Ford announced this week that its chief creative officer, J Mays, would retire after a 33-year career in the automotive design industry — a career that included prominent stints at BMW, Volkswagen, and Audi before landing at the Dearborn, Michigan-based car company in 1997. He'll be replaced by Moray Callum, an accomplished designer in his own right (he worked with Tesla chief designer Franz von Holzhausen when both were at Mazda) and the younger brother of famed Jaguar creative lead Ian Callum.
Mays leaves behind an impressive resume. Volkswagen's Concept One — the design study that ultimately led to the Beetle's return — vaulted him to the elite ranks of a tight-knit business dominated by big personalities. It also set him up to take the creative reins at Ford, where he led the staff that produced a revitalized Mustang and classics like the GT supercar.
Here's a look at some of the most notable designs that left the studio under Mays' watch.
Update: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the designer of the Ford Shelby GR-1 as Henrik Fisker; it was designed by George Saridakis at the studio Fisker led at the time. We apologize for the error.
- BMW 8 Series (E31). Mays had a brief stint with BMW in the 1980s, working on the company's high-end (and highly collectible) coupe.
- Audi Avus. Unveiled in 1991, the Avus — a defining design in Mays' career — quite literally looked like it was from the future. And its specs were as impressive as its polished finish: it featured an all-aluminum body to save weight (unheard of at the time) and a W12 engine. The design and technical prowess of the Avus would later find its way into a variety of production Audi models.
- Audi TT Concept. The lines of Mays' earlier Avus can clearly be seen in the 1995 TT Concept, a car that would help remake Audi's image when it went on sale in 1998.
- Volkswagen Concept One. Tasked with remaking the iconic "people's car," perhaps no automobile in Mays' pre-Ford career has made a bigger impact than the Concept One, which we would eventually come to know as the New Beetle.
- Ford Thunderbird. It wasn't long after the Concept One that Mays left Volkswagen to start a 16-year tenure at Ford. One of his early projects was the Thunderbird, which — like the New Beetle — was commissioned to revive an iconic brand.
- 2005 Ford Mustang. The redesigned "pony car" was a return to the Mustang's roots, incorporating cues from the Mustang's heyday of the 60s and early 70s.
- Ford GT. A remake of Ford's GT40 racer of the 60s, the GT was penned by Camilo Pardo under Mays' guidance. By the time of its debut in 2002, Mays had already established himself as a specialist in "retro" revivals with the Concept One and Thunderbird.
- Ford Shelby GR-1. Rolled out in 2005, the stunning, polished GR-1 was penned by George Saridakis under the direction of another legendary designer, Henrik Fisker, with Mays at the helm.