Full Throttle – Tom Patsis’ Creativity Is Firing on All Cylinders

Tom Patsis of Brownsburg loves the motorsports industry, and he loves art.

While you might not hear of a lot of motorsport artists, Patsis is doing something unique, and both industries have taken notice.

Don Schumacher
NHRA Drag Racing Legend Don Schumacher

He worked for Don Schumacher Racing for 11 years in welding and fabrication, learning how to think quickly on his feet and use his creativity to fix things on the road.

Those welding skills led him to create car replicas and other artwork in his spare time, often using scrap auto parts in his pieces. He never advertised, but posted his work on social media. Word got around organically and things seemed to take off.

Cold Hard Art was born, and Patsis hasn’t looked back.

Tom Patsis

“In the beginning it was a side business,” he said. “I was working from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Schumacher and then working on my side business from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. I loved Schumacher’s, the place and the people, and I was absolutely petrified to walk away, but in October of 2015 I started working full time for myself and it was a smart move.”

At least, he knows now it was a smart move, and he’s never lost those connections to the motorsports world.

Anyone can become a welder, according to Patsis. However, it does require skill and expertise. Welding skill on a construction site, for example, matters. It’s the beams holding a large building together. It’s the cage made inside a race car.

Patsis is a tungsten inert gas welder, and that’s where the art comes in. It requires some fine tuning.

“Think of it like a fine-tipped Sharpie and welding very thin metal – no thicker than a credit card,” Patsis said. “I love using race car parts to put together a piece and many people like the junk-art look, but I also work with clean metal.”

Patsis creates trophies and award pieces for IndyCar, NASCAR, NHRA, Monster Jam and other events – something he calls an “accidental blessing.”

Tom Patsis“I had honestly never thought about doing trophies, but through word of mouth I’ve been asked to create trophy designs and it’s snowballed from there,” Patsis said.

The Mission Foods-sponsored NHRA Challenge winners received a Cold Hard Art trophy, as did the 2024 Monster Jam winners. The 2023 USAC Championship trophies were Patsis’ work too.

When it comes to creating and building hundreds of trophies, things can get a little daunting at times. There are boundaries there, such as specific colors, brands and marketing requests. However, Patsis said that’s just a different type of challenge.

Stretching his artistic skills, he’s worked with more than just steel. Acrylics allow for some unique artistic features, and he’s even created glow-in-the-dark trophies.

cold hard art

The goal is to always do better than the project he did before.

“I like restriction because I enjoy pushing the limits,” Patsis said. “I want you to have the best trophy possible. I want to deliver exactly what the client is looking for. It’s also fun that these drivers want to win the trophy I made. It’s fun to see the joy on their face as they hold that trophy over their head.”

Those in the industry know who to call when looking for something unique.

Patsis has had the opportunity to create custom pieces for the likes of Mario Andretti, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Don Schumacher.

Mario Andretti
Italian-American motorsports racing driver Mario Andretti

Custom pieces typically take 30 to 40 hours to build, but the opportunity is well worth the time and effort.

“Jeff Andretti follows my art and he saw an IndyCar I had made,” Patsis said. “In 1991 Jeff, Michael and Mario were in the Daytona 24 Hours race, and they don’t make a die cast of the car so I was able to make that for him. It’s the coolest thing I could be asked to do.”

Over the years Patsis made a 7-foot-tall “No. 88″ for Earnhardt Jr.’s retirement celebration, and was commissioned by NBC and the NHRA to design and build the Lifetime Achievement award for Schumacher in 2022.

He’s made friends with some of his heroes but still has a bucket list to complete.

“I guess as far as people, I want to get a piece of art in Tim Allen’s hands and Jay Leno’s hands,” he said. “I have connections that could get me there, but it’s not about money and it’s not about me giving them something. It’s about them seeing my work and ordering something specifically that will mean something to them.”

It’s a dream job for a guy who loves to weld, create and build things we might never have thought possible.

A few years ago Patsis was even asked to compete in a welding competition.

He was a contestant on Netflix’s “Metal Shop Masters,” a prime example of how working in motorsports helps a guy, when challenged, to think quickly, follow protocol and create on the fly.

cold hard art

They recognized what set him apart.

“Before they select the contestants, you do a psych evaluation because they don’t want seven of the same type of people,” Patsis said. “The woman asked me if I was really an artist because I was the only one there with a 50/50 mindset. I guess that’s not the statistic – you primarily use one side or the other, but as a race car guy, you have to build by the rules and then you can be creative.”

If you haven’t seen the series, it’s still available on Netflix and there might be some Brownsburg pride involved.

While Patsis called the experience a “highlight” and can’t wait to share some of the stories with his daughter, he said he’s also had enough of the reality-show business.

Though Patsis doesn’t plan on quitting anytime soon, he has other goals outside of metal art and welding. He also wants to teach his daughter the ropes.

“I want to be around long enough that my daughter can start helping me,” he said. “She’s only 5 now but I want her to see that you can do what you want to do, and there’s a job for that somewhere. I realize it now – to enjoy the moment. I need to stop and enjoy it right now.”

For more information, visit COLD HARD ART on Facebook.

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