Opinion: J Mays’ legacy

Filed under: Classics, Ford, Design/Style

Ray Charles Introduces New Ford Thunderbird

Mays is by far not the first designer to use heritage design cues in his work.

The announcement that J Mays will be leaving his chief creative officer role at Ford Motor Company on January 1 ends a 13-year run in one of the industry’s top design roles. While best known for having a hand in reborn classics like the Volkswagen New Beetle, Ford Mustang and Thunderbird (above), Mays’ legacy is more complicated and nuanced than being considered the father of what is known as “retrofuturism”.

Although he may have coined the term, Mays is by far not the first designer to use heritage design cues in his work. In fact, a case could be made that Bill Mitchell, the chief of design for General Motors from 1958 through 1977, was the first to incorporate classic styling motifs in modern cars as evidenced by the Bugatti Atlantic influences on the 1963 split-window Chevrolet Corvette, the Auburn Speedster boattail on the 1971 Buick Riviera and the Bentley bustleback on the 1980 Cadillac Seville.

But, Mays can be credited with identifying this practice and calling it retrofuturism. Therein lies J Mays’ genius – he was able to capture the spirit of the times, whether it be nostalgia or a fascination with the new and embody it in car design.

Matt DeLorenzo is the former editor-in-chief of Road & Track and has covered the auto industry for 35 years, including stints at Automotive News and AutoWeek. He has authored books including VW’s New Beetle, Chrysler’s Modern Concept Cars, and Corvette Dynasty.

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J Mays’ legacy originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 15 Nov 2013 19:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.


About Matt DeLorenzo