Interview: The Man Behind The Mustang

Interview: The Man Behind The Mustang

Last week I finally got the answer to an age old question. Why do designs so often go wrong at the back end? I joke that the senior designers get to the rear and then hand over to an intern so they can head to the pub on a Friday afternoon. Not true, according to Scotsman Moray Callum, the vice-president of global design for Ford who was in SA for the Go Further event.

Callum, who is the brother of Jaguar head of design Ian Callum, advised that it is simply about the facets of the rear, particularly the licence plate. He said there are fewer tools to play with at the rear end, compared to the front which is always the main focus and which can be made to look as sexy or as serious as you like, even with mounting levels of legislation.

Design, of course, is a subjective matter and as Callum pointed out, sometimes it can be overruled by an objective decision, especially when it comes to marketing or engineering. All sorts of things come into play these days. Designing for a global market means meeting the legislation of different countries. You also have to design around engineering aspects, such as pedestrian impact protection.

Callum is very experienced in all aspects of the industry. He started his career with a degree in transportation design from the Royal College of Art, London, before moving to Chrysler UK and then Peugeot-Citroen. He then went to the now defunct Ghia styling house before joining Ford in 1995. He was instrumental in the new era of Mazda design, being involved in the latest generation MX-5 as well as other models. He then returned to the Ford mothership in 2006 where he designed such vehicles as the new Fusion, the EcoSport crossover and all-new Mustang.

When asked about the pressure to redesign such an iconic vehicle, he said early research revealed that customers wanted it to remain American, despite the fact that it will be a global vehicle. Interestingly, he said that the ’Stang is the emotional jewel in the Ford crown, whereas the F-Series pick-up truck is the financial jewel.

He said he was more nervous about changing the F-Series, in part because if it was wrong it would cause major financial problems for the company, but also because F-Series customers are also quite fanatical about it. Ford is going through a design revolution at the moment and Callum has been very much involved.

The car collector, who owns a number of hot-rods as well as a 1967 Mustang, Jaguar E-Type and a Lincoln Continental amongst others, told me that Ford design “has been too conservative in the past”. The kinetic design which first appeared on the Iosis concept came from Ford of Europe. Since then many elements have been adopted across the range but Callum says that it is important to “keep evolving the design language. You have to keep ahead, you must not revolutionise design, but rather evolve it.” The Mustang, he says, is an example of getting that right.

It is impossible to ignore some of the connections with the work of his brother who was instrumental in some of the design changes at Aston Martin as well as Jaguar. The face of the Fiesta has often been compared to that of an Aston, but Callum said he only really saw it in the new Fusion with its higher and wider chrome grille. He is adamant that the siblings do not compare notes over a beer.

The big question I always like to ask designers is what car they would most like to have a go at, whether a current model or one from the chapters of automotive history. For Callum it would be the original Citroen DS. “It was a beautiful design, but the rear fell apart,” he said. Perhaps the DS designer handed the rear to an intern and went to the pub.

Mark Smyth