Retiring Ford Design Chief Moray Callum Reflects Nearly 40 Years of Work

Spend a career designing cars, and there will be a few that aren’t hits. There will be lines you later wish you had or hadn’t drawn, and details that aren’t quite right. There will also be hard-won perspective.

“People are still driving around in these cars,” Ford vice president of design Moray Callum said recently. “I don’t want to tell them they could have been better.”

So he’ll keep those thoughts to himself. As the head of Ford’s design team since 2014, Callum has overseen much of the brand’s big moves recently, including the Mustang Mach-E and the new Bronco and Bronco Sport. And after nearly 40 years in the industry, most of them with Ford and its subsidiaries, he’s retiring, effective May 1. Renault’s Anthony Lo, who made the move to Ford at the beginning of this month, will replace him.

Over the years, Callum has worked on Mustangs, the Explorer, and the Fusion. He’s actually taken a couple of stabs at the Bronco. During a run with Mazda in the early 2000s, he had a hand in the MX-5, the CX-7, as well as the Mazda2, Mazda3, Mazda5, and Mazda6.

“It’s a good time to hand over the reins in terms of where Ford is,” Callum said recently by phone. “I’m over 60. I’ve had a good run. And I want to still enjoy life after work. Also, I don’t think COVID brought on the decision, but I think it helped make the decision. The way we work is changing, and I think it’s important to have someone else take over and lead it their way, as opposed to me trying to keep going the way we were doing things. To put on fresh ideas.”

Callum has witnessed, first hand, many significant changes since he started in the industry back in the early ’80s, following his graduation from the prestigious Royal College of Art in London. But he cites a relatively recent one as among the most significant. “We all call ourselves car designers. We don’t call ourselves SUV designers,” he said. “Designers are lovers of cars, and obviously dream of doing sports cars and sedans. And one of the things that has changed dramatically is the type of vehicles that people drive. With that, the rules of making a car more exciting by going lower, longer, wider, have gone out of the window. The change from cars to SUVs is maybe the biggest one I’ve witnessed.”

ford gt

Callum recalled his early time at Ghia—the famed Italian carrozzeria that has long hosted a special relationship with Ford—as among the most exciting in his career. This was, in part, because of the small, intimate nature of the studio. “It was a quick and deep learning experience—we learned to design, we learned to model, we learned to persuade and negotiate, all at the same time,” he said.

He is particularly fond of some of the projects he had the chance to work on there, including the Aston Martin Lagonda Vignale concept—a potent four-door that was a precursor to the Rapide—as well as the Ford Via, a swoopy coupe-like sedan meant to presage the future of the brand’s four-doors. In fact, he liked that one so much, he was eventually able to purchase the non-running shell of a concept on Bring a Trailer (which is owned by Car and Driver‘s parent company, Hearst Autos).

2004 bronco concept

The highlights included less-obscure vehicles, too. He worked on the 50th anniversary Mustang, the fourth-generation Taurus, and the recent revival of the Bronco nameplate.

“Second time in my career we tried to bring the Bronco back, and this time it worked,” he said, referencing the 2004 Bronco Concept, which otherwise only succeeded in entering the real world as a prop in a Dwayne Johnson movie.

But his once-in-a-lifetime favorite was the 2016 Ford GT. “It was one of those projects that had a fantastic heritage, fantastic package, fantastic proportions,” he said. “So if you screwed it up, you really didn’t deserve to be there.”

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