In this week's automotive adventures, Steve hails the rise of Ford's new CEO, ponders how Covid-19 could affect future car innovation and introduces us to an idiosyncratic car revivalist.
So chuffed by the elevation of Jim Farley, a proper car bloke, to Ford’s top job that I half-entertained the notion of rushing out and buying a Blue Oval product to celebrate. Farley is a lifelong car enthusiast who spent his early years in the orbit of Phil Hill, America’s Formula 1 champion and a famous car collector. Besides building a stellar career in the big-numbers US industry, Farley has also raced his own Lola in the Le Mans Classic, and a Ford GT40 at Goodwood.
He also ran Ford’s European operations between 2015 and 2017, becoming a good enough Autocar friend to drop by for lunch: I remember how excited we all got about the STs, RSs, Bullets and Raptors that Farley believes are so vital to Ford’s success. He even took the trouble to meet photographer Stan Papior and me at the 2016 Geneva show when we drove there in a 40-year-old Ford Fiesta to celebrate the little car’s anniversary. Seems to me Ford’s greatest eras have always been when its leaders were charismatic car people. Here begins another.
Every time another outdoor car event gets cancelled, I’m consoled by the growing success of productions designed specifically for lockdown – such as the weekend-long, live-streamed REVS events organised by car-designer-turned-vicar Adam Gompertz. His next fixture, the third, will be live streamed via the REVS Limiter Facebook group from Bicester Heritage on 12/13 September. It will feature lots of action from the Bicester track, plus a rich collection of guest interviews. Designer Peter Stevens, for instance, will be there describing the Jaguar XJR-15, one of his greatest creations.
Want to participate? For this charitable event, Gompertz wants as many one-minute phone videos as possible from people telling positive lockdown car stories: how cars helped them cope and what they’re doing now Covid is easing. I’ve had a go and it’s fun; the emphasis is definitely not on high production values. Send contributions to firstname.lastname@example.org and then watch for yourself across the weekend.
Comparisons people keep making between the end of Covid and the end of the last world war make me wonder whether we can expect another tranche of exceptional consumer products as happened back then. Cars like the Mini and Jaguar E-Type were direct results of the optimism that followed the crisis. I keep recalling the immortal comment of Mini suspension pioneer Dr Alex Moulton when I asked him how this miraculous car came to be. “We’d just won the war,” said Moulton. “We could do anything…”