Roy Lunn, a visionary engineer behind the iconic Ford GT40 car that won Le Mans, as well as the Ford Mustang, Ford Anglia, Jeep Cherokee and countless other automotive gems, died earlier this month at the age of 92 after suffering a stroke.
Born in 1925 in Surrey, England, Lunn earned degrees in mechanical and aeronautical engineering before becoming a pilot for the Royal Air Force. His education led him to be transferred to the Royal Aircraft Establishment, where, according to Hemmings, he helped design gas generators for the first turbo-jet aircraft.
From there, in 1946, Lunn joined British sports car company AC Cars as a design engineer for a short stint, after which he became assist chief designer for Aston Martin, where he had a hand in engineering the DB2 (which raced at Le Mans in 1949). Later, Lunn worked for Jowett Cars, developing the Javelin 1.5-liter car as well as the Jupiter.
Eventually, the young engineer joined Ford of England, put together his own design team, and developed the now-legendary 105E Anglia, acting as an engineer and product-planner.
In the late 1950s, Lunn came to the U.S. with his family, and got a job at Ford’s U.S. headquarters, where he ended up leading the Advanced Vehicle Engineering department, worked on small economy cars like the Cardinal, and then later on the mid-engine Mustang I concept. Experience with that mid-engine Mustang—as well as with the Aston Martin at Le Mans—played a role in Lunn being asked to lead the design of the Ford GT40. That was the car that the company hoped to send to Le Mans to settle a score with Ferrari, who had angered Henry Ford II after backing out on Ford’s bid to buy the Italian supercar company.
The next chapter came in 1971, when Lunn became Jeep’s chief engineer, and played a major part in developing the then state-of-the-art unibody Jeep Cherokee, having specifically designed the Quadra Link coil-sprung front suspension according to Marc Cranswick’s book The Cars Of American Motors: An Illustrated History. He also helped bring about the four-wheel drive wagon called the AMC Eagle.
According to The Detroit Free Press, Lunn then joined AM General to work on the HUMVEE “military compliance program” for the Pentagon, retiring after about two years to Florida, where he wrote three books. Then, in 2015, Lunn and his wife moved to California, where he mentored engineering students at the University of Santa Barbara.
In 2016, Lunn was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame for his work with the Ford GT40, which won Le Mans for four years straight (1966 to 1969).
Based on what seems like the greatest career any young engineer could ever dream of—involving not just the GT40, but also the Aston Martin DB2, Ford Anglia, Ford Mustang I and Jeep Cherokee—it’s safe to say that Hall of Fame induction was well deserved.