Thom Taylor is one of the most (if not “the most”) influential men in the world of rod and custom design today. When one sees a design with his now famous and to the point “Thom” signature, we’re almost certainly assured that it’s a special design that’s right for the times and beyond. His ability to stretch the design envelope, while appealing to the sensibilities of almost everyone, is a trait he consistently portrays with cutting edge designs and visual leadership. This ability to lead us into the future, while maintaining a firm footing in reality along with a strong underlying sense of tradition, is the hallmark of a Taylor design and why he’s so eagerly followed today… and has been for almost thirty years.
Thom developed his awareness of the rod and custom scene as he grew up in Southern California in the late ’50’s and early 60’s. He speaks of an affinity for drawing at an early age and then becoming increasingly aware of cars through the pages of rod and custom magazines. Naturally, his efforts turned to drawing the cars he saw featured in these magazines as well as copying the illustrations and cartoons that graced their pages. Thom pays a deep and special tribute to Tom Medley, whose cartoon art he credits with making a tremendous contribution to his early drawing skills. By the time he was a teenager; Thom now relates, “I pretty much knew I wanted to design things, especially automotive things.” Even before he was out of High School, Hot Rod Thom was tooling around town in a wire wheeled ‘34 sedan that he bought and “fixed up” himself.
Finishing High School, Thom took the next logical step towards “designing automotive things”, he enrolled at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA where he went on to graduate with honors. By the way, Thom has since served as an instructor at the college and of course highly recommends the learning process. After Art Center, his career took him to the Midwest and International Harvester for a short period of time. However, his heart was always under the palm trees and it wasn’t long before he was back in Southern California and right in the midst of America’s Hot Rod Culture. For all of us it was none-to-soon, for you see, Thom had developed some ideas far beyond “just automotive things”… he was about to set the hot rod world ablaze, and what better place to “show us” the light than from the Hot Rod capital of the world… So-Cal.
The rest is hot rod history – From Thom’s early masterpiece, the Vern Luce Coupe and through associations with top builders like Brizio, Buttera, Coddington, Lobeck and Lombardo… Thom has gone on to establish a reputation that is truly legendary in the Rod & Custom industry. He’s created on paper and through consultation such memorable rods as Musselman’s Oakland winning roadster, Larry Murray’s ‘33 Phaeton, Bob Reed’s Ridler winning ‘34 coupe as well as custom sensations like Frankenstude and the radical ‘57 Chevy style “Chezoom”. The cars, accolades and awards are truly – too numerous to fully mention, but just to make a point… his designs have earned the coveted “America’s Most Beautiful Roadster” award on four occasions.
Thom is truly a phenomenal trendsetter. Whether he’s showing us the way with stylish graphics, envisioning body styles of vintage cars that never were (Phantoms) or even suggesting fenderless hot rods from 50’s style envelope bodies – he has always pointed in the right direction for rod and custom builders and entrepreneurs to dream beyond the conventional. Currently, you’ll find that Thom’s the author of several books about drawing and design under the Motorbook’s banner as well as historical books about rodding and of course, his continued contributions to the major automotive titles including Hot Rod and Rod & Custom magazine.
Across the board and for auto enthusiasts of all ages, including those just now looking for direction… Thom is a beacon and guiding light. As Hot Rod magazine so rightfully stated, “Taylor is more than just a superb illustrator and stylist – his distinctive designs changed the face of hot rodding,” Needless to say, Thom is a member of the Hot Rod Hall of Fame as well as the Grand National Roadster Show Hall of Fame.
Some of Thom’s work, available for purchase in the Motorburg Shopping Mall: