Roy Lunn, one of the engineers behind a number of popular cars, passed away at the age of 92 on August 5 after suffering a massive stroke. Lunn is survived by his wife Jeanie, two daughters and two granddaughters as well as a great-grandson. Lunn’s career in automotive engineering spanned several decades and two continents.
Lunn Started Going Fast in the Royal Air Force
Before serving in the Royal Air Force, Lunn earned degrees in both Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering from Kingston Technical College in Britain. After World War II ended, he transferred to the Royal Aircraft Establishment in Farnborough. He helped design and develop gas turbine generators for the first aircraft equipped with turbo-jet engines.
After leaving Farnborough in 1946, Lunn went to work for AC CARS as an engineer. In 1947 he transferred to Aston Martin, where he helped design and build two of the DB2s the company sent to compete at Le Mans. He then spent three years with Jowett Cars as the chief designer and engineer.
Ford Career Begins at Ford of England
Lunn took a job as an engineer and product-planning manager with Ford of England in 1953. Five years later he was moving again, this time to the United States, where he became the head of the Advanced Vehicle Department and Advanced Concept Group.
This is where he spearheaded the development of the GT40. He was also responsible for several other projects, including Mustang I, the Superhighway Trying, Flying Car Concept, Big Red, the mid-engined Mustang Concept and all GT40 variants of the time.
More Famous Vehicles Arose from the Mind of Roy Lunn
In 1969, another change was in the works for Lunn. He became the Vice-President of Engineering at Kar Kraft, where he managed the production of the Boss 429 Mustang. He also worked on several Mustang concepts dealing with 429s being mounted amidships.
Two years later, in 1971, Roy was scooped up by the American Motors Corporation to become the new Technical Director of Engineering for their new nameplate Jeep. In 1983 Lunn put his indelible stamp on the world automotive market again by being responsible for the team that developed what is considered the first lightweight and modern four-wheel-drive unibody SUV, the ’83 Jeep Cherokee XJ. Over three million units of the XJ had been sold by 2001, over a period of only 18 years. The Cherokee was the first vehicle manufactured in China by an American company.
Roy and his team were also responsible for what has been called the world’s first four-wheel-drive car, the AMC Eagle. Shortly afterward he became Chief Engineer of AMC and President of Renault Jeep Sport, where he consolidated all AMC-Renault competition programs and then developed the SCCA Sports Renault, the first SCCA-Spec racing car in 1983. He was also elected as the Chairman of the Technical Board of the Society of Automotive Engineers during this timeframe. To top off his career, Lunn joined AM General as Vice-President of Engineering and headed the team that led the HUMVEE military compliance program.
GT40 Development Led to Hall of Fame Induction
The GT40 that Lunn helped develop was responsible for ending the dominance of endurance sports car racing that Ferrari had. His GT40s won four consecutive titles (1966-1969) at Le Mans. Lunn says the proudest moment of his life was when his peers inducted him into the Automobile Hall of Fame for his work on the GT40 program.
Raj Nair, executive vice president and president of North America, Ford Motor Company was quoted as saying, “All of us at Ford are saddened to hear of the passing of Roy Lunn. His legacy as the godfather of the original GT40 was well known throughout the company, and he helped bring Ford a performance car that is just as legendary today as it was in the 1960s. The team that put together the Ford GT of today was inspired by the work of Roy and his team, and we will be forever grateful for the work they started. We like to think that his GT40, and our GT of today, are both cars that showcased the best of what Ford Motor Company can do.”