Thursday, May 22, 2014

TRIUMPH TR7 - A Wedge-shaped Problem


Ahh! The mystery of the markets, and the minds of car buyers.
Over the years various car companies have produced either cars for which no market existed; or their profile, model type and personality were so obscure that regardless of how good it was, the car struggled to find a market.


Such a car was the Triumph TR7, extending a long line of great British sportscars beginning with the Triumph TR2.



Launched in parallel to the  MG sportscars from BMC, Triumphs found their own band of loyal owners and enthusiasts.

Along the way some were more successful than others, but I remember that the TR4a, styled in Italy by Michelotti, set new standards for ride and roadholding with its independent rear suspension.
Triumph TR4a

I remember road-testing one, and whilst I wouldn’t personally describe the handling as sharp and scintillating, it was quite controllable, and certainly comfortable.

Triumph TR6
When the Karmann-styled TR6 came along, Triumph sports cars were getting ‘softer’ in an effort to appeal more to the fast-growing US appetite for British sports cars. What with wind-up glass windows, more comfortable seats, softer ride quality and big-bore performance the TR6 was paving the way for a completely new take on Triumph’s sporting models to come.
 
So the TR7 concept was born from the need to conform with proposed US legislation, as North America offered the biggest market.


British Leyland was convinced there would be legislation to ban convertibles, and also there was a need for front bumpers which could withstand a 5mph impact, and a new rule governing the height of headlamps.

A young Harris Mann

All these factors were included in the design brief given to the leader of the design studio, Harris Mann. Harris, an affable, innovative designer was responsible for the Austin Princess,
Austin Princess

and later one of BL’s most successful cars, the Metro.

Mann's first Metro concept
Austin Metro in final production form
Thus, the wedge-shaped TR7 came off the drawing board and into production at BL’s Speke plant, near Liverpool.

Original ARO Design Studio sketches by Harris Mann
Most of his initial ideas went into the production car

Naturally, Sod’s Law ensured that all the initial concerns were never a reality. The USA did not ban convertibles; the 5mph bumper standard was dropped to 2.5mph by the US Congress to help out General Motors, which lobbied for the change, and the headlight height rule in the USA remained un-altered.



The ad slogan “The Shape of Things To Come” was enlisted to help ‘sell’ the TR7 coupe to potential buyers, but it was never successful enough to sell the car in the numbers needed for a profitable return on investment.


The confusion over the US legislation, lack of investment funds from BL and a lot of industrial trouble inside the various BL factories meant that the convertible version was delayed by two years, which also pushed back production of the TR8, which featured Rover’s excellent V8 engine from the Range Rover, in both coupe and convertible models.
TR7 convertible with the top off


In 1976, as Editor of Modern Motor magazine, I was invited to the UK to test drive the Triumph TR7, Rover 3500 and the Jaguar XJ-S.

Road-testing 'The Wedge' in the Cotswolds 1976

I quite liked the TR7. It had great balance, it was comfortable and although its single overhead cam 2-litre four cylinder engine from the Triumph Dolomite was a mite underpowered, the car could be whipped along nicely over the winding and undulating Cotswold roads thanks to an excellent set of ratios in the five-speed manual.

The striking interior - it was a winner!

My convoluted connection with the TR7 continued, when in 1977 I was hired by Leyland Australia to compete in the Singapore Airlines LONDON TO SYDNEY car rally as navigator for the ‘Coke Moke’ a Leyland Australia Mini Moke with a 1275cc Mini Cooper S engine.

Homeward-bound, the l-o-n-g way from London!

Just before flying out to London for the Rally start, I was offered the job as Head of Public Relations for Leyland Australia on my return.


Then, two years later, Leyland Australia was finally preparing to launch the Triumph TR7 onto an unsuspecting Australian public.
 
Who would be the potential buyers? What was the buyer profile? How important would price be? What sort of supply could we count on, given the industrial turmoil in the UK?

A beautifully-restored Australian-spec TR7, now with body-coloured bumpers

All these issues whirled around in heads of Leyland Australia’s Board Members, the company’s advertising agency (Forbes, Macfie, Hanson), the Marketing and PR departments – all trying to make sense of the problem of the car’s identity, and how to sell it!

