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Eye on Design

Automotive Designer Camilo Pardo

  • 27 March 2024
  • Author: SAI-JohnE
  • Number of views: 1957
Eye on Design

I first met Carroll Shelby in 1999. In those days, it was just part of my job, and I took it for granted. I worked with John Coletti (the Frank Sinatra of the Mustang), Jay Mays, and Neil Ressler who kicked off the Ford GT program. Jackie Stewart was always around, and when I met Carroll, Dan Gurney was always around too. They were our “go to” guys. I remember being in conference rooms with Carroll and Coletti trying to decide what engine to put in the 2005 Ford GT and what was available. Carroll was very much a John Wayne kind of a guy in his cowboy boots.

There was a change in the program when he saw my artwork that moved things from a professional relationship to a personal one. He said, “Camilo, I want two of each of those prints.” And it was never the same as he moved me into the “inner circle.”

At Pebble Beach, Carroll and Dan would sit and argue about a corner at Riverside in 1967… Bob Bondurant would tell stories and Carroll would chime in with his 2 cents. Because in the end they all worked for Carroll, they were all his kids. It was always a personal relationship with Carroll.

At one point, we were able to get in and drive the Ford GT. We brought the new cars and a couple of Ferraris to compare at Laguna Secca. Suddenly everything became real.

Gurney took me around Laguna in a Ferrari at full speed. Then we jumped out and into a Ford GT for a direct comparison. It was fantastic with Gurney talking to me the entire time, “Camilo this is as fast as I can go, this is amazing!”

It looks like we're going to die heading into the first corner, but with Gurney driving, we're going make it. Next Jackie Stewart took me out in the Ferrari and complained about the transmission while driving at a violent speed. Carroll would stay in the pits and watch.

I got to know them all very well. Dan was friendlier, very polite. Jackie complained more; he was hard to satisfy. I drove with Bondurant too. He would talk while driving at the limit. Drifting from edge to edge using the entire track. Sharp as a tack at 70 years old. They were all very happy that I was designing the new direction.

When I got the call to meet Carroll about the Ford GT, my first thought was I better get this right. That was my focus. I didn't comprehend who was coming. I just knew it had to be right.

I wondered if I was designing for Carroll. He told me at one point, “Camilo, I learned a long time ago not to get involved in that.” He didn't care what it looked like, he just wanted to win. The MK1 Ford GT in the 1960s was gorgeous; the big block powered MK2 wasn't as pretty, but it won. In the film “Ford V Ferrari”, Christian Bale says, “If this was a beauty contest, we lost,” referring to the MK2 as it drives past. The aesthetic of the vehicle to the team was secondary.

I'm working with Peter Brock and at first didn't realize how significant he was until we were in the thick of it. They just said, “You're doing the GT40, get on it now!” Ford never explained the significance. These guys changed automotive history and we were running at full speed to design a great looking car. Sitting with Carroll, he wanted this car to outperform Ferrari in every aspect.

I had to work with the engineers in every part of integrated design. From engines to airflow. We all had to work together. I did my homework because I wanted it to look like a real car, not a spaceship.

When Carroll first saw the car, he thought it was great. I had to get in the car and drive him around. We'd be driving on stage together and talking to crowds, answering all their questions. One time we were at the Italiano Classico show on stage, after answering all the questions we got in the car to drive off. We had designed all these toggle switches… Carroll cranked the car, but it wouldn't start.

Carroll looked at me, “Camilo, we're not pushing this thing off stage!” He started flipping all the toggle switches, we hadn't turned the fuel pump on, the car erupted into life and the crowd went crazy. And now I'm signing autographs with Carroll… which is unbelievable. I'm just the kid from down the street.

Even after the project Carroll would call me. “Camilo, where you at? We gotta do another car. Meet me at the tennis club.”

We'd discussed doing another car. I made a few models and sadly that project is still unfished. That chapter isn't done. He wanted a car that was fun from 0-100, a roadster, lightweight aluminum 6 cylinder. It's a new Shelby Cobra. If I saw Carroll today, I'd tell him, “We must finish this project!”

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