Designer for Hire

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Thom Sherwood’s favorite space is at the wheel of one of America’s first muscle cars, a 1960s Pontiac GTO he inherited (sort of) from Vin Diesel.

car solo shot


“I first became cognisant of cars at about six years old, but it wasn’t until high school that I started paying attention to a broader range of cars, including the Pontiacs. My first car, when I moved to Tucson at the age of 19, was a 1971 GTO convertible. Today I own four Pontiac GTO’s.

Courtesy of Revolution Studios

Thom’s car had a starring role in xXx. Photo courtesy of Revolution Studios

“I bought this car, a 1967 Pontiac GTO, from a collector in Malibu. It’s one of five cars built for the movie xXx. It was supposed to look as if there were lots of unsophisticated additions to the dashboard, to give it a rocket launcher, a parachute, a flame thrower and so on for Vin Diesel’s spy character.

“When you analyze the storyline, it’s as good as any James Bond film could have been. The plotline, everything falls into place, there are no gaps. And the car is a character in the movie.

“Driving a muscle car is a very visceral experience, it’s a very tactile experience. To feel the torque of acceleration is an adrenalin rush. But I think the real enjoyment is if you’re driving in town in this muscle car, the thrill is when you pull up to a stop light and you look around and people are staring at the car because they see something unique. You get a lot of thumbs ups. I’ve had people almost drive off the road.

“More than anything else it’s a beautiful car and it represents a completely different mindset of design. The styling, the power, are pretty much unrestricted. Today there are so many regulations in terms of side impact, bumper height. There are so many things that dictate car styling today. Back in the 1960s there really was no federal legislation that said you can’t design something a certain way. The only limitation was financial.

Thom regularly gets a thumbs-up from passers-by. Photo by Gillian Drummond

Thom regularly gets a thumbs-up from passers-by. Photo by Gillian Drummond

“But the special connection I have to this car is really in sharing its story, the magic of a movie car, the back story, the uniqueness. Two years ago I had the car at a classic car cruise night that’s held regularly at Little Anthony’s Diner in Tucson. I see a young boy of maybe ten or twelve years old, he’s walking towards the car and as he’s walking he’s mouthing something, like he’s trying to make sure what he’s seeing is what he’s really seeing. This kid must have watched xXx twenty times. I invited him to sit in the car and he thought it was Christmas. He refused to get out until his mother went home, got her camera, and came back and took a photo of him in it.”

*Thom is organizing  Jim Ewen: Highway of Tomorrow, a discussion and gallery about the modern transportation concepts of Jim Ewen, retired General Motors designer and Tucson resident. The event, part of Tucson Modernism Week, takes place at Intermountain Academy School, 555 South Tucson Boulevard, October 5th from 4pm to 5pm.

* Also on October 5th, classic car enthusiasts can attend a free car show  and luncheon as part of Tucson Modernism Week, 11.30 am to 1.30 pm at Chaffin’s Restaurant, 902 E. Broadway Blvd. All attendees will receive a complimentary pass for Sunday’s Home Tour.

*You can read more about Thom’s car in his car movie blog. He is working on turning the story of the xXx car into a book.


The pimped-up dashboard of the Pontiac including, at right, a parachute. Photo by Gillian Drummond

Photo by Gillian Drummond
Photo by Gillian Drummond



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