Thanks to Harris Mann's quirky styling the TR7 was controversial; so selling it was going to be a challenge!
Harris Mann returning from Tescos in his own TR7

(TR7 story to be continued, plus another Brabham Anecdote, Part II)

BRABHAM ANECDOTES - Part I


It was mid 1976 and a supercharged, young, Sydney entrepreneur called Gabriel Szatmary had put together a dream ticket for the upcoming James Hardie 1000 touring car race on the Mount Panorama circuit at Bathurst in western NSW.
Top of the Mountain!


Somehow Gabriel, the owner and editor of Chequered Flag magazine, had pulled together Stirling Moss and Jack Brabham, plus jeans company, Blues Union, and Sydney’s Number One pop radio station 2SM, and paired them in the hot racing sedan car of the period, a Holden Torana L34. This was going to be fantastic!




The pairing might not be racing for a win, up against some of Australia’s most seasoned touring car drivers, but the team was sure to score most of the media spotlight when they came to town.
 

I met both the drivers, whom I already knew, at a pre-race reception in Sydney, arranged by the radio station, when the powerhouse behind 2SM, radio guru Rod Muir, asked me if I would call the race for the station and its audience?
Would I? You bet!
 
At the time I was the Editor of the monthly car magazine, Modern Motor, and this would not be just great publicity for 2SM and Blues Union, but also the magazine.
 

On the Friday night before the race, Blues Union arranged a BBQ in the grounds of a teacher's college, immediately adjacent to Forest Elbow, the dangerous left hand corner at the bottom of the descent from the mountain.
 
Forest Elbow corner in the left of the photo


Needless to say, every man and his dog scored an invitation (well, maybe not the dog!) and the sausages and steaks sizzled away on the grill, whilst a lot of beer was consumed by the guests. Both drivers stayed with orange juice!

The party started around 5pm, but being late September it was dark by 6:30 and the organisers had not arranged any lighting. So we were all illuminated simply by the BBQ fires. Jack (the engineering type) departed early to check on the car, but Stirling was (as usual) in deep conversation with two very attractive teachers from the college.
 
Stirling and 'pit crew' 2005

As he was enthusiastically chatting them up, his knees appeared to buckle and down he went! The girls dashed forward in the dark, in case the famous Brit had suffered a heart attack or something equally dramatic two nights before the big race.
 
Harry the Wombat
The explanation was a lot simpler. In the dark Stirling had been nudged behind the knees by Harry, the tame, hairy-nosed Wombat who lived in the school grounds. If there were sausages around, Harry wanted some, so he just nudged the person closest to him who was holding a sausage sandwich, and that happened to be Stirling Moss.

Bird-lover Stirling Moss at Pebble Beach 2010!
In the pits on Saturday morning Stirling, who is a great animal-lover, couldn’t wait to tell Jack about his nighttime encounter with the local fauna, when Jack laconically replied: “That’ll teach you Stirl, you have to always watch your back.”
 

Sadly, next morning at race start, those words were to come true for Jack Brabham, who it had been decided, would take the first stint in the car.
 
As the cars at the front of the grid raced away around Hell Corner and up Mountain Straight, the clutch gave out on the Blues Union/2SM entry, and with no gears Jack remained stationery. It was then the car immediately behind him, which had launched itself off its starting spot, unceremoniously rammed into the back of the Torana.

And, that was that!




Yours truly talking to Channel 7's Evan Green about the tragic starting line crash

Calling the race live for 2SM from the roof of the control tower, I was frantically trying to identify the leaders who were heading out of my sight up Mountain Straight, when I had an exasperated Rod Muir in the radio station studio in Sydney yelling in my headphones: “Where’s our bloody car? You haven’t mentioned it once! Where’s OUR bloody car?”
 
Even though my gaze was fixed on the head of the pack racing up the mountain, via my peripheral vision I had spotted Jack’s collision, and until there was something positive to say, I decided to omit any mention.

Finally, when it was clear the Torana wasn’t going anywhere I broke the news to Rod and the 2SM audience. At that moment I was glad I was at Bathurst and not at the radio station – because an irate Rod Muir was something to behold!
 
Eventually, officials dragged the car back to the pits and over the next couple of hours repairs were made so that the car could circulate for the remainder of the race, and at least score some TV time.
The repaired Torana L34 lapping for TV time!
However, that was not to last either, as the engine blew itself to pieces while Stirling was at the wheel.
 
We all ended the day in the sponsors tent drowning our sorrows, but Jack was philosophical and said to us all: “That’s motor racing, some you win, some you lose.”
 
