From a young age, Ian Callum was interested in making cars beautiful; “I used to write to dealers…pretending I was a potential customer to get brochures.”, he said in a 2010 interview with Car & Driver. “It worked until one day a Rolls-Royce turned up outside my dad’s house.”
Born in Dumfries, Scotland, in 1954, Callum came of age during an era when radical car designs were at their zenith, especially those of U.S. automakers. “In my mind America was extremely glamorous… I knew about Bill Mitchell and Harley Earl and what they did. The ’65 Buick Riviera was my favorite. And it didn’t come from seeing the cars—it came from not being able to see them.”
At 16, Callum wrote to Vice Chairman of Jaguar Cars, Bill Heynes, hoping to land a job by submitting some sketches of cars. Heynes replied to his letter and encouraged him to study technical and artistic drawing. In time Callum would graduate college with a degree in Industrial Design as well as a post-graduate Master’s degree in Vehicle Design.
His first design job was at Ford, where the reality of such a position set in quickly. “I soon realized that I wasn’t going to be jumping in and designing the next Capri or Escort…You didn’t get a chance to design cars until you’d earned your place.” He would eventually contribute to Ford’s core models like the Fiesta and Mondeo and later drew the shapes of the RS200 and Escort RS Cosworth. He left Ford in 1990 to join TWR design where he would sketch the Aston Martin DB7 as well as the Vanquish, DB9, Ford Puma, Volvo C70 and Nissan R390.
It was 1999 when the window of opportunity opened for him to take his dream job as Head of Design for Jaguar Cars. Though he has his own values for what makes a car look good, Callum often looks to the past when shaping Jaguar’s new models. “My point of judgment is always: “What would Sir William Lyons think of this?” And I honestly think he’d approve, hugely. Look back—Jaguar was a radical car company in many ways, one that became successful producing modern, beautiful cars. That’s what we’re doing.”