Automobile obituary

March 2001
Phil Llewellin
courtesy and copyright of Automobile

Walter Hayes

Walter Hayes, who died at the end of December, was one of Ford’s most influential executives for more than thirty years. Born in England in 1924, Hayes had a successful career in journalism before becoming Ford of Britain’s public affairs supremo in 1961. While editor of a leading newspaper, he persuaded Lotus’s Colin Chapman to become his motoring correspondent. The relationship blossomed after Hayes joined Ford and soon persuaded his co-directors to provide the equivalent of $240,000 that enabled Cosworth to create the 3.0- litre DFV. This engine dominated grand prix racing for a decade and, in turbocharged form, was equally outstanding in Indy cars.

Hayes ran Ford of Europe spending several years in the United States as one of the parent company’s vice presidents. He became one of Henry Ford II’s most trusted henchman and, later, his biographer. Ford’s decision to buy Aston Martin owed much to Hayes, who became Aston’s chairman in 1991. Having tackled the marque’s many problems with a typical blend of enthusiasm and expertise, he enjoyed president-for-life status and became the Aston Martin Heritage Trust’s chairman after retiring, for the second and last time, in 1994.

Dapper and charming, Hayes combined a quintessentially English manner and appearance with all the skills needed to reach the motor industry’s loftiest heights. His nonautomotive interests ranged from rugby, cricket, and preserving ancient churches to writing a book about the mutiny on the Bounty.