Sir Jack Brabham - Our National Treasure




You can see the sad developments of the start in this YouTube clip posted by the Torana Car Club:
 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLJJFb-OBUc

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Brabham/Honda/F2 - A Winning Formula

I first met Jack Brabham on April 17, 1966 (the day after I got married), when I was invited to be the lead commentator at the inaugural race meeting at the Surfers Paradise International Raceway.

I had made a commitment to the owner of the new circuit, Keith Williams months earlier, that I would be at the first event, and thankfully my new wife understood the value of a handshake agreement, and willingly spent the first day of her honeymoon at a motor race meeting.

The editor of Racing Car News phoned me and said, as long as I was there, could I collar Jack Brabham and interview him about his joint venture with Honda in Formula Two.

I said "Righto" and in the course of the day we sweated it out in his rental car for almost an hour. Because I had my facts straight, and asked (in his opinion) sensible questions we got along famously.

Although I saw him intermittently over the next 30 years or so, we remained friends, and he was always ready with a firm and welcoming handshake.

With his passing I would like to offer the full, unedited interview we conducted in 1998, 32 years after our first meeting:

“It’s amazing what you can do with sign language,”  says Sir Jack Brabham “We couldn’t speak Japanese, and they couldn’t speak English, but we got our message across. It must have worked, because we won every race that season, except one.”
 

It’s just over 32 years since Jack Brabham and I discussed his winning year in Formula Two using Honda engines. The first time, we were seated in his Ford Falcon rental car in the paddock of the Surfers Paradise International Raceway in Queensland. It was 1966.
 

Now, we’re reminiscing about the two years when he left his opposition gob-smacked by letting Honda gain an entrĂ©e to the exclusive world of formulae racing in Europe. This time we’re comfortably seated in the living room of his townhouse in Sydney, a far cry from the overheated cabin of his rental car.
 

On April 17, 1966 Jack Brabham agreed to bring his Formula One Repco Brabham racing car to the inaugural meeting at the Surfers Paradise International Raceway, to drive a few demonstration laps. He did it to support Keith Williams’ audacious gamble to establish a world class motor racing circuit on the Gold Coast. What a gesture!
 

In 1966 Jack was on his way to his third Formula One world drivers’ championship, and the first of two F1 constructors’ championships; and he was competing in Formula Two as well. He was more than a little busy, but as a proud Australian he was happy to return Down Under to lend his support to the opening of the Gold Coast circuit.
 

After he brought his V8 Repco Brabham back to the paddock I approached him, to discuss his Formula Two activities. Because most enthusiasts focussed on his Formula One exploits,  Jack was clearly happy that someone wanted to talk about his gamble with Honda in the junior formula. We talked for more than an hour and you would not have recognised the man who had a reputation for murmuring one word answers to most questions.
 

Jack Brabham came alive with passion and enthusiasm as he talked about the Formula Two team’s success. Not only was he happy to see his efforts noticed, he wanted to talk about the professionalism, dedication and commitment of his engine supplier.


This union began a relationship which has not only survived, but blossomed into mutual respect, affection and friendship between Jack Brabham and his friends at Honda. Jack happily lends himself to their promotional programs, and to this day he lends his input to the company’s racing activities.
 

As we sit together in his living room today, he talks not in a measured fashion, but with the conviction and admiration he holds for the Japanese company which helped him achieve a great victory in motor racing. Honda feels the same way about him.

In late 1963, Jabby Crombac, a Belgian motor racing journalist (who is still an institution in Formula One today) was contacted by a Honda engineer called Mr. Nakamura. He asked Jabby if he could suggest a team to run a Formula Two car, with a new engine Honda was planning.
 

Not a lot happened that year, but in early 1964 Jabby called Jack at the workshop he shared with fellow Aussie Ron Tauranac in Weybridge, Surrey.  Did he want to talk to a Japanese company which wanted to get into formula racing? Sure, said Jack.
 

I asked Jack if he had any reservations. “Not a one. We had been using Cosworth engines like everyone else, but as a racer I was looking for any extra advantage. As a businessman I was interested in meeting an engine supplier who would provide them free! At that time Honda were making a name for themselves in motorcycle racing, and were going pretty well. We’d have been crazy not to listen to their proposal.” So in October 1964 Brabham went to Paris to meet  Mr. Nakamura.
 

“Nakamura spoke reasonable English, and I could tell he was serious.” Said Jack. “He didn’t give us any indication about what engine he had in mind, but promised to get us at least two by the start of the 1965 season. We were pretty excited by the prospects. He said nothing, just took notes, nodded a lot, we shook hands and that's the last I saw or heard of Mr. Nakamura for nearly five months.”
 

