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Ian Callum Ė hot rodder by design.
Less is more from a design viewpoint
Ian Callum, Jaguar Director of Design, and the man who penned the Aston Martin DB7 and the latest Jaguar XK, talks exclusively to DRCReview about his just-completed, steel-bodied Deuce Coupe.
Q Why did you choose the Model B as a basis for your hot rod?
IC It started when I was about 12 years old, and I just fell in love with the shape. My brother came home with lots of American magazines, like Hot Rod and Car Craft. I quite liked the T buckets, but then I saw a Model B Hiboy and it looked so handsome. I loved that fenderless, slightly rebellious look with the vertical grille Ė the overall aesthetics struck a real chord with me.
Q Why does it seem so difficult for a major manufacturer, like Ford, to create cars these days that capture the publicís imagination in the same way as the Model B? We would, of course, except models like the Mustang, 55-57 T-bird and GT40.
IC The interesting thing is that the standard Model B was not that exciting Ė itís what rodders did to them afterwards that made them stimulating Ė but it is true that the fundamentals were there to begin with. It takes a magic spark to create something special, and sometimes, in the history of car companies, a group of people comes together at one time or another and the chemistry is right, and at other times, the spark just isnít there. There can be periods that are dull, and others, as in the 1930s for Ford, which were really exciting. Additionally, if you look at Ford or GM products in the í50s and í60s, they were fantastic Ė each corporation has had its moments.
Orange wheels tie in with interior and contrast against black exterior
Q The 2005 Mustang was recreated with a strong retro theme, and it looks fantastic, but we canít envisage models like the Escort, Mondeo or Focus achieving cult status 30 or 40 years from now.
IC I donít think people who drove the Ford Model B when it was new would have thought at the time that the car was likely to become an icon. You never know itís an icon until 20 or 30 years later Ė take the E-Type or the Cobra, for example. It takes a while for a design to mature, but I do think the Focus ST is a great-looking car that could be quite desirable in 20 years or so. When companies set out to design new cars, particularly bread-and-butter models like the Focus or Astra, thereís not a great deal of scope to produce something totally original, as there are so many considerations to take into account Ė practicality, packaging, ergonomics and costs, to name just a few. Today, people are more focused on what they want in a car, so thereís less room for the designer to create something unique.
Q How much of your design influence comes through in the finished product?
IC Quite a lot, but designers start off with clear constraints, knowing what they are designing in the first place, whether itís a new sports car or a family hatchback. Most designers manage to get the process through to the end. Focus is a wonderfully proportioned car, but perhaps a lot of people wonít realise that for another 10 or 20 years.
Traditional look but with modern hidden touches
Q Can you remind us about the cars with which youíve been involved?
IC I designed the Aston Martin DB7, the Vanquish, and the DB9 Ė I was responsible for the exterior design architecture. With regards to Jaguar, the only one in which Iíve been totally immersed is the new XK, and thatís taken a long time to come to fruition. My next project is the new S-Type, which will be completed next year. There has been a lot of speculation about this car in the press, but no one has got it right yet.
Ian with the latest Jaguars he helped to create
Q Why did you choose Home Grown Hot Rods to build your car when you could have picked from any one of a number of rod shops worldwide?
IC Simply because Jon (Golding) is the best in this country, and HGHR is as good as any top rod shop on the globe. I didnít know Jon until I was introduced to him by Kev Elliot (former editor of Custom Car and now occasional DRC Review contributor). He found out I liked hot rods, and so they got Jon to bring his Model B coupe along to a deserted airfield where I could have a play.
I met Jon there, and weíve since built up a friendship. I had considered bringing in a complete car from the US, as it would have been good value, but I showed a picture of it to Jon and he said, ďNo, you donít want that!Ē In truth, I didnít really want a plastic car, so I went off and bought a steel Dearborn Deuce three-window coupe body with a 2 1/2- inch chop and then told Jon what Iíd done. I think he was quite horrified, but I told him I wanted him to build me a car.
It took a year for the body to turn up, and I kept popping down to see Jonís workshop long before it arrived. I was enthralled to see how he worked and felt comfortable that he was the guy for the job. He likes a good chat, heís a great guy and I have absolute faith in his workmanship. When you put a car together, if itís not right it will never be right. Thereís a fine line between good and not so good, but due to people like Jon, the benchmark is being lifted higher and higher. If you put Jon in California, he would be as good as anyone out there.
Q So now youíve got the car, what are you going to do with it?
IC I want to drive it as much as possible, but Iím always looking at the weather. Every month at Jaguar we have a board review and everyone turns up in their company cars. I want to turn up in the hot rod and see their faces. Jon is still tinkering with it Ė I think he doesnít want to let it go, if truth be known Ė but that suits me at the moment, as I donít have anywhere to put it. I havenít had the car built as a show car, and I might even be brave enough take it to a drag strip. Hopefully, Iíll also make it to the odd rod run.
