Joined: 03 May 2007
Location: Olympia, Washington
|Posted: Wed Jul 23, 2008 6:58 pm Post subject: Fred Hart - Cortina Designer: 1914-2008
|From the London Telegraph, 7/16/08
Fred Hart, who has died aged 93, was a distinguished engineer in the British motor industry, and rose in the Ford Motor Company from draughtsman to chief engineer, leading the team which designed the highly successful Ford Cortina saloon.
Hart's route into engineering was initially erratic; he had worked in the City of London, then as a landscape architect. In 1940 he joined Ford as a draughtsman, assisting in the design of armoured fighting vehicles and armaments as part of Ford's considerable contribution to the war effort.
His subsequent rise to executive engineer, light cars, in 1957 and, seven years later, to chief engineer, cars, was helped by his remarkable talents as an engineer. The first Ford in which he took a major part, being in charge of its engineering, was the Anglia 105E of 1959. This was called the notchback model, because its rear window leant back from its base.
The Cortina project was in response to news of German Ford's Taunus 12M, which was a similar size, but front-wheel-drive - not the Ford norm in the spring of 1960. The management of Ford of Britain wanted an answer to the German car to be launched simultaneously - a tall order for the designers, because a year's work on the Taunus had already been done to meet an autumn 1962 launch, which meant the British Ford team had a third less time.
That was what confronted Ford's project planning manager Terry Beckett and Hart, his executive engineer. Nevertheless, the two men and their teams knuckled down to the job, and by a superb effort met the September 1962 target. Their work was the most successful Ford for the British company at that time, and the Cortina went through five generations and over 4.3 million sales between 1962 and 1982.
A notable Cortina feature, introduced in 1964, was a real improvement in popular car heating and ventilation systems called Aeroflow, which offered through-flow ventilation, eliminating cabin stuffiness, and accurately responsive temperature control, in contrast to previous systems.
Fred Hart was involved in this revolutionary advance, being instrumental in pushing it through.
Frederick Leslie Hart was born on September 12 1914, and educated at a grammar school at Walthamstow, east London, adding his engineering qualifications at night school later.
Hart was promoted to chief engineer, cars, in 1963, when he and his engineer team were responsible for the Ford Corsair, a re-styled, slightly enlarged derivative of the Cortina. His last major project, launched in January 1966, was the Mark IV Zephyr and Zodiac: top of the Ford range saloons. This was the company's first move into independent suspension for both front and rear wheels.
Three years later, Hart was invited to move to GKN Sankey as technical director at their Telford base. He was enlisted to design a "proper" car for the disabled, a stable four-wheeled vehicle to replace the relatively unstable three-wheeler invalid carriage then usual. The Hart design was much more practical, and won a 1978 Design Council Award Commendation, but unfortunately it proved too costly to be backed by the government, so the idea was abandoned.
Hart spent 10 years with GKN Sankey, retiring in 1979. He was a man of great charm. His practicality was gratefully recalled by his son. Visits by the pair to a local department store were made memorable on several occasions when the young John Hart was attracted to a particular toy. Back home, Fred would make a version of the toy as a birthday or Christmas present, which was always rather better than the shop original; John recalled with affection a toy fort, four-feet square, which Fred Hart had constructed in perfect detail.
In retirement his enthusiasms included bowls and gardening.
Fred Hart is survived by his wife, Margaret Lydia Bennett, whom he married in 1943, and their son.