Some ASC execs are fond of quoting reports that says ASC Inc. is the Pininfarina of North America. That notion struck me as being little more than locker room braggadocio.
After all, Pininfarina, ItalDesign, Bertone and the other Euro design houses have been around longer. They have staying power. And they enjoy a higher status in the industry's pecking order in Europe.
But I'm willing to reassess everything now that Chris Theodore is joining the ASC team as vice chairman of product development.
ASC, founded by Heinz Prechter as American Sunroof Co., rechristened itself American Specialty Car when it was acquired by the private equity firm Questor Management Co., after Prechter's death.
CEO Paul Wilbur is a savvy car guy who was hired to forge a business model that might even include acquiring and operating a little assembly plant, probably not too far from the company's headquarters in Southgate, Mich.
A plant would expand the company's capabilities, making it more like some of the European houses that have manufacturing operations.
Wilbur is chary about what the company might build in such a factory.
When it comes to raising capital for a factory, there are advantages to being owned by an investment banker with deep pockets. The downside is that in a couple of years Questor might take its chips off the table and sell ASC.
Now that Wilbur has recruited his friend Theodore as a lieutenant, the upside for ASC seems much bigger.
Theodore brings a lot to ASC. Not only is he another car guy likely to be full of interesting ideas for niche vehicles, he knows how to manage big product-development projects, which makes him an ideal asset for a company with a growth strategy.
Wilbur and Theodore got to know each other as colleagues at Chrysler. But in one of those odd little twists, they both have worked at Ford Motor Co. Wilbur was a bean counter at Ford before joining Chrysler. Theodore began his career as an engineer at Ford before stints at General Motors and American Motors, and he was head of North American product development at Ford after leaving Chrysler.
Talk about irony. Theodore was recruited by former Ford CEO Jacques Nasser. Not too long after Nasser was fired, Phil Martens leapfrogged Theodore. Last December, Theodore finished his five-year hitch at Ford and retired. Now Martens has bolted to Plastech Engineering Products Inc., leaving Derrick Kusak in charge of Ford's North American product development.
Since leaving Ford, Theodore has been teaching and consulting. But at just 55, it was only a matter of time before the guy known as the champion of the Ford GT dove back into the fray.
It makes you wonder what they're up to at ASC, doesn't it?
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at