[VIDEO] GM Designer Tom Peters Talks About His Early Design Influences


[VIDEO] GM Designer Tom Peters Talks About His Early Design Influences

If you love the C7 Corvette and the just-released 2019 ZR1, then you can thank an artist from the 1950s and 1960s for inspiring the man behind those current designs.

Tom Peters, GM’s director of exterior design of performance vehicles, recently told the National Corvette Museum’s Zero2Sixty that one of his biggest artistic influences was Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, the talented artist behind those wild drawings of cars that appeared in Hot Rod Magazine in the ’60s.

“They would always have in there a foldout double page spread of T-shirt designs,” Peters said, recalling the “big giant slicks, fire and smoke coming out, big arm coming out that was shifting, big blown engine out of the hood, kind of like monster trucks are today. They’re these giant, bigger than life characters.”

Peters says he was “just enamored” by Roth’s work artistically, even though or perhaps because they were cartooned and distorted and not correct in their detail and line and proportion, “and I would try to emulate that.”

[VIDEO] GM Designer Tom Peters Talks About His Early Design Influences

In fact, Peters said he remembers doing a series of similar drawings in the seventh and eighth grade, where he would try to “figure out how they drew them, how they represented the wheels and tires, the body, the reflection, how could you show glass, you know, fire and smoke and all that.”

He even convinced the ladies in the front office at his school to run copies of his drawings for him, and he would sell them to classmates for a quarter apiece.

“And I was selling them!” he says now, somewhat amazed at his early entrepreneurial success. “I go, whoa, this is kind of cool,” he said. “Then people would say, hey, I’ll give you a couple of bucks. If I bring in a T-shirt, would you draw one of those on a T-shirt for me? So I said, yeah, yeah.”

He would sometimes take them home and stretch the T-shirts over a piece of cardboard and then draw one of the Big Daddy-type drawings of his customer’s favorite car, frequently a Corvette or a Camaro.

Looking back, he notes that what got him excited as a kid has continued to be a burning passion that has carried him through his whole life.

“So today,” he says, “I’m every bit as energetic and as excited about going into the studio as I was when I first was hired in. It’s almost like it’s not work – it’s serious fun!”

And that passion is great news for those of us eagerly awaiting the (perhaps) mid-engine design Corvette that could be just months away from becoming a reality. If you do love the C8, say a few words of thanks to “Big Daddy” for inspiring Tom Peters all those years ago!

[VIDEO] GM Designer Tom Peters Talks About His Early Design Influences

Tom Peters has spent decades designing some of General Motors’ best-known vehicles, and that includes the Chevrolet Corvette. Where does Peters get some of his artistic inspiration from? None other than Ed “Big Daddy” Roth.

Roth is well known for his muscle car and hot rod art, along with Rat Fink, the iconic hot rod character. Peters said the art inspired him when he was young and he’d actually try to emulate the look himself. He’d then sell his art for $0.25 a piece until some individuals requested t-shirts.

Peters says that same energy from his youth keeps him excited to walk into the design studio every day. There may not be any insane Roth-inspired art on the C7 Corvette, but the link to hot rods is undeniable after hearing Peters’ story. Click play above to grab more insight into the designer’s thought process.

National Corvette Museum / YouTube via GM Authority

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  1. Thankfully real “car guys” are still playing a big part in providing us with cool cars!!

  2. I guess I’m the odd man out here, but I’m not a big fan of Tom Peter’s designs. The front end of the new ZR1 doesn’t look nearly as nice the simpler & cleaner C7. The center section of the “3 hole” grill is positioned too high in relation to the lower dual air inlets on either side. It’s visually odd. The rear end of all C7s looks awful (and cheap) with that big slab of black plastic that dominates the license plate/exhaust area. It all could/should have been done so much better on a car that costs as much as this one does. Plus, nobody ever mentions that Tom Peters was responsible for the design of the homely Pontiac Aztec. He is the wrong guy to be in charge of designing Corvettes. (I bought a C7 anyway because it drives so well.)

  3. Yes, you probably are the “odd man out” since the looks are what gets your attention first – like a pretty girl. I can see people impulse buying for looks and then having buyers remorse too late because of various reasons, but can’t say I’ve heard anyone pay a lot of money for what did not look attractive to them when there are so many cool choices in the price range of $60-100,000. Maybe people bought ugly Aztecs because they were inexpensive, roomy, but drove well…surely not C7s. Regarding the new ZR1, potential overheating is the primary reason behind the front design because it is more track car than street car.

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