Then, in early March 1965 two one litre, twin cam engines arrived at Weybridge, along with a couple of non-English speaking Japanese engineers. Jack believes the engines produced about 130 bhp, which was about 5 bhp down on the equivalent Cosworth engine being used at the time.
 

“What was your reception like in the pits at the first meeting?” I asked. “Pretty cool,” said Jack. “The Cosworth guys were pretty cocky, and the other teams, Cooper, Lotus and Lola  showed absolutely minimal interest in us. The enthusiasts crowded around, but the racing people gave the impression they couldn’t care less.”
 

By the end of the season there seemed little reason to change their views. The Brabham team had mixed results. Jack says: “We got better results toward the end of the season, as we got to know the engines better, but frankly, they were really unacceptable. In fact, they were not purpose-built racing engines. Ancillaries were in the wrong place, and they just looked like a passenger car engine, hastily redesigned to put out more power.”  
 

At the end of 1965, Jack and Ron Tauranac flew to Tokyo to meet Mr. Nakamura, and a team of about six engineers, led by Mr. Kume. As they talked in Honda’s corporate offices, Mr.Kume listened intently and sketched constantly. The group reviewed the ’65 season, and Jack says: “I told them, if they were serious we had to have a new engine, but I didn’t know what their capacity was to be able to produce the goods.” Mr.Kume told the Aussies he knew what they needed, and he would do his best to provide it.


I asked Jack what he thought was driving Honda at the time, to get into motor racing. Was it some secret marketing plan? “No, says Jack. They just wanted to train their young engineers. Remember Honda was a company with an incredible engineering focus, these guys were treated like gods.” After we got to know them we could see they just wanted to build engines to train their guys, and win races. They were incredibly competitive.”
 

For the new season Tauranac developed a revised version of their Formula Two car, called the BT18a. In late February 1966 Honda delivered a totally new engine to the Brabham team. With obvious admiration, Jack describes the scene: “I almost couldn’t believe it. Here we had a brand new racing engine, drawn by Kume himself. It had needle roller crank, mains and rods and produced 150 bhp, which was much more than the Cosworth engines. It also featured some incredible, tiny, torsion-bar valve springs. We’d never seen anything like it.”
 

From their workshops, located just a quarter mile from the historic Brooklands track, Brabham and Tauranac embarked on one of the most memorable racing seasons ever. The two car team, with Brabham and Denny Hulme driving, went to Goodwood for the first Formula Two race of the 1966 season. They won, and in fact they kept winning. That year the Brabham team won every round of the championship except the last race at Rouen in France.


I asked Jack how they worked with the Japanese; how they communicated; and how much the Brabham team was involved in the engine preparation? “Well, we never got near the engines. It was the same as 1965. When we had a problem we communicated by hand signals and a sort of international, engineers-only language. We drew sketches, we wrote out numbers – and the young engineers scurried around phoning back to Japan for guidance.”
 

In mid 1966 another young engineer, called Kawamoto joined the team in Europe. “He spoke reasonable English, says Jack. We got on well, he was very bright, and a really nice guy.” It’s obvious today, when Jack talks about Kawamoto that he warmed to the Japanese technician instantly. From this has grown a wonderful friendship marked by mutual respect and admiration.
 

To give an example, in 1996 a testimonial lunch was arranged in Sydney to honour Jack. One of the organisers who was researching probable guests discovered the Honda/Kawamoto connection, and wondered whether Mr. Kawamoto would record some comments on video, to be played at the event.
 

Kawamoto’s office replied: “Mr. Kawamoto does not want to do a video, he will come to Sydney in person!” On the day Brabham was clearly touched by Kawamoto’s greeting, and his salutation to the triple world champion. “I like Kawamoto very much, he’s become a good friend.” Says Jack.
 

Jack Brabham however, has become an equally good friend to Honda too. Over the past 30 years Brabham, and Tauranac have maintained their business and engineering relationship with Honda. They have consulted to the Japanese company on a whole range of projects and racing programs. Even now, it is nothing for Honda to fly Tauranac to the USA to intercede in discussions between Honda engineers and the mechanics in the Honda Indy Car team.
 

