Moray Callum, Ford’s vice president of design, understands the pressure McGovern is facing. Callum oversaw the recent redesign of the Mustang -- a project always filled with competing and conflicting demands -- and he led the team that created the new Ford GT coming next year.
I asked Callum about his approach to creating new versions of vehicles that are beloved for their design. Here’s what he told me:
“When designing an iconic car, you want to really understand what cues are absolutely necessary and which you can edit or reinterpret with a more contemporary feel,” he said.
In the case of the Defender, its signature design cues include boxy fenders, exposed door hinges and a flat windshield. The new model likely won’t be a full-out retro design, as very few retro vehicles were successful for more than a year or two. Think: 2002-05 Ford Thunderbird, Plymouth Prowler and Chevrolet SSR.
“There has been a point in time where many iconic designs hit the reset button and went back to the original one, resulting in several brands coming out with retro-looking designs. We did that ourselves with the Mustang and the Ford GT in the early 2000s,” Callum said.
“And it was the right thing to do at the time. Today, we have taken a different approach, and our iconic designs pay homage to the original ones, without mimicking them. The key cues are clearly recognizable, but the design is modern and communicates that level of innovation and technology that can only be accomplished in a 21st-century car.”
McGovern has faced this pressure several times before at different companies. In fact, he’s one of the most experienced designers in the business when it comes to dealing with beloved vehicles with massive heritage baggage.