One race team’s junk is another man’s art. We had the opportunity to chat with master fabricator Thomas Patsis, the artist behind Cold Hard Art. When he’s not fabricating Don Schumacher Racing dragsters, he’s creating one-of-a-kind art in his fab shop in Brownsburg, Indiana. Trust us when we say, it’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen… 

  • Mechanix: So Thomas, how did you get started welding? 
  • Thomas: When I was a kid I built racecars with Legos and built every single plastic model I could find, and like all kids I wanted to be a professional racecar driver. Living in Maine, that’s a pretty crazy idea. I wanted to be in racing so bad I went to UNOH of Northwestern Ohio for high-performance auto and I took a six-week class while attending the University of North Western Ohio (UNOH). The creativity really started when I was working on the US. Army Pro Stock motorcycle team. I would practice TIG welding after hours making some junk art and figured if I made something to keep and take home that I would practice more and improve my skills. So, my art became a byproduct of learning to weld professionally in racing. I worked on the Pro Stock bike team for a few years and when they sold the team I got offered a job at the DSR fab shop, and then boom! My interest in building stuff sparked up again.
  • Mechanix: How long have you been involved in racing?
  • Thomas: On Nov 29, 2014 I will have worked at DSR for ten years. I lived in Maine since I was a kid (10 years old) and I have always been into motorsports. I have no relatives that race or have any connection to racing; I can’t tell you anything about any other sport out there, but I can tell you Jimmy Spenser driving the #27 McDonalds Ford Thunderbird came in dead last in his first ever Brickyard 400 on Aug, 6 1994....yeah stuff like that runs through my brain all the time. I love all things RACING.
  • Mechanix: Does racing have a major impact on your artwork? 
  • Thomas: YES, absolutely. I love racecars. Lemans prototypes, Top Fuel dragsters, Trophy Tucks, Formula One etc…if its a race car I want to build one. I love the idea of racing and I love getting to capture that feeling of building a purpose built race vehicle by hand. There is nothing cooler than a racecar on this planet. Okay, can’t forget about planes and the space shuttle.

  • Mechanix: What made you start Cold Hard Art?
  • Thomas: In 2008 COLD HARD ART was born. My friend Brodie Brandt from Texas played a key part in the start of CHA. I started building a Funny car for him and he gave me my Miller Syncrowave 250 TIG welder so I could make some “cold hard cash” on the side. Brodie inspired the name Cold Hard Art but passed away in 2010 before I could build him a bike he always wanted. Shortly after he passed I was told about an online contest called, “The Miller Welding Showdown” at their HQ in Appleton, WI. I entered photos of the Funny car I built for Brodie and as a result of being a finalist I made a great relationship with Miller. I still build every single piece of art with Brodie’s welder. I even built a motorcycle named the 'Brodie Bobber', which I ride the hell out of to this day.
  • Mechanix: How do you typically prepare for a Cold Hard Art project?
  • Thomas: Well, I print a million angles of the vehicle I’m building. Not to get all artsy about it, but I really need to see every angle to scale it correctly. I tell people first off, ‘If I can see a part of the car it doesn’t exist’. Wait a minute now, I do have some secrets because it took me a while to learn on my own. Even though my art is fun, I do take it very seriously; like how a Top Fuel crew chief treats his clutch set up on the car. We may all have the same parts but it’s how you get them to work and I’m not about reveal everything for free…wink.
  • Mechanix: Haha of course. So, what do you love the most about your job in racing and what do you love most about being a metal artist?  
  • Thomas: Well, right now I tell people it’s like having two hot girl friends that are cool with each other. Why give one up? Who needs to sleep? I will sleep when they have me committed to the crazy ward and padded rooms. For me its not a dream come true. It’s what I wanted since I was ten so its just a path of a lot of work from a small town in Ellsworth, ME. My art teacher told me if I wanted to be taken seriously in the art world I need to start widening my horizons and do more then just race car stuff, but getting to build race cars during the day and creating art at night is all I've ever wanted to do. 

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