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Retired Auto Designer Reflects on More than Half Century in the Studio

Colin Neale Talks about ‘Spark’ that Led to the Mustang.

by on Aug.25, 2011

Colin Neale stands next to the English Ford Consul Capri, a car he designed when he worked for Ford of England in the 1950s.

This is the first in a two-part series about auto designer Colin Neale. Click here to read part two, which looks at an interesting aerodynamic concept Neale would like to see an automaker or academic institution test in a wind tunnel.

Colin Neale tells a story about how he was working on a model for a two-seat electric concept car at Ford when a now-famous top executive walked into the studio for one of his regular visits.

Neale often worked on what he called “hand models,” which were about 15 inches long. His boss, Elwood Engel, had chosen one to develop as the small electric vehicle.

Designed to Impress!

Neale said Engel liked to meddle in the design process, particularly in the clay. So when Engel left for a European business trip, Neale and his colleagues saw the opportunity to get the clay model done while he was gone.

“We went like hell for 10 days because the boss couldn’t interfere,” Neale said.

Upon his return, Engel loved the completed project, which was called Firefly. What happened next would change history.


Milestones: Ford Capri, Volvo C70, GM China

by on May.05, 2009

Ford Capri
The Capri name has been in use since the earliest days at Ford.

The Capri name has been used longer than 40 years at Ford Motor Company.

The Ford Capri is celebrating  its 40th anniversary, depending on how you calculate the anniversary, since the name goes back to earlier years at the company. The last Capri ended production in 1986, but Capri lives on within many owners’ clubs who will be celebrating the anniversary with events planned from Scotland to the South West of the U.K. Fans are getting together at Castle Combe, Wiltshire (6 June), Grampian Transport Museum, Alford, Aberdeenshire (30 August), Ace Café in London (5 September) and Brooklands Museum, Surrey (26 September). 

The one we think they are celebrating.

The Capri that we think they are celebrating.

Launched in January 1969 and marketed as “the car you always promised yourself,” the Ford Capri was aimed at a style-conscious generation. In just 18 years the European answer to the Ford Mustang sold nearly two million units and achieved iconic status with its target audience. The car was briefly sold in the U.S. as a Mercury, until currency swings made the car too expensive, a pattern at Ford that repeated itself many times with cars such as the Merkur and Scorpio, and could once again with plans to import the Fiesta from Europe next year.

From the outset the Capri was a complicated offering, with a range consisting of 26 derivatives. A mix of engines – 1.3-, 1.6- and 2.0-liter four-cylinders, and a 3-liter V6 were available depending on the European market.

Ford Cologne-built Capri RS.

Ford Cologne-built Capri RS.

For the performance-oriented drivers there was the Cologne, Germany-built RS2600 and the short-lived Halewood, England-built 124 mph RS3100. In those days Ford had a 35% market share in the U.K. In 1974 the Mk II line, much simplified, was launched.

In 1978, the Mk III saw a freshening and several special editions, such as the Calypso and Laser, were added.

In 1981 Dunton’s newly-formed Special Vehicle Engineering department unveiled its first project, the 160 horsepower Capri 2.8 injection. The limited edition Capri 280, also known as the Brooklands Capri, signaled the end of the Capri era and the last car left the line in December 1986.

Volvo C70

50,000 Volvo C70 ConvertibleA sapphire black Volvo C70, number 50,000 of the second generation convertible, has been delivered to its German owner, Harald Kirschey from Olpe. The convertible had a D5 turbocharged diesel engine with 180 horsepower and automatic transmission, including Geartronic shifting.

The car, based on the Ford Focus architecture, was sold at the dealership Autohaus Mohag in Recklinghausen. Kirschey, 36, from the Sauerland region, works as a freelance programmer for CNC machinery.    (more…)