Letter of the month
Classic & Sports Car
June 2018
Richard Hayes
courtesy of Classic & Sports Car

A son’s memories of perhaps the ultimate company car.

The Ford GT40 MK III featured in your April ‘Balance of power’ article was my father Walter Hayes’s company car during his time working for Ford of Europe. When he transferred to Detroit in 1980, to be Ford’s Vice President of Public Affairs, he insisted that the car was transferred too.

The GT40 was a wonderful and astonishing sight and sound on the road, and commanded a huge presence. Every car around it was taller and narrower and more angular. It’s width and height and aerodynamic shape made it look as if it had been run over by a steamroller. That was what a very excited friend said to me when Walter drove it to pick me up from school one day in 1968. It also caught the attention of Prince Michael of Kent, when my father overtook him en route to Silverstone, which led to a spirited chase through the back roads.

I drove the GT40 many times in Michigan. My parents lived in Ann Arbor, and there were some great roads in the surrounding countryside, where the car’s in-town low speed sensitivity to the road surface, not to mention potholes, and crab-like movement, were transformed at higher speed into a completely different and wonderful flow and irresistible momentum. As the GT40 came alive it gave a strong sense of how amazing and pleasurable its racing versions must be to drive.

My father’s next door neighbour was a Federal judge, appointed by President Nixon and confirmed by the Senate. One evening the judge came for dinner and my father took him into the garage to see the GT40, which was parked next to a Lincoln Town Car. He asked my father to “fire her up” and then eagerly accepted my father’s suggestion that I drive him round the block. We got in, and I asked “how fast can a judge be driven?” He replied that judges make their decisions based on evidence, and he had no intention of looking at the speedometer.

The GT40 was an important part of Walter’s motorsport involvement, as he established Ford’s Advanced Vehicle Operations (AVO) business and appointed John Wyer to be its head, to continue the GT40’s life and success that had begun with Ford USA. Another programme he initiated was the Ford Cosworth DFV, that played such a major role in F1 for almost twenty years. After leaving Ford, Walter became Chairman of Aston Martin, and devised and brought to production the DB7, which saved the company from extinction. For anyone interested in learning more about him, walterhayes.co.uk offers magazine and newspaper articles, photographs, documents and recordings from and about his life.

Richard Hayes