Tom Tjaarda explains executing styling nuances that still resonate 50 years on
Creating a design that will still look elegant 50 years later takes more than just a few sketches, as Tom learned when he worked for Battista Pininfarina
Back in the Sixties we weren’t given design briefs. When working for Pininfarina, I knew exactly what was expected – timeless elegance, whether the project involved an affordable sedan or an expensive Ferrari.
How do designers achieve this objective? Initially a sketch proposal could be just a rendering of an idea, an image. In such cases the design director required a good eye for potential and our director, Franco Martinengo, had just that.
Once a proposal was selected, the real work started. Then we had to develop that design theme into a durable styling solution. Just before the summer vacation in 1963 Martinengo explained an important project we would be working on upon our return: a special coupé design on the Flaminia chassis that was to be shown at the Paris Auto Salon in October.
I was excited and produced numerous sketches during the August break, so when I returned to Turin I had a number of proposals ready. Martinengo selected one as the base for this ‘Lancia Flaminia Speciale’ and we set about creating a show car for Paris which, hopefully, would entice Lancia’s directors enough for them to approve a special production programme at Pininfarina.
I started by drawing full-size plans on the Flaminia chassis, leaving the distinctive Lancia front of the production Flaminia untouched. The rear was the focal point of this new design and changed the whole image of this car – the profile was different, with the roof blending in. It all came together easily and we had no problems building the wood buck to be used as a guide for the metal prototype.
But just to make sure, aluminum panels were made of the rear of the car, tacked onto the wood buck and polished, then taken outside in the sun for us to study the reflections and proportions. This was to make sure we had no cumbersome defects that would eventually show up. At Pininfarina this was a normal procedure – it was a lot of work but the company had built a reputation for quality design and this attention to detail was one of the reasons why. Hours and days went by before the final approval was given by Battista Pininfarina and the prototype was rapidly completed and sent off to Paris.
Unfortunately it never made it as a niche car production project but Battista Pininfarina had a special attachment to the car and had the prototype homologated so that he could use it as personal transport. I remember seeing him driving up to his factory and stepping out of the Lancia Flaminia Speciale dressed in his elegant camel’s hair overcoat. He was the picture of success and one could see how he had accomplished such a distinguished reputation.
Last summer Pininfarina organised a reunion of its famous cars. The event was held at the same Italian Riviera resort town of Alassio that more than 50 years before had awarded the Lancia Flaminia Speciale the first place accolade in a similar show. That summer, after half a century, the Lancia Flaminia Speciale prototype by Pininfarina was again voted the most elegant car of the show.
Tom’s remarkable career designing cars has included spells with Ghia, Pininfarina, Italdesign, Ford and Fiat, adding up to a 79-car CV.