Symbol opinion vote Comment: Most likely notable, but the article is woefully lacking in inline citations, which in a blp are crucial. Onel5969 (talk) 14:52, 10 January 2015 (UTC)


Colin Geoffrey Neale[7] (December 15, 1926 – present) is a British and American car designer. He was Chief Stylist for Ford Motor Company in Dagenham, England, later moving to their world headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan where he contributed significantly to the design of cars that include the 1961 Lincoln Continental and concept cars like the all-electric Firefly that helped trigger the Ford Mustang program. While at Ford, he was involved with automotive aerodynamics pioneer Alex Tremulis in wind-tunnel testing of passenger car designs for aerodynamic drag. He later became the head of Interior and International Design Studios at Chrysler Corporation. After leaving Chrysler he continued his design work with Ritter-Smith, Inc. and Magna International working with Pirelli and other suppliers of interior components for the auto industry, being awarded multiple patents for his work, including one as recently as 2010 for Spin Control of Turbulence (SCOT) to help reduce aerodynamic drag at the rear end of cars.

Early Life

Colin Neale was born in Rowley Regis, Staffordshire, England, one of six children, including his oldest brother Eric Neale who became a prominent British automobile designer. He was educated at Halesowen Grammar School, then volunteered for the Air Training Corps in 1941 where he prepared for the Royal Air Force service, training as a pilot for a Spitfire with training flights in an Avro Anson and de Havilland Tiger Moth. World War II ended before his training did, so pilots were not needed and he was discharged in 1945.

Neale had continued his education during the war years as a part-time student at Halesowen Technical College, Worcestershire, then continuing at the Aston University, Birmingham where he received a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) in 1950. After additional evening classes at South East Essex Technical College (now known as the University of East London), he became an Associate Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1955.

From 1942 to 1947 Neale worked as a tool designer for W. Slater & Co. in Quinton, then he joined Joseph Lucas LTD., Birmingham (later known as Lucas Industries) where he started as a tool and machine designer. Later at Lucas he became a stylist of automotive components and ornamentation, including tail lamps and steering wheel components. He stayed with Lucas until 1950, when he moved to London to pursue his career as an automotive stylist.

Automotive Styling Career in England

While he was working at Lucas and attending classes part-time in 1949, Neale entered and won third prize in the National Design Award competition, sponsored by the Institute of British Carriage and Automobile Manufacturing (IBCAM). The CEO of Briggs Motor Bodies liked the design better than the First and Second Place winners, and offered Neale a position in styling at Briggs in Dagenham. He was soon responsible for styling, engineering and manufacturing with Ford Motor Company as a client.

Neale won Third Prize in the National Design Award competition again in 1951 and then Second Prize in 1952. He became Chief Stylist at Briggs in 1953 after winning First Place in the 1953 National Design Award. Up until 1953 at Briggs, Neale had worked on the designs of the Ford Anglia and the Ford Prefect. They also designed vans and trucks for Ford. They began work on the Mark II Ford Consul (4-cylinder), Mark II Ford Zephyr and Mark II Ford Zodiac (both 6-cylinder) which were the second version of three cars based on the same platform. Ford purchased Briggs in 1953.

From April of 1953 to October of 1958 Neale was Chief Stylist for Ford of Britain[1]. During these years Ford enjoyed a period of growth and Neale was asked by Ford's Assistant Manager of Design Elwood Engel to make three visits to their American headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan. On the first visit in 1954 he worked on the six cylinder Zephyr[2] and Zodiac[2] series. In 1955 he worked on the Ford Consul[2] Classic sedan. Sir Patrick Hennessey, Chairman of Ford of Britain, fell in love with the reverse slope rear window used on the Consul Classic, a feature also used one year later on the Anglia, but Neale was not fond of this detail, and in reaction to it designed a 2+2 concept with a fastback roof they called the Sunbird. When it went into production as a 1961 model it was named the Ford Capri[2]. Sir Hennessey loved it when he saw it. Henry Ford II liked the car so much that twelve months before its public release he gave a prototype to his daughter Charlotte Ford who was attending school in Paris. Ford had previously used the Capri name for the Lincoln Capri, produced 1952 through 1959 as a two-door version of the Lincoln.

