Dave Pericak, 43
Director, Ford Performance, Ford Motor Co.
Big break: Chief engineer of the 2015 Ford Mustang
Growing up in Chicago, Dave Pericak dreamed of one day owning a Ford Mustang. He did much better than that, overseeing development of the 2015 Mustang as its chief engineer.
After launching the redesigned Mustang around the world last year, Ford promoted Pericak to director of its new global performance division. The division plans to roll out 12 new vehicles by the end of the decade that enthusiasts of all ages might dream of owning -- including the Shelby GT350R Mustang and the 600-plus hp GT supercar.
Since joining Ford in 1994, when he worked on door panels at a parts plant, Pericak says he has done just about everything an engineer for the automaker could, from working on the manufacturing process to being in charge of vehicle launches and now heading the halo-casting performance division.
He described being picked as chief engineer of the Mustang, a role he held from 2008 through last December, as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," calling the Mustang Ford's "heart and soul."
"Not only is it rare to do an all-new Mustang from a clean sheet of paper," Pericak said, "but to make that the celebration of 50 years is absolutely the most important and emotional job that I have had to date."
And he owns not one but three Mustangs: a 2000 Mustang GT convertible, a 1968 Mustang and a 2012 Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca. The Boss 302 is especially important to Pericak, who said it was difficult to not only appease enthusiasts with exacting standards who bought the car but to get Parnelli Jones, the racer who made it famous, on board with the project.
"The approval given to the Mustang team from Parnelli Jones was a very surreal moment," Pericak said, "and one that none of us will ever forget."
-- Nick Bunkley