De Tomaso Pantera Designer Tom Tjaarda Dies at 84

His tenure left us with some of the most beautiful cars of the 20th century.

Seasoned veteran of automotive design Tom Tjaarda has passed away at the age of 84. Tjaarda was regarded as one of the most experienced American car designers, having worked on the styling of as many as 84 cars throughout his lifetime. Legendary vehicles such as the De Tomaso Pantera, Ferrari 365 California Spyder, and the original Fiat 124 Spider were all penned by Tjaarda, making him a man who left a lasting impression on the industry.

Tom was of Dutch descent, his father an immigrant who started Tjaarda’s passion for the practice. After watching his father work with the team at Ford and design the striking Lincoln Zephyr, Tom decided to continue take up the art for himself. He attended the University of Michigan and studied architecture, though he didn’t take on the path of his major. According to Autoweek, he once submitted a car design for his semester final, which angered his professor but lead to an internship with Ghia in Europe—and the rest of Tjaarda’s career came as a result.

Tom soon relocated to Pininfarina, where he worked on famous Italian designs like the Ferrari 330 GT 2+2 and Lancia Flaminia. Other future works included a spin on the Mercedes Benz 230 SL Pagoda and the 1969 Ford Torino Talladega.

He was well-praised for his execution of design with many community heads speaking highly of his abilities.

“Tom Tjaarda was the last gentleman designer,” said Tom Matano, the executive director of the School of Design at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. “His design has a quiet elegance and impeccable balance.”