They were big oversized tyres, particularly the ones at the rear. They looked meaty, even when the tyres are just depictions on a blueprint. I wondered whether they would even be street legal….not that it mattered.

Tom the designer looked like a cross between the country singer Willy Nelson and the James Bond actor Sean Connery in his prime.

“He looks like a hippy!” a friend had remarked that Saturday, however.

I did not think so. With his greying beard, he had looked like someone’s grandfather…. and a rather concerned one at that after my one handed driving antics made him rather uncomfortable earlier, as I brought him around town in my Suzuki Swift.

Tom was in town, that time when I was 19 – looking for potential investors for his car company. He was old school – a craftsman who built sports cars…by hand.

“Enzo” he had told me, referring to the Ferrari founder. He had gone to Italy to build cars. After a stint of time roughing it, and building cars …. as he saw fit, Tom’s creations got the attention of Albert Broccoli, from the eponymous family that created that green vegetable (yes, that one!)….as well as producer for the James Bond movies. Tom’s sensuous and sleek machines were featured in 007 movies in the 70’s. 

I had asked him what he had done in the time period between making cars in Modena and getting his automobiles featured in the Bond Movies. 

“Nothing!” Tom had answered with a glint in his eyes, “I was busy making babies!!!” He had laughed.

Tom’s creation on the blue print was a study in a conglomeration and blend of several vehicles into one. The front end looked like a Ferrari Spider. The front gave way to a low roofline, resting on curved frames which in turn rested on powerful haunches above the exaggerated and ballooning tyres. The engine was to be rear mounted. Ferrari red was the order of the day.

Tom spoke with passion, telling me that he had a lot of interested parties for his undertaking in Brunei. He spoke about opening a factory that would help train the locals in making hand made cars, and how it would open up Brunei’s economy. He wanted to make use of my experience with 3D to bring his design process up to speed.

It was easy to get caught in Tom’s infectious enthusiasm. He had the skills and credibility, but I could see that he was more Tom the salesman than Tom the designer. He was desperate for funding and had wanted to get Prince Jefri to be interested.

Alas, it was not meant to be.

After the weekend was over, Tom’s momentum seemed to falter. Brunei did not support his cause.

Maybe it was his presentation? Maybe it was his access? Maybe it was a combination of other factors?

Whatever it was, there were no factories. There were no Bruneians trained in making hand made cars. There were no he had called his brand.

But for a moment, there was a glimpse of an American muscle car in Italian clothing. There were possibilities. There was hope.

When I look back, everything that had happened seemed like something that reality show producers would cook up to get the ratings up. To be honest, l believe if Tom had treated his undertaking like a reality tv show such as the likes of Orange County Choppers, he would have been successful. Imagine having something like that in Brunei : an American patriach trying to make exotic sport cars in a sleepy town, with rookie local carcraftsmen learning the tools of the trade. I would probably be the design kid parked permanently in front of the computer making digital car designs based on the patriach’s real world experience. There would be conflicts, insurmountable odds, problems and such. But then at the end of an episode, things would resolve itself…. unless of course this was to be a cliffhanger episode, in which case you would have to wait for another week before knowing what was to happen next!!

Tom – thanks for the brief moment in time. It certainly is worth a lifetime of memories.

R.I.P Tom Mead 1939-2014.


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