430hp SVO engine sounds just like a GT40 and really hauls
Q Can you briefly run through the specification of the car for us?
IC Itís fitted with a Ford SVO Windsor 351cu in motor with alloy GT 40 heads and a high-lift cam. I purchased it from Ford in Detroit, and got my employee discount Ė it was a very satisfying purchase. The motor makes 430hp, itís very torquey, pulls really well and mates to a Mustang five-speed T-5 manual box. Thereís a Home Grown chassis adapted specifically to take the Ford drivetrain, plus all of Jon's usual goodies, like a Super Bell axle up front and a 9-inch Ford at the rear. As I intend driving it quite a lot, I wanted it to perform and stop well, which is why there are discs up front. Itís also why the car has Vintage air conditioning and an Alpine sound system rigged up in the trunk, with hidden speakers tucked away behind the seats. This way, the car looks traditional, but has plenty of modern creature comforts. I had 20-inch, five-spoke alloy wheels on the car to begin with, as I love big wheels, but the skinny steels that are fitted now look great. Theyíve been specially made for the car and painted in a subtle orange shade to match the beautiful tan leather and suede interior stitched by Neil Tadman. The whole car is a work of art.
Interior is another Neil Tadman showpiece with matching leather trim throughout
Q Which cars do you find inspirational?
IC The E-Type is super, and I love old Minis. Iíve got a 1990 Mini Cooper with Hi-Lo suspension, Stage 2 head, tuned exhaust and big wheels. I had a lot of Minis when I was younger, but never a really good one Ė until now. Itís great fun, although not a car you would want to drive long distances. Having said that, I did drive it from Essex to Scotland many years ago.
Home Grown's Andy Barry made a special under-dash panel with louvered outlets for the air con, and punched out single louveres atop the dash for demisting
I love old Beetles, and the Karmann Ghia in particular, but the trouble is they are such rot buckets unless you find a good one. Iíve had about four Beetles, as well as a Karmann convertible. My favourite car is a Ferrari 250 SWB Ė the one before the GTO Ė from about 1960. Itís not as pretty as a GTO, but it has a rawness that is very pure and honest.
Q Were you ever tempted to go the ĎCal Lookí route?
IC I think there would be something very odd about a 50-year-old driving round in a ĎCal Lookí Beetle. I donít think Iíd feel comfortable. Itís a bit like that with the Mini, but not the hot rod, which is timeless. I was coming back through Yorkshire on Sunday, and we passed through Wetherby, or somewhere similar, and all the kids were out on their Lambrettas. I love the shape of those early scooters, and they were all lined up outside the cafť. The Mods were there with their parkas on, but they were all about 55 years old Ė they were older than me. It was really funny. I pulled up in the Jag to admire their scooters and I think they were impressed that a guy in a Jag could appreciate them.
Q What path did you follow to get into automotive design?
IC I went to Art College in Glasgow, where I studied industrial design. I then attended an ME post-graduate course at the Royal College of Art in London, where I studied Automotive Design Ė my course tutor was Pete Stevens! I went off to work for Ford in 1979, left in 1990 to work for TWR and joined Jaguar in 2000. While at TWR, I designed the Nissan R390 Le Mans car, the Astons and the Ford Puma.
Trunk lid raises on twin gas struts to reveal amplifier and covered battery
Q Designers such as Pete Stevens, Tom Gale and Larry Erickson are all very much into hot rods. Why do you think that is?
IC Because what designers like is minimalism, getting back to basics, and you canít get any more minimal than a hot rod. If you look at a í32, thereís something intrinsically fascinating about its proportions. Big wheels are very important to designers when putting together design sketches. They love to emphasise the biggest wheels and tyres with the smallest body in order to portray stance and proportion, and thatís what hot rods do so well. I know Larry quite well. Heís got a lovely hi-tech Chevy, whereas Pete is into more traditional stuff. Heís got some wonderful salt flats racing Model Ts.
All-steel Dearborn Deuce body took a year to get to the UK
Q Do you think the hot rodding scene over here is getting stronger?
Itís a funny thing. A bunch of middle-aged guys who grew up in the í60s now have the money to have nice cars built. Whatís interesting, though, is if I show these cars to teenagers Ė the ďSaxoĒ boys Ė they would not understand them, as they are not tuned into what they are about. It will be interesting to see if the younger generation pick up the hobby, because if they donít, it will disappear. I think there are a good 10 years left, but I wonder where it will go then. Of course, the new wave of rat rods is making a very rebellious, anti-social statement, and maybe that movement will be the next big thing.
What is becoming increasingly clear, though, is that there are more and more old farts around, like me, who have finally got enough money to realise their hot rod dream Ė and thatís exactly what theyíre doing.
Story: Andy Kirk & Graham Jones
Photos: Andy Kirk