Publish date: 2016-03-04 10:52:22
Who would ever imagine that for one who got hypnotized upon the sight of a Ferrari 500 TRC, he will live dreaming and will end up being one of the masterminds for what is now known as this Thomassima III? This car, as much it may look like a Ferrari is not one. This Tom Meade is the one to blame for bringing this into the scene, tricking your eyes for a Ferrari you always knew.
This fascination-turned-reality started from that very first day when Meade discovered what the car is that got away his interest, the Ferrari 500 TRC. The owner also told him that the car’s home is in Italy. Since that day, he journeyed towards that home, which he vowed to himself that he’d do. It was never easy though. With only $50 in his pockets, Meade made his way crossing US to reach New Orleans, from where he became a mess boy on a Norwegian freighter. After 35 days, he went to Stavanger, then to England. From there, he was able to buy a motorbike which let him travel across Europe with a pal.
Both of them spent their nights in the roof of a Majorcan hotel for half a year before Meade could actually land in Italy. For a few months, he stayed in Rome and was lucky to meet the film producer Dino De Laurentiis. Meade was then given a chance to work for the 1961 film, “The Best of Enemies.” After the film, he reached Modena.
As he reached the Maserati factory, Meade met race director Guerino Bertocchi and asked him for a guided tour. He then found an old racing Maserati in very miserable state and convinced Bertocchi to give it to him on a bargain for $400. It actually was a 350S, used by former Silver Arrows F1 driver (and future Le Mans winner) Hans Herrmann in the 1957 Mille Miglia, which was then equipped with a V12 engine, and used at a number of other remarkable events. Now bought at a very costly price, but it didn’t have much value in the ’60s. A farmer then allowed Meade to contain the car in an outhouse. While reinventing the car, Tom again had the chance to be introduced to Bertocchi’s friend, the coachbuilder Luciano Bonacini. He also had time when he had to sleep on the workshop’s floor before he could be even moved to a haybarn beside the car.
Since Tom’s reinvention project was wretched, Bertocchi introduced him to Modenese fabricator Medardo Fantuzzi. Fantuzzi is the artist behind the mythical Maserati A6 GCS, Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa, and the lucky car of Meade. Meade eventually became Fantuzzi’s apprentice. “It was an adventure. Nobody cared about making money, beyond food and rent. It was cars, cars, cars, and to hell with everything else,” Meade while reminiscing it.
He began buy-and-sell of Italian exotica for rich American contacts. He was believed then to have acquired two 250 GTOs way back when it’s only another aged sports car, together with a number of other modern Ferraris. He also lent a hand in designing and manufacturing the exquisite 250 Nembo Spyder at Neri and Bonacini.
Tom Meade was finally able to meet Enzo Ferrari at the Modena Autodrome, and was given the royal seal of approval.
During late 1960s, he had owned sufficient engines, chassis hardware, and cash to start establishing up the plans in his mind. The outputs were the Thomassima I, II, III, and IV. The name actually meant “the maximum from Thomas.” Thomassima I, the poorest documented, was comprised of Ferrari 250 GT chassis, but was then misplaced together with numerous other art and literary pieces when Florence was flooded by River Arno way back November 1966. The second was solely based from Ferrari’s 1967 Daytona 24 Hours-winning 330 P3/4, equipped with US muscle-car tropes to enhance the weak strength of the original. Meade along with his team of Maserati and Ferrari engineers utilized a marine plywood buck to sharpen the car’s shape. Under was a tubular spaceframe chassis, and a 3.0-litre Ferrari V12 lend by a 250 GT was placed at the back.
The one featured here is the Thomassima III, a gullwinged full-size Hot Wheels mostro, engine of a Ferrari V12, with an exhaust system like that of a spaghetti. It was exhibited at the 1969 Turin motor show that resulted to a hit in which it made the cover of Road & Track and influenced America’s current affairs ratings juggernaut 60 Minutes to set a team to Modena for filming a segment about the mastermind behind it.
“There were times when he had a ton of money and times when he was broke. But whatever was happening, there were various cars, engines and components he would never part with,” his son would say now. Meade’s desire to travel brought him to Thailand and Bali during most of his next two decades, living on mostly two dollars per day. In 1993, he decided to come back to California in search of his sick mother. He was up to manufacturing a new carbon-fiber-bodied creation equipped with the V12 from Ferrari’s Nineties 333 SP endurance racer when his last day in the world came in 2013, at the age of 74.
He may have only left us with limited pieces of his creations; he still left the world with an impressive legacy with this Thomassima III. Along with this classic car is a story of inspiration from a man who began to dream and moved his life towards fulfilling a vow to one self.
May this dreamer, rest in peace.