Auto Moto is a film and arts festival that has previously been held in Monterey during the week of the Pebble Beach Concours. For 2015, it came to Detroit as a companion to the Detroit Grand Prix. The festival features screenings of a variety of automotive culture and racing documentaries, along with the presence of major names such as iconic Porsche outlaw Magnus Walker and Ford GT Chief Designer Camilo Pardo.
Last night, Ford Motor Company Group Vice President and Chief Technical Officer Raj Nair made a special guest appearance alongside Camilo to hold an informal discussion on Ford GT and the auto industry. Here’s a few select quotes from the proceedings.
On how Camilo and Raj met and stay in touch:
Camilo: Well I met Raj, I think, on the track. Somebody told me he could drive very well and they said “You should go in the car with Raj!” I got in the car with him and he took me around the track. It was fantastic.
Ford has been very nice to invite me back to do special things for Ford Racing, whether it’s for SEMA or for a livery of a car and adding a little bit of drama to it for a presentation or to add to the Henry Ford Hospital Get Your Heart Racing event. It’s always cool to stay in touch with the guys at Ford and the guys that go fast and the guys that are putting out vehicles that are high performance that make an impact.
On how you harness design staff:
Raj: Sometimes I describe my job in terms that’s maybe closer to the music industry. There are aspects of what I have to do as the executive producer, and guys like Camilo are the songwriters, and guys like the modelers that Camilo works with are the musicians. There are times that I can tell them that maybe it doesn’t sound quite right but that doesn’t mean that I can play it or that I can write it.
I’ve got to take what he does and then go sell it to the label, which is the rest of the company. So there’s an aspect there that you’ve got to give them the freedom and you’ve got to give them the trust, and between him and the modelers you let them do what they need to do and then put it all together and hope you can sell it.
On inspiration working in the automotive industry:
Camilo: The dream that designers have is to go to school, get a job at a fantastic company like Ford and do a car that will make an impact. And you can put it at the auto show as a concept car, and then the thing comes around as a production car and it will sit on this shelf: the shelf of the evolution of automotive design. If you can put something on that shelf, than you’ve basically made your dream come true.
Raj: It’s really lucky to be working on something you have such passion for. I really feel lucky that we do what we get to do. Not that everybody doesn’t love their job, but I can’t believe the guy that’s designing the next dishwasher, and I’m not knocking anyone who works on dishwashers, feels as passionate about it as we do.
If you look, whether you’re a designer or an engineer and you get to work on a car, there’s not another product that 1) is the second most expensive thing you’ve probably ever bought or 2) is from an industry that is so big. We’re talking literally billion dollar investments. We spend $13 billion a year on doing new vehicles at Ford Motor Company.
It is something that’s absolutely changed society. The aspect of where you live, how you feel about your relationship about living in a country versus most people only living or traveling 25 miles from where they were born until the car came about. The technical complexity of it, the fact that you trust it to keep your friends and family safe. And the aspect that, despite all of the numbers and data and fuel economy and cargo volume and reliability ratings? To be honest, most of the time you make the decision to buy a car based on your heart. Based on how you feel about it. What does that car say about me?
Tell me any other product in the world in history that’s ever had that combination. So I feel really lucky to be able to work on something that you can be that passionate about.
On working on the new 2017 Ford GT program:
Camilo: I know what happened and what went down with the Ford GT for 2005 and 2006, and all I can do is sit and predict and think about how did it go for the one that you’re doing now? It is so much more of a race car. How did things go down in the studio? What was the pressure like? How much time did you have? I mean, we yelled and screamed and barely made it through it! Something tells me you guys had to do it faster.
Raj: You remember when we did the 05 and 06, and actually you forget about the first time we met. The first time we met we were arguing about the tape stripes on the 05 and you wanted to wrap them into the fender and I kept telling you they’d peel off from there. I think you won that argument actually.
The new GT, there was an aspect for us that 1966 was a really important year for Ford. If you don’t know, 1966 was the year that we won the 24 Hours of Le Mans and came 1-2-3 in the GT40. Internally at Ford that’s a really big deal. That’s a big year. We’re proud of a lot of our race wins and we’re fortunate that we’re a company that’s won in every race series we’ve ever participated in. But that year, and again apologies to the Ferrari fans who are here, we kicked Ferrari’s ass. (big applause from the crowd)
So, certainly there was an aspect of 2016 coming up and what are we gonna do? It’s the 50th anniversary. The other thing is, whenever you become the head of product development at Ford, almost the first thing you get asked is “When are you going to do another GT?” So it seemed like the stars were aligned with the 2016 50th anniversary and the ten years since we’d done the 05, so let’s think about what we can do. And the 05 is a really hard act to follow. You know Camilo and the rest of the team did just a fantastic job, and there will be programs you remember working on, and the 05 will be one you always remember working on.
So how do you follow that act? Well, one of the things we said is we really need to push the boundaries. We want a car that is almost an impossible combination. It is one immediately when you look at it that you will say “that’s a Ford GT.” It is one that when you immediately look at it you will say “wow that is an absolutely next generation supercar that pushes the boundaries beyond for everyone.” And finally a design that absolutely delivers functionally. That it delivers on its aerodynamics, it delivers incredible amounts of downforce, it delivers on incredibly low levels of drag. It’s got a Formula One pushrod type suspension. It’s got an incredibly technologically advanced and race-proven V6 3.5L EcoBoost pushing 600+ hp. So the technological challenge in some ways was even higher than with the 05.
So to deliver on all three of those aspects and just to even push beyond what we could deliver technically, aerodynamically, with lightweight, carbon fiber technology and yet still have something that when it rolled out under the smoke in Detroit that people were just gonna say “holy $@*# I love that car.”
Camilo: You went from all aluminum to carbon fiber. The world changed. It’s all paddle shift. We briefly mentioned that in one meeting and it went right back to a manual shifter. That technology was just barely coming out in a domestic vehicle. The leaps this vehicle has taken, you had no choice. To play in the game you have to use those materials and mechanical systems.
The way the vehicle looks, from wind tunnel experience, that things talks about air management all around it. Serious air management. You know like Le Mans LMP1s and all that. I look at the car and it speaks to me. I can hear it and I can hear the arguments. I can hear things going on as you walk around it. You guys had to deal with the state of the art now.
Raj: To be honest we started in the wind tunnel. Usually most production cars we start the other way around. We work on how we want it to look and refine it in the wind tunnel. This one started in the wind tunnel.
What did we want to do with the front aerodynamics? What did we want to do particularly in the rear? Even aspects of the powertrain choice were driven by the rear aerodynamics. And then based on those hard points, working the design, working in 3D, working the clays. It was just an incredible experience where we were able to come up with such a beautiful car that started in CFD (computational fluid dynamics).
Whenever you’re working on a car there’s always something else you wish you could have had time to do. Just polish that apple just a little bit more. For this car, this is as close as I’ve ever been and there’s probably not a line on it I wish I could change.
For more details on the Auto Moto Film Fest, check them out at http://www.amfilmfest.com/
For more details on Camilo Pardo, visit him online at http://www.camilopardo.com