Model Car Designer of the Year – Tom Daniel

Chances are, you had or at least seen a model designed by Tom Daniel. Beginning in High school, during the early stages of hot rodding after WW2, Tom began filling his waking hours designing cars with a pen and paper. A sympathetic teacher brought Tom’s class on a field trip to Art Center College, after noticing Tom’s talent for automotive design. Art Center was a design school with a direct pipeline to the major automotive manufacturers, and one trip was enough to convince Tom that car design was his calling.

Despite not having a college degree (or even a diploma yet) Tom submitted a portfolio and was accepted. During School, Tom met with the art director for Rod & Custom, a long running custom car publication, and began contributing work to the sketchpad section of the magazine. Models were becoming so popular, and Tom’s artwork so loved, that for a time R&C published an entirely separate model issue, in which Tom contributed heavily.

After graduating, Tom was hired by GM for a time, but Detroit winters proved less-than appealing, and Tom left to return to California, continuing to work for R&C and others, before landing the gig now synonymous with his name: designing models for Monogram.

Tom’s outlandish creations became some of the most recognized model kits of all time, helping to inspire others such as Hot Wheels and even a few running, full-size versions.  Tom helped design more than 70 Monogram models, with iconic names like Tarantula, Red Baron, and the Tijuana Taxi. Many have been re-released and re-released again.

Tom’s impact on model cars is hard to overstate. With such influential work, we’re glad to Have Tom inducted as Model Car Designer of the Year.