segre, Tjaarda migrated to Pininfarina. He prepared the themes for the 1964 330 GT 2+2, the 1966 365 GT California and, in the same years, the ever-fresh Fiat 124 Spider. These cars are still satisfying to look at today and like all the best works, resist any tempations to adjustments. One looks at one of these and there is nothing to distract but numerous elegant details blended into a harmonious whole.

1976 Ford Fiesta: Ford Social

Tjaarda returned to Ghia in 1968 and produced work for de Tomaso: the Pantera, Longchamps and Deauville. At the time some similarities to the Jaguar XJ-6 were noted in the Deauville. With the passage of time they seem less and less easier to see, much as the Ford Mondeo Mk2’s supposed resemblance to the VW Passat now seems more like the eye of faith at prayer.

Tjaarda didn’t only do super cars and sports cars. He conceived the main forms of what know as the 1976 Ford Fiesta and whatever might not be so satisfactory about it today (I don’t like the window line) are more due to the complexities of design for large corporations than Tjaarda’s lack of talent: he didn’t lack that. Still, he managed to present a design radically different from the impersonal vernacular Ford was serving up in a category Ford had resisted for five years too long. I would contend that with adjustments for modern production, the ’76 Fiesta would today still make an eye-catching city car.

Ghia’s XJ homage. Tom Tjaarda’s De Tomaso Deauville

In 1984 Tjaarda set up his own consultancy to design a wider range of products and he also participated in the show-car circuit and was noted for his dapper style and gentlemanly demeanour. A modest man, he avoided the show business attitude that car design can encourage. He had a long career and played a variety of roles in the car design process. Again, this manner of maturation and sustained creativity is ever harder today. Tom Tjaarda was able to make the very most of his freedom and talent and leaves behind a fascinating and diverse design bequest as the list below shows.

Tom Tjaarda: July 23, 1934 – June 1, 2017.

Tom Tjaarda´s cars (source- Wikipedia)

1959. Ghia Selene I (with Sergio Sartorelli)
1960. Innocenti 950 S Ghia Spider
1960. (Innocenti) Ghia IXG Dragster
1960. Renault Dauphine Ghia Coupé
1960. VW Karmann Ghia 1500 (type 34) Coupé (rear design; main body design by Sergio Sartorelli)
1961. Ferbedo Automobilina pedal car (Ghia)
1961. Ghia Cart
1961. Innocenti 1100 Ghia Coupé
1962. Chevrolet Corvair Pininfarina Coupé (I)
1963. Chevrolet Corvette Rondine Pininfarina Coupé (I)
1963. Fiat 2300 Pininfarina
1963. Lancia Flaminia 2.8 Pininfarina Coupé Speciale
1964. Chevrolet Corvette Rondine Pininfarina Coupé (II)
1964. Ferrari 330 GT 2+2 Pininfarina series 1
1964. Mercedes 230 SL Pininfarina Coupé
1965. Fiat 124 Spider Pininfarina[3]
1966. Ferrari 365 GT California
1968. Chevrolet Checker Berlina (with Giorgetto Giugiaro)
1968. Serenissima Coupé (Ghia)
1969. De Tomaso Mustela (I) (Ghia)
1969. Isuzu Bellett MX1600 GT (Ghia)
1969. Lancia Flamina Marica (Ghia)
1969. Lancia Fulvia 1600 HF Competizione (Ghia)
1970. De Tomaso Deauville (Ghia)
1970. De Tomaso Pantera Ghia
1970. (Lancia Flavia) Giacobbi Sinthesis 2000
1970. Williams De Tomaso-Ford (Cosworth) 505/38 (De Tomaso Formula 1)
1971. All-Cars AutoZodiaco Damaca
1971. De Tomaso 1600 (Ghia) Spider
1971. De Tomaso Zonda (Ghia)
1971. Isuzu Bellett SportsWagon (Ghia)
1972. De Tomaso Longchamp
1972. De Tomaso Pantera L (Ghia)
1972. De Tomaso Pantera 290 (Ghia)
1972. De Tomaso Pantera GT4 (Ghia)
1972. Ford Fiesta (Ghia, Project “Wolf”)
1973. De Tomaso/Ford Pantera 7X (Ghia)
1973. De Tomaso Monttella 1/1 197X
1973. Ford Mustela (II) (Ghia)
1974. Ford Ghia Coins
1974. Ford Maverick
1978. Lancia Y10
1979. Fiat Brazil
1979. Ford Mustang II Proposals (Ghia) (different variants)
1979. Zastava (facelifts of older Fiat-based models for Yugoslavia)
1980. De Tomaso Longchamp Cabrio
1981. SEAT Ronda
1981. SEAT Guappa Coupé
1982. Chrysler LeBaron
1982. Chrysler Imperial
1983. Rayton-Fissore Taxi Torino
1985. Chrysler Jeep (Interior)
1985. Rayton-Fissore Magnum 4×4
1989. Aston Martin Lagonda Coupé
1988. PPG 4×4 (USA)
1989. Laforza Magnum 4×4
1989. Zastava Utility vehicle
1991. Bitter Tasco
1992. Saab 900 four door
1992. Suzuki Coupé (for Bugatti)
1993. Fiat Iveco Truck Interior
1995. Lamborghini Diablo (Interior)
1998. Isotta-Fraschini T8 Coupé
1998. Isotta-Fraschini T12 Coupé
2000. Qvale Mangusta (II)
2001. Laforza PSV (II) (production engineering only)
2002. Spyker GT Sport
2003. Fiat Barchetta (Facelift)
2006. Shelby Series 2
2007. Tjaarda Mustang

