by Wallace Wyss for Concourso Italiano
July 23, 1934 – June 1, 2017
We lost Tom Tjaarda last week. Tom, a member of the Concorso Italiano Hall of Fame, was revered by attendees, especially so by the owners of DeTomaso Panteras. He achieved the American car enthusiast’s dream of designing cars in Italy, and I always envied him. Tom chose the right era, the ‘60s, to go there and am thankful that we American enthusiasts had one of us in Italy, making the Italian designs practical enough to bring to these shores.
We know Tom best for his Pantera design, both the original and the L model. But, Tom also did a stint at Pininfarina where he designed two Ferraris that reached production—the 330GT and the 365 California Spyder, as well as the Fiat 124—a mass market sports car that even influences today’s Fiat 124
When you look back at Tom’s career, it’s interesting that he earned a degree in architecture at the University of Michigan, but instead chose to work as a car designer. He spent almost his whole career—spanning five decades—in Italy. Tom chose the most exciting time to be there, the ‘60s and the ‘70s. Every time I met Tom at Monterey (after first interviewing him in 1970 at the Pantera rollout) I coaxed a little more of the story out of him about this car or that. Fortunately,
Tom had begun writing for Britain’s OCTANE magazine, telling the “back story” of many a design, some of which only made it to the “prototipo” stage. I think his proudest moments were when some one-off design he had done was found, restored and made its re-debut at a concours, as if to say: “See– this one should have made it to production…..”
Concourse Italiano is THE Italian car show to attend on the west coast. It's held at The Bayonet and Blackhorse golf course which is located on what used to be Ft. Ord, a large military base from 1917 until it was decommissioned in 1994. It was founded in 1986 by a group of Maserati and Alfa Romeo enthusiasts which actually includes one of the founders of the Cortile. However, when I arrived I had not known that fact.
Concourso Italiano is held during the Monterey Car week in August each year.
The week of car events on the Monterey peninsula include the
In 1976 Maserati Club International was formed and it quickly grew to 3500 members, which was pretty extraordinary by itself. 1986 saw the first Concorso Italiano with the Maserati Club and and Alfa Romeo Club playing an instrumental role in ti's creation. That first year saw 45 Maseratis on the snowfield.
The 2015 Concorso Italiano featured the reunion of the Ferrari 250 GTE, the 25th anniversary of the Lamborghini Diablo, the 50th anniversary of the Iso Grifo, the “King of Spain” Maserati Quattroporte, the Touring Superleggera concept car, and Tom Meade’s Thomassima II.
As I traveled the showgrounds I discovered that Alfa Romeo had just unveiled their new logo: Only the sixth change since the their beginning in 1910. The Alfa Romeo booth was surrounded by cars from the Alfa Romeo Owner's Club who where one of the founding clubs of the event. Featured prominently was the newly introduced 4C which will certainly grace these show fields in 50 years time.
Certainly one of the true highlights of the show was seeing the 25th anniversary of the Lamborghini Diablo display area. I was intrigued by the story about a barn find of a Lamborghini Muira what was over a decade in the making. What was presented was a completely original un-restored Muira.
The Concorso Italiano is now run by Tom McDowell who also runs the Desert Concorso. It's a well managed and very organized show that brings together the very best Italian cars on the west coast. Similar to the Cortile, it features both daily drivers, I followed about 5 Alfa Romeo Duetto's down 101 to the Show, as well as some very rare show cars. I was surprised to run into at least 10 people from the Cortile Show at Concourso Italiano! My son and I are planning a road trip next summer and making this the Apex of our trip. If you have to opportunity to visit Concorso Italiano in the future be sure to let some people at the Cortile know.
Below please find some more great images from the show.... ~Bernard Martin
Editors note Feb 15, 2016: I was finally able to upload the videos to this posting. I hope you enjoy the interviews!
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