In October last year, on the exact day of Honda’s fiftieth anniversary the company flew Brabham to its new Twin Ring, Motegi proving ground in Japan, along with hundreds of other guests from around the world for the celebrations. But, according to Jack, he enjoyed a special moment during the festivities.
 

“They had my 1966 Formula Two car there, and Kume and Kawamoto wanted to pose with me and the car for photographs,” said Jack. “They were like a couple of kids. Then I was able to do some laps in the old car, and what a great time I had. It was fantastic.”

 
Thinking back to 1966, why did Honda choose the Brabham team? Well, Jack had been world champion in 1959 and 1960, and his team was obviously highly professional in its day. Honda insiders say Mr. Nakamura felt more comfortable teaming up with the Australian team, rather than presumably having to battle long standing prejudice from the established European or English teams.
 

Jack says now that he was not all that confidant in mid 1965 that he had made the right choice, but by the end of that year after he and Tauranac had been to Tokyo to meet Nakamura and Kume, he knew they were on a winner. “I was so impressed with their dedication and their professionalism.” Said Jack.
 

I distinctly remember part of the conversation from our interview in 1966, when Brabham told me that he was confident of winning the championship because the Honda engines “were just so bloody good.”
 

There was however a time when Jack thought Honda might decide not to continue. He says: “When we talked to them about the performance of the engine, in the first year 1965, Ron was really tough on them. You know Ron, he doesn’t mince his words. He told them what was wrong and what they should do to fix it. I thought, boy, are they going to cop this? Well, they did. They lapped it up. It was just what they needed to develop and hone their competitive spirit.”
 

Honda must have been greatly encouraged by the 1966 season outcome, after the disappointments of 1965. Brabham says that naturally, Honda paid all the costs associated with the Formula Two engine program, and he has no doubt it was considerable. He says today it could even have been as much as the whole budget for the combined Brabham Formula One and Formula Two activities.
 

Back in 1965-66 Brabham and Tauranac ran their teams ( 4 cars, 22 races, 2 drivers) for just under £200,000 (at today’s exchange rate, that’s roughly half a million Australian dollars). The money came from Esso and Goodyear, but they were also very successful builders of racing cars, and between 1963 and 1970 they sold over 900 customer cars, at an average of about £3,500 each (AUD$10,000). On this basis, the team was well funded in its day.
 

It’s worth noting that in 1965, when Brabham had just embarked on the Formula Two campaign with Honda, Jack was also competing in the British Saloon Car Championship, which he also won that year, in a Ford Mustang. Looking back, it was an incredible period of achievement for the boy from Hurstville, in suburban Sydney!
 

Not only a triple world champion in Formula One, but Formula Two victor, saloon car champion and highly profitable and successful racing car constructor. I asked Jack about the energy, and commitment required to realise their goals. He says: “We just did it. We didn’t think about it. We worked for as long, and as many hours as it took to get there.”
 

This spectacular achievement is a timeless role model, for anyone, even today. Remember, in the sixties budgets were smaller and there were no big time commercial sponsorships and advertising on the cars to make the task easier to fund. It was all down to the ability to deliver results.
 

Honda has never forgotten the contribution Brabham and his team made to the company. Even after the Formula Two program ended, Honda called on Jack and Ron to provide counsel and advice on the later programs, especially Honda’s first foray into Formula One.
 

At that time Brabham and Tauranac had joined up with British engine specialist John Judd. Their company, called Engine Developments, advised and worked with Kawamoto when he began the F1 quest. In later years, when F1 Hondas were driven by American Richie Ginther and later, British driver John Surtees – Brabham, Tauranac and Judd were often in the background. Honda had wanted Tauranac to design their F1 car, but as the team was already contracted to run the Repco-engined F1 car, they had to decline the chance to help Honda with its F1 aspirations.


So on October 3rd 1998, when Jack Brabham, now 72, joined the 50th anniversary celebrations at Motegi he was feted, and warmly greeted as one of Honda’s oldest friends. Mr Kawamoto paid tribute to his friend and colleague, recognising the vital contribution Brabham has made to Honda’s racing history, beginning with a championship-winning Formula Two season in 1966.
 
