Roy Axe, former Design Director for Rootes Group, Chrysler UK, Chrysler in the USA and Rover has died aged 73. The creator of countless cars, he had been battling with cancer for more than two years and had been living in Florida for the past decade following going into retirement after selling his own design consultancy, DRA, to Arup Associates at the turn of the century.
Born in Scunthorpe in 1937, Axe knew from an early age that he wanted to be a Car Designer and pushed very hard to make that dream true by moving to Coventry to work as an apprentice at Rootes. The first car he designed from scratch – albeit while battling with Rootes’ management to avoid carrying-over parts from the Hillman Hunter saloon – was the Arrow generation Sunbeam Rapier.
His excellent design work, affable character and ability to turn ideas into full-sized designs soon earned him the position of Design Director at Rootes, aged just 29. A career at Chrysler in the UK and USA, in which he oversaw a large number of top-selling cars, was then followed on by a ten-year stint at Rover, culminating in the Rover 800, as well as a number of cars that failed to make it into production due to shortages in funding.
In 1992, he set-up Design Research Associates (DRA) as a subsidiary of Rover before going independent a couple of years later. During his time running DRA, Axe was instrumental in the modernisation of Rolls-Royce and Bentley, designing the Silver Seraph/Arnage, as well as the ground-breaking Bentley Java concept, which predicted the company’s later smaller-scale GT model.
Despite his amazing CV, Roy Axe will be best remembered by colleagues and friends as a friendly character, who succeeded in a business where nice guys don’t always finish first. Roy is survived by his wife, Pat, son Chris and daughter, Jane.