During Neale's third visit to Dearborn in 1956 there was a strike going on, so they had to work in an outside studio where they created the Anglia, getting the stamp of approval in Dearborn to make final execution in England easier. He was instrumental in the design of the 1956 MK II Consul, Zephyr, and Zodiac series (marketed as the “Three Graces”), vans and the Thames Trader range of trucks and year later the smaller Consul Classic and Capri range. During a 2002 reunion of Neale and the other Briggs designers in London, the styling department of the time was characterized as the “Dream Team” in a U.K. Daily Telegraph article by Malcolm McKay on the 21st of September 2002. An assortment of the cars they designed were laid out in front of Earls Court Exhibition Centre.

Automotive Styling Career in America - the Ford years

In 1958 Elwood Engel offered Neale a position as Senior Designer in Ford's Corporate Advanced Studio. There he was a major contributor to the 1961 Ford Thunderbird, third generation design, which morphed into the 1961 Lincoln Continental[7]. The 1961 Thunderbird was being done by the Ford design studio, and Engel's studio was asked to do a competitive design. Engel proposed a “Continental” design. This meant a design that made nostalgic reference to the William Clay Ford, Sr. Continental Mark II, produced by the Continental division of Ford that Henry Ford II had ended. Engel wanted to design a car reminiscent of this car, but it was not a winning idea for the Thunderbird. The Ford studio's concept, known by Engel's team as the “bombs and rockets” design, was chosen for the 1961 Thunderbird. Ford President Robert McNamara was intrigued by the Continental approach, and asked them to stretch it out and make it the Lincoln for 1961. As a senior designer, Neale was one of the car’s five principal designers working under Engel. He was largely responsible for the design of the rear end and contributed to the “Schick Eversharp Razor” design for the front of the car. Curved glass and other materials available made changes possible to the Continental Mark II’s original look on the new car’s “greenhouse”.

‘’’Ford Mustang origins’’’

In 1961, working under Corporate Advanced Studio manager Gale Halderman, Neale designed the Firefly[7], an advanced engineering two-seat electric car. It was based on a chassis designed by British Ford engineer Roy Lunn of Advanced Engineering. There were two body designs for the same electric chassis, the other named Astrion (later called the Hummingbird), which was designed by Alex Tremulis. Both concepts were built on either side of one full-sized clay model, then full-sized fiberglass models of each were built. At least one of them was drivable with a small electric motor driving one rear wheel. Vice-President and General Manager of the Ford Division Lee Iacocca saw the fiberglass models of the Firefly and Hummingbird, and they inspired him to revive a sporty-car proposal Ford had been considering. They expanded the size to a sporty 2+2 package which became the prototype for the 1965 Ford Mustang.

‘’’Other Ford projects’’’

In 1959, Neale was sent to England for six weeks to design a full size theme model for the Ford Consul, Ford Zephyr 4 Mark III and Ford Zodiac Mark III programs. Neale also redeveloped the Ford Falcon as 3/8 scale design for an “aero” concept model which was tested in the Glenn L. Martin Wind Tunnel at the University of Maryland. The aerodynamics group liked this so much, they asked Neale to work further on the design of the new Ford Fairlane.

The “Canadian X” Project of 1960 was the code name for the new Fairlane. For aerodynamic testing Neale created a 3/8 scale model with unique construction, Styrofoam covered with a thin layer of clay, because solid clay models on a wood armature had broken up in the wind tunnel. This method also permitted wind-tunnel testing of three different versions (fast-back, notchback and reverse backlight) in one week.

In 1961 Neale was assigned to Ford Thunderbird and Falcon Exteriors. Rooflines at at the time were stodgy. Neale created the sleeker looking “Sprint” roof and “electric razor” grill for the 1962 Ford Falcon.

