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During the 7th auto® automotive design conference I was fortunate enough to share some time with Patrick Le Quément and Tom Tjaarda, who were both there to present and share their lifetimes of involvement in the car industry.
Tom Tjaarda is relaxed, telling stories from his incredible career, generous in recounting his experiences with clear insights and an obvious passion. We are sitting together in the sun at a cafe in Zagreb enjoying a cappuccino, and in a way I had the directors cut of his presentation.
Fascinating is the account of his time at Ghia and the extraordinary situation he found himself in when a chain of events left him as the only designer there. Ford started to explore the concept of a small car for the first time in the early 70’s as the fuel crisis loomed. The brief for a design that was to become the Fiesta, was sent out to all the Ford Studios, except Ghia. Then someone remembered that they had a designer there so Thomas recieved the document and started to do some sketches. A few weeks passed as he waited for someone to review the sketches, and while he waited with nothing else to do he started a full size side view tape drawing.
Still no one came to see him so he decided that they might as well fill in time and complete a full size model. This too brought no one, so a running prototype with a Fiat engine was completed and on hearing there was to be a review of 25 concepts from all the Ford Studios at the Dunton studio in the UK, he thought he should maybe send what he had been upto over. The car went down well, and despite resistance and attempted deviation at every stage his original design was eventually realised.
Alone and able to pursue his ‘own’ programme is clearly a situation that is inconceivable today. This is all told with fresh enthusiasm and followed up with a small aside from his time at Ghia that I can’t pass on, but it is sufficient to say that his wife is clearly a very astute woman.
PATRICK LE QUEMENT
I often used to see Monsieur Le Quément, he would be walking through motor shows with a mass of people surrounding him; fellow Renault colleagues for sure, reporters definitely and every now and then he would make time for the unexpected handshake, exchange of business cards and polite conversation with designers, consultants and suppliers.
I have met him before, at the handshake level; that he remembered where was impressive. To be able to spend time with him over a couple of days was fascinating, a charming man who had an enormous amount of responsibility re-energising Renault’s creativity and more importantly car sales. Leaving that behind, he now has as much enjoyment, perhaps more, sketching, designing and overseeing production of yachts.
His presentation was a visual CV of creativity and quality, so many vehicles that he had the ultimate decision over influencing many of today’s car segments. Recounting how his usual response to someone asking how they had pronounced his name was ‘Badly’, he revealed the most obscure version as Patrick ‘Lucky Man’. As he summed up his experiences so far, it is clear that he truly believes he has been a Lucky Man, an appropriate title for the film he previewed that will be shown when he receives the EyesOn Design 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award.
It made me think of this quote by Gary Player – ‘The more I practise the luckier I get.’
It was a pleasure spending time with Tom Ttjaarda and Patrick Le Quément, and thank them for their company. I admit I am slightly envious, of what both have achieved, yes; but more of how at ease they are as they continue to practise what they enjoy most, designing at their respective drawing boards in Torino and Garches.