I was at a car show in St. Ignace, a village in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It was the kind of car show that Geoff Lawson would have loved: lots of hot rods, old Corvettes. Lots of car people he really liked. All those cars he enjoyed. All that American iron. At that joyous event, I learned that Geoff Lawson had died unexpectedly the day before. A stroke.
I remember meeting Geoff more than 25 years ago. He was working in the design studios at Vauxhall along with Wayne Cherry back when Ed Taylor ran the place. It was a fun group. They had such passion for design. But none was more passionate than Englishman Geoff Lawson.
He was a remarkable fellow. He had a passion for all cars, but particularly American cars. Eventually, he owned a 1969 Corvette coupe. He always wanted either a fuel dragster or an old Ford Hiboy. And ultimately, he designed Jaguars.
It was always a delight to see Geoff. Anywhere. I often ran into him at motor shows around the world. We must have had a million dinners together. And I always learned from Geoff. He was charming, witty and smart. And he understood and could explain design. He knew the importance of marques long before anyone used today's overused word, 'brand.'
Geoff became design director at Jaguar in 1984. He may have been a hot-rodder underneath, but he understood perfectly what Jaguar was and should be and was about to become. All of today's gorgeous designs, plus some still to come, were his responsibility. He molded his knowledge of the Jaguar essence into sheet metal. Many people saved Jaguar, but none was more important than Geoff Lawson.
Geoff left his mark on a lot of people and a lot of cars. Jaguar will miss his unique talents. Designers from all over the world mourn his passing. So do many others of us who were touched by his life.
Geoff Lawson squeezed a lot into his 54 years. He achieved a lot, made countless friends and lived with gusto. I don't ever think I saw him 'down' in the quarter century that I knew him.
There are a lot of wonderful people in the automobile industry. But now and then there walks among us someone special who creates joy and affection in everyone he touches around the world. Geoff Lawson was such a fellow. We will all miss him. I only hope that he has a chance now to drive a big fuel-burning AA dragster. He would like that.