Now I pay my respects to the late Sir Jack Brabham. It was an honour and a privilege to know him. We last met at lunch on March 20, 2014, and once again I was greeted with a warm handshake, and "G'day JC, you going alright?"
Sir Jack Brabham (March 20, 2014 on the Gold Coast) Photo: Max Stahl
 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Vale - Sir Jack Brabham, A Great Australian

Sad to report the death today of Sir Jack Brabham, aged 88. The only Formula One driver to win the world championship in his own car!
Jack started his career as a mechanic for the Royal Australian Air Force and got his start in racing driving speedcars on quarter-mile dirt circuits. He was notoriously competitive, and ruthless in pursuit of the chequered flag.
He went to England in the 1950s, got into Formula One, winning in Cooper-Climax mid-engined cars, before going on to design his own Brabham race cars with fellow Aussie Ron Tauranac.
Unfortunately, despite the world championship, and being knighted by the Queen, it took a long time for Australians to publicly recognise him for his great achievements in motor sport. However, he dies, recognised as a great Australian, who was gracious, and loyal to his friends.
I first met Jack in the year he won his world championship in a Brabham car, interviewing him at the inaugural meeting at the Surfers Paradise International Raceway.
Jack and I in 1966 discussing the Brabham-Honda F2 cars
Thirty-two years later, I was asked to reprise the interview, which was published in the Honda Company magazine at Honda's celebration of 50 years in motor sport.

Interviewing Jack about the Brabham-Honda victories, Sydney 1998

The last time we met, for lunch, on March 20 he was in good form, talking about his grandson Matthew's progress in Indy Lights.
Grahame Ward, Sir Jack and Yours Truly on March 20 (Photo: Max Stahl)

Although deaf as a post for many years, and in later years enduring dialysis three times a week he was always happy and friendly with me and I both loved and respected him for his achievements. As Stirling Moss said: "He was a racer!"
Lunch, November 2012, arranged by Jack's good friend Grahame Ward, with myself, Matthew and Sir Jack, discussing Matt's upcoming year in Indy Lights in the USA. Photo: Max Stahl

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Driven Personalities - Franz von Holzhausen


The Tesla Model S may be the latest design from the pen of Franz von Holzhausen, and a mighty beautiful piece of automotive art it is.



So I think it’s worth looking back over the 46-year-old's career and the designs he has had a hand in.
 

It’s a very impressive portfolio of concept and production cars.

Maybe a name like von Holzhausen doesn't sound as American as apple pie, but he’s a native of Simsbury, Connecticut and he pops up in the car design world at Volkswagen in the early 90s.
 
VW Concept One 1994

When VW gave the green light for the Concept One design study to become the New Beetle, it not only put American designer J Mays under the spotlight, but young Franz too – who was just 26 at the time.

J Mays - Father of Concept One, Audi TT and Thunderbird among many others.













Unsurprisingly, the wildly-successful Concept One can claim many fathers, including J Mays, but also Freeman Thomas, Peter Schreyer and young von Holzhausen – who was responsible for taking the 1994 concept car through the cycle from styling concept to mass production.
 
Then in 1995 he again worked with J Mays and Freeman Thomas on the Audi TT.

   
Franz moved on to General Motors to be a chief designer under Wayne Cherry and produced the stunningly beautiful Chevy SS concept in 2003.

Chevrolet SS Concept 2003

His next success came with a car which Bob Lutz enthusiastically pushed through all the concept and marketing studies, to become the lamented Pontiac Solstice/Saturn Sky roadster. The car sold well, but it bit the dust when GM shut down the Pontiac division in 2009.
 
Pontiac Solstice Roadster 2004


In 2005 von Holzhausen moved to the top design job at Mazda, no doubt assisted by J Mays (at the time Ford held a 35% stake in the Japanese company).
 

His first concept car was the Mazda Kabura, designed in Mazda’s Californian design studio, debuting in 2006.
Mazda Kabura
The following year, a stunning ‘crossover’ bowed in North America, not an SUV, but the Mazda Furai – a combination road/race car built on a Courage sports/racing car chassis with scintillating looks, and the performance to match.
 
Mazda Furai

Franz departed Mazda in 2008 to become chief designer for Tesla, and is clearly completely in sync with the company founder, Elon Musk. Both men proudly fronting the Model S intro in 2009.
 
Demand for the Model S hatchback is outstripping supply, and von Holzhausen’s next project, the Model X SUV looks like being another winner. It will, according to Musk, feature a completely different electrification and drivetrain concept.
 

Tesla Model X

It’s pretty obvious that Franz von Holzhausen is a very clever and talented car designer – who knows where his next challenges will be.
Might I humbly suggest that Sergio Marchione, Chairman of FIAT CHRYSLER MOTORS snaps him up to design the next range of Alfa Romeos!