Many of Ford Motor Company’s greatest hits and most unique vehicles were recently reunited for one last showing under the sun in the courtyard of the Dearborn Product Development Center – a place where the company’s design executives have gathered for decades to get a better look at the latest vehicles in natural light.
Demolition of part of the building will begin this month as Ford continues its campus transformation. The product development center will be replaced by a uniquely designed, high-tech central campus building. Construction on the new building, which will be located along Oakwood Boulevard, will begin in the first quarter of 2021. It is expected to open in 2023.
Dozens of Ford, Mercury, Lincoln, Continental and Edsel vehicles were parked side by side for their curtain call. In all, nearly 80 vehicles, many belonging to design employees and retirees, were on display. New Ford CEO Jim Farley also stopped by on his first day in the role to check out the display and talk with some of the vehicles’ owners.
Vice President of Design Moray Callum, who fondly remembers observing the many iterations of the design process take shape in the courtyard, called this collection of vehicles a “great selection of cars and some beautiful pieces of styling.”
“You can see a real wide range of design changes over the years,” he said. “There’s the exuberant ’50s into the fuel-saving ’70s and to where we are today. They’ve all come from clay to sheet metal, many designed right here in this building.”
The day was not just for traditional classics, as the current-generation Ford GT, all-new Bronco, Mustang Mach-E and more joined the field. The vehicles represented nearly every model year since the building’s opening in 1953.
“It’s a great day to see all of these vehicles, but it’s very sad that this is probably the last day that we will actually use this courtyard,” said Callum, as Ford is in the process of securing temporary space to review vehicles. “The new campus is going to show what the best design center in the world can look like.”
The day was bittersweet for Craig Metros, Enterprise Product Line Management design director for trucks and SUVs, who started at Ford in the mid-1980s and recalled getting lost in the product development center on a daily basis early on. While he is sad to see the product development center go, he’s excited about the new building.
“The new facility looks much more efficient just with the advancement of design technology and our tools,” said Metros, who brought his 2018 Ford GT to the courtyard farewell. “The facility looks amazing and very futuristic. This has always been closed-off and confidential, but the new building opens us up to the community.”
The courtyard provided designers with a better vantage point than a studio, explained Metros. The space has allowed them to step back and evaluate how a vehicle might look in real-world conditions before it goes into production. “This is where we bring clay models to step back and take a look at the lines and the highlights,” he said. “It’s hard to view that stuff close up. It’s one thing to get away from it, but it’s another to see it in natural light. We can review and tune all the highlights in clay. It’s nice to get it outside in the different types of light to see how it plays on the surfaces.”
Retiree Buck Mook, whose design was used for the Mustang II in the mid-1970s, brought his 1993 Ford Probe GT to the show. Mook worked in the product development center for roughly 20 of his 30 years with Ford over a career that included several overseas assignments – including two stops in Japan – and was interrupted by a tour of duty with the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.
“I worked in almost every area in this building,” said Mook. “We were the first studio to come in here. It was always great to get back here and be part of this whole thing. I don’t care if it was the designers, the engineers or the guys in the shop – everybody in this building was just so talented. It was unbelievable.”
Mook retired more than 20 years ago, but he still returns to Dearborn regularly to gather with former co-workers, some of whom he also attended college with and worked with overseas.
“It was a real family in this place,” he said.
As we say farewell to the Product Development Center, @FordOnline has collected coverage dedicated to sharing and preserving memories and highlights from the iconic building. Click here to read more.