“Tom Meade, The Legend Lives On:
Although Tom Meade is no longer physically on this plane, his spirit lives on in the Ferraris he saved and built. He also lives on in the memories of myself and others he trusted to open up to. Several years of working with the visionary, Tom Meade, made for a lifetime of learning. Tom had learned from Fantuzzi himself and now it was his turn to pass the torch to me. Shortly after we met, Tom hired me and the adventure began.
I met Tom in Westwood one fateful evening at the weekly Ferrari meeting, which he led. Shortly thereafter, I took him for a ride in the Pangea™, the 700hp supercar I hand built. Tom then hired me to re-engineer and build a shapely carbon tub and much more, on his comeback car the Thomassima IV. Tom told stories about the good old days, like the time he spoke with Enzo Ferrari in Italian for over 40 minutes at the Ferrari track about Tom’s car, the Thomassima II, a P3 inspired custom Ferrari. Something no American had ever done. Enzo gave Tom his phone number and said to call him personally for anything he needed. This exchange was recorded in a published photograph and Tom had made a friend in Enzo Ferrari.
Tom spoke of some of his adventures in the sixties and seventies for those whom he trusted. He said he would often walk the gauntlet of sneering Ferrari builders as he ventured to the back of the Ferrari factory to the scrap yard. He was scoffed at for buying things like parts, GTOs and P3-based cars, like the 0846 P3/4. That was an amazing honor for anyone, let alone an American, to simply walk into the Ferrari factory at will. But this happened to be a friend of Enzo with an open pass. When Tom heard about the crash and burn of the 0846 racecar, he called Enzo Ferrari and purchased it from him. Tom told me that he picked up the chassis and parts of the 0846 from the factory personally. He said the VIN had burned off in its last race, but Tom knew the significance of the car regardless. He was well known for his extensive Ferrari knowledge and Tom understood the 0846 had value, and planned a custom build. Tom said he stored the 0846 and a P2/3 behind his shop in Italy and they were overlooked over time because they were pretty rough.
Tom gained ultimate celebrity status after “60 Minutes” broadcast a segment about him. His Thomassima III was also featured on the cover of “Road & Track” magazine, at the beginning of the 1970’s. This brought Tom to the attention of a greedy mob boss, who forced Tom out of his shop for one and a half years after attempting hits on Tom and his mother. Tom was forced to leave many things behind in a rush, including 0846 and the P2/3 parked next to it out back. Tom returned to his shop only after the mobster was killed by decapitation after rear-ending a flatbed truck, in a car crash. Fortunately, when Tom returned the two rough chassis and their parts were still there. Tom was in need of cash, having lost his business for so long, so he ended up selling both 0846 and the P2/3. Tom sold them to a chassis builder who had just been commissioned to fabricate three P4 chassis for David Piper to do some knock offs with, as Tom put it. Tom did not mince words, he told me that he did not like Piper because he copied the work of others. Something Tom and I felt very strongly about was to always be original and never, ever, make a copy or false car.
Tom wanted to be sure the truth was told about a chassis he really cared about and was always a little sorry he sold his P2 and P3-based cars including the 0846. He told me he knew his health was not only in decline, but Tom felt he might not last much longer after a hard fall he had at Tito’s Tacos, where we loved to grab lunch. He was pretty banged up and this was his second hard fall in a week. When we got back to work, he told me he felt the next fall could be his last and he knew he was dying. He told me this 0846 saga, worried that it might be lost if he passed without explaining what happened, for the sake of its current owner to know the truth one day. After he opened up to me he felt compelled to share this story with some of his other trusted friends, as well. Tom cared about the legacy that would live on after him. He also knew that there were people eager to profit from publishing his supercar plans and stories like the one about the P3/4. This made him wary and very secretive. He even kept a set of P3/4 rims in his kitchen and used a P3 magnesium rear hub as a paper weight.
I always looked forward to work, because work was so enjoyable with Tom and his innovation. As Tom’s lead builder, designer, engineer and project manager, I did just about everything to help the Thomassima IV come to life. Tom guided the design with his innovative input every step of the way as we collaborated on all aspects of building the car. From budgets, to schedules, to sculpting, mold making, all carbon fiber and composite work including the tub, to casting the leaded crystal parts, Tom relied on me to deliver. I had earned his respect as an equal. He often pointed out the similarities in our design aesthetic and he gave me creative freedom to push the envelope.
The current Ferrari-powered supercar I am building, is in honor of Tom’s memory, and the time we spent building his dream car. This supercar will bring one back to the exotic level of styling and craftsmanship of the most desired early Ferraris. It is inspired by years with the master, Tom Meade, who was a legend and a close personal friend. I intend to keep his legacy alive, for the sake of the race world, in the spirit of my work.”
-By Joshua Lange (© March 2014, Copyright Joshua Lange, All rights reserved)