During this period, Neale entirely designed the exterior of the Ford Italien [4]show car, based on a standard 1962 Thunderbird . The fastback roof of the Italien was the inspiration for the new Mustang’s roof, line-for-line, even though it was never actually used on a Thunderbird. The Italien appeared in over 14 magazines including Motor Trend, and was featured in Ford's 1962-63 Custom Car Caravan as well as Autoramas throughout the United States such as Detroit, Los Angeles, and Miami. It was also included in the “Cavalcade of Custom Cars” at the 1964 New York World Fair. Unlike most concept cars of the time, the Italien was not sent to the crusher, and was sold to television actor Dale Robertson, star of TV westerns such as “Wagon Train” and “Tales of Wells Fargo”. The Italien was fully restored in 2007, then sold at auction in 2008 by Barrett-Jackson for $660,000 to the Blackhawk Collection in Danville, CA.

Neale was responsible for the production execution of the exterior of the 1964 Ford Thunderbird. One of the most striking changes on this fourth generation of the Thunderbird was the change from round to large rectangular tail lamps. The plan was for them to have the first sequential turn signals, but Ford was unable to get approval of all 50 states for the new technology in time for the 1964 model, so the 1964 model had conventional lighting. Ford persevered, and the sequential lighting first appeared on the 1965 Ford Thunderbird, and continued to be used on Thunderbirds until 1971. It later appeared on the Mercury Cougar, Shelby Mustang and 1969 Chrysler Imperial after Neale moved to Chrysler Corporation.

In 1961 Neale was promoted to his first American managerial position for Ford, heading up the Combined Advanced Interior Studio (this combined the Ford and Lincoln/Mercury interior studios for the first time). He told his designers they should think of themselves as multi-millionaires, and then say what they really wanted. They wrote their ideas on 3x5 cards and voted on the best ones. The “Friday Show” was the company meeting for Lee Iacocca and the executives to see what they were working on. The designers illustrated the best ideas and the executives asked questions. One week later there were nine similar boards in other studios. This led to the famous Ford campaign slogan a short time later “We’ve Got a Better Idea!”

‘’’The Chrysler Years, 1962 - 1977’’’

In 1961 Elwood Engel left Ford to become Vice President and Director of Styling at Chrysler Corporation. In 1962 he invited Neale to follow him to Chrysler to run all interior design, trim, color and materials studios and Neale accepted. While at Chrysler, Neale’s design activities included supervising the interior design of the 1965 Plymouth XP-VIP and 1966 Chrysler 300X[6] concept cars, which were to profoundly influence the cleaner look and molded interior trim components that would come to dominate automotive interiors.

The Chrysler 300X was one of the earliest concept cars to emphasis the interior over the exterior’s design. Its dramatic interior premiered many new concepts, some of which made it to production cars, and many that did not. Instead of a steering wheel it had a twist-grip hydroelectric steering system that retracted into the instrument panel to make getting in and out of the car easier, and it could collapse during impact. The seat-mounted armrest retracted into the seat cushion and the seat belts also retracted. Magnetic passkeys replaced a conventional key for entry and a plastic card was used for starting the car. There was a tape-recorded audio clock, a swiveling driver’s seat for easier ingress/egress, and a front passenger seat that could be turned to face the rear seats. A Bell & Howell “Wide View Special Electric Eye” camera mounted in the rear deck lid replaced rearview mirrors with a dash-mounted screen. A television for the rear passengers was mounted on a rail between the seats. The bucket seats used a rubber-nylon suspension system instead of springs, and a rubber air cell adjusted the height of the driver’s seat. The front seats also had head restraints, a safety feature now required in all cars. The 300X spent three years on the auto show circuit before being scrapped.

While at Chrysler, Neale received a patent for seating in the 1966 Dodge Charger. He also introduced the first lateral-hinged safety door handles, first shown on the Chrysler 300X and Cordoba[6] concept cars. His internal decorator design program for “outside of the box” concepts led to the promotion of high profile materials such as rich Corinthian leather in the production Chrysler Cordoba famously promoted in television ads by the actor Ricardo Montalban.