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

7 thoughts on “Tom Tjaarda”

  1. One of the true greats has left us, but what a legacy…

    I’m in no doubt that the Deauville was heavily influenced by the XJ6, but more in the manner of Alejandro telling Tjaarda to “do me one of these”, and the designer applying his own ideas and vision.

    What’s extraordinary is how much Deauville influence there is in the XJ40, which appeared sixteen years later.

    1. The differences stand out more for me than the similarities. They are there though. Tjaarda’s interpretation of the genre worked out pleasingly and I don’t think the two would be mistaken for each other.

    2. Richard speaks of the lack of a ‘Tjaarda signature.’ I would suggest that there was one which can be seen in the tail treatments of the Pininfarina designs – arguably from the 1963 Lancia Flaminia Speciale through the 1966 Fiat 124 Spider, a car he seems to have been especially pleased to have been associated with – (and it appears given a great deal of latitude in design terms). Of course it could be argued that this was more of a Pininfarina signature at the time, but that would be something of a chicken & egg argument.

      Regarding the Deauville: as I pointed out in my XJ40 opus, it really does appear that Tjaarda possessed a far better grasp of that most nebulous of theorems – Jaguar style – than any fellow Italian carrozzerie. Geoffrey Robinson’s decision to commission proposals from Pininfarina, Bertone and ItalDesign can be debated as to their economic as well as creative merits, but it really does appear from the frankly rather poor proposals offered that he approached the wrong design houses. Nevertheless, despite Jaguar’s own styling team spending most of the 1970’s looking over their shoulders towards Italy before they realised the answer lay closer to home, XJ40 – especially with rectangular headlamps – was really rather Italianate in detail.

      Tom Tjaarda’s back catalogue isn’t without its less happy designs – ( who’s is?) but I admire a good deal of them. He had been writing a monthly column for Thoroughbred & Classic Cars magazine prior to his passing which had always been interesting to dip into. A sad loss to the automotive universe. RIP.

  2. The side profile of the Lancia Flaminia Marica shows hints of the Lancia Gamma Coupe, and I can see even a bit of AML Lagonda. I might have to look for some more photos of the Lancia.

    1. I’d want to see as many cars from 1967/1968 as possible so as to put the Marica in context. And a study would have to be quite fastidious as to the level of similarity/difference.
      The car is new to me – when I saw it I thought Ferrari 400-series and Fiat 130.

    2. The Marica doesn’t really scream Ghia does it? However it’s a handsome piece of work. An interesting contrast could be made with it and the ’63 2800 Speciale Tjaarda was responsible for at Pininfarina. Both cars on the same Flaminia platform. There was certainly no shortage of plausible ideas for a top-end Lancia coupe around that time. Academic of course, since Lancia had more or less expired by then anyway…

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