In 1964 Neale had initiated the first dedicated international design studio, pioneering the combination of interior and exterior designers. His studio oversaw the design of cars for England, France, Brazil, Argentina and Australia until 1968. In 1969, Neale was the first member of the Chrysler design staff to visit Japan as part of the new partnership between Chrysler and Mitsubishi Motors. Neale did advance design work on the Chrysler K platform. Ultimately produced from 1981 to 1995, Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca credited the K cars with allowing Chrysler to pay off its bankruptcy loans early.


Neale left Chrysler and became the design director and executive vice president for Ritter-Smith, Inc., an automotive sales group whose accounts included virtually all interior trim materials and seat components consisting of Pirelli membrane suspension and pneumatic comfort adjustment systems. Neale designed the first use of the weight-saving membrane seat suspension system in American cars for the 1987 Chevrolet Beretta and Chevrolet Corsica (GM25) models. He also patented an adjustable electro-pneumatic lumbar support system for seating and built many concept seats for Ford, General Motors and Chrysler.


Neale next became the Concept Designer for Magna International/Intier Automotive, Inc. During his years there he was awarded 18 patents, mostly for seats in multi-passenger vehicles that can be stowed within the vehicle. 11 of these patents are still active. His design for a third-row seat “Swing Up Seat” that swings into the roof of a minivan or SUV eliminating the need to remove the seat and store it elsewhere won the First Place Award in the Convenience & Comfort Category in Automotive & Transportation Interiors Magazine’s 1998 Design & Technology Awards. His final patent was for stowing the third-row seat into the lift gate. In 2006 Neale retired from Magna on his 80th birthday.

In 2010 Neale was awarded a patent for Spin Control of Turbulence (SCOT) to help reduce aerodynamic drag at the rear end of cars.

Personal Life

In September of 1951 Neale married Jean Donnelly with whom he had worked with at Lucas. They lived in Upminster on London’s east side while he worked at Ford, then moved to Dearborn Heights, Michigan in October of 1958. They had three children. Jean Neale passed away in 2000, and in July of 2002 he married Vida Andrus. They now live in Northville, Michigan.


  1. 1.0 1.1 "The Perpetual Face Lift". illustrated Magazine: 28 - 31. October 20, 1956. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 "If Only Colin Neale Had His Way ...". Thoroughbred & Classic Cars Magazine (284): 92 - 96. May 1997. 
  3. "If only Colin Neale Had His Way ...". Classic Cars (284): 92 - 96. May 1997. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Ford's Factory Styled "Italien"". Speed and Custom 11 (5): 23 - 27. June 1963. 
  5. "1961 Lincoln Continental". Special-Interest Autos (34): 14 - 21. June 1976. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Chrysler Concept Cars 1940 - 1970. 2007. pp. 110 - 113, 138 & 139. ISBN 978-1-932494-70-9. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Ford Design Department Concept & Show Cars 1932 - 1961. 1999. pp. 360 - 370, 388 - 392. ISBN 0-9672428-0-0. 


  1. 1.0 1.1 "The Perpetual Face Lift". illustrated Magazine: 28 - 31. October 20, 1956. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 "If Only Colin Neale Had His Way ...". Thoroughbred & Classic Cars Magazine (284): 92 - 96. May 1997. 
  3. "If only Colin Neale Had His Way ...". Classic Cars (284): 92 - 96. May 1997. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Ford's Factory Styled "Italien"". Speed and Custom 11 (5): 23 - 27. June 1963. 
  5. "1961 Lincoln Continental". Special-Interest Autos (34): 14 - 21. June 1976. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Chrysler Concept Cars 1940 - 1970. 2007. pp. 110 - 113, 138 & 139. ISBN 978-1-932494-70-9. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Ford Design Department Concept & Show Cars 1932 - 1961. 1999. pp. 360 - 370, 388 - 392. ISBN 0-9672428-0-0. 
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