Ford Handling Genius Richard Parry-Jones dies at 70

Ford Handling Genius Richard Parry-Jones dies at 70

Author
Discussion

samoht

Original Poster:

2,731 posts

116 months

Friday 16th April
quotequote all

https://www.autocar.co.uk/car-news/industry-news/f...

Terribly sad, apparently an accident on his farm.

Richard Parry-Jones introduced a new and class-leading standard of vehicle dynamics at Ford, beginning with the first Mondeo in 1993 and proceeding through the Focus, Fiesta, Puma, Galaxy to the whole range. He probably did more to make the average modern car actually handle well than any other single individual, his beneficial influence was felt on roads worldwide, and not merely by Ford drivers.

RIP

NelsonM3

1,484 posts

141 months

Friday 16th April
quotequote all
How sad. Strangely enough, I searched his Wikipedia page last month because I didn’t know if he was still alive.

The man who saved Ford in my opinion.

105.4

1,487 posts

41 months

Friday 16th April
quotequote all
NelsonM3 said:
How sad.

The man who saved Ford in my opinion.
Without a doubt he saved Ford.

It’s been a crap few weeks for petrolheads.

Hannu Mikkola
Sabine Schmicht
Murray Walker
R.P Jones

frown

NathanChadwick

95 posts

11 months

Friday 16th April
quotequote all
RIP RPJ.
I only met him just the once, interviewing him about arguably his greatest and most influential car – of course, the Mk1 Ford Focus – for Modern Classics magazine. He was a great interviewee, and full of wit and wisdom, not just about automotive engineering but also project management. It's terribly sad that we won't be able to hear more stories of his time at the Ford coalface, and my thoughts are with his wife and those who worked with him.

His influence on the car industry might be best referenced with the Mk1 Focus, but his influence goes back much further than that. In the early 80s he and a mate came up with the XR3 over a few weeks (I believe in their spare time). This car then went on to account for around 25 per cent of all Mk3 Escort sales. Later on he was on the way to running the Valencia plant when he was called back at the last moment (with his kids placed in schools) to rescue the Mondeo project – that car went on to break new ground in its class for handling. He also helped turn the disaster of the Mk5 Escort around with subsequent updates, but then he went on to create the Focus.

Don't underestimate the impact of the Focus – even the 1.6 handled beautifully. Though he loved his rallying (getting behind the wheel himself), he was adamant that all Focuses handled well, not just the sporty ones. He was instrumental in getting the Focus project team members galvanised behind the project, to the point where every part of the team believed passionately in the project. He had to beg the design staff to go home, because they wanted the car to be a success and kept staying late – to the point that Ford were at risk of running foul of the WTA rules. He was passionately involved with every single aspect of the project, regularly taking test mules home. The result was a car that reset the bar for small family hatchbacks, and from its launch onwards any serious player in the segment had to make their car handle well. It showed up the MkIV Golf as the tedious lump it was. So much so, Volkswagen pinched Ford's chassis engineer to make the MkV GTI handle as well as it did.

This is only a short summary of his achievements – there's the Puma and the GT, and many more – and doesn't go in to some of the biggest struggles in his Ford career; the overturning Ford 4x4 and the stress involved took its toll.

I only met him once, but he was an inspirational figure, and his death is a great loss to the industry. In an era when cars are becoming homogenous, uninspiring (generally) and ever-more uninteresting, his insistence on all cars – not just the sporty ones – being great to drive, is something that should be remembered and taken forwards.

RIP RPJ

Edited by NathanChadwick on Friday 16th April 20:38


Edited by NathanChadwick on Friday 16th April 20:41

samoht

Original Poster:

2,731 posts

116 months

Friday 16th April
quotequote all
^ nice one Nathan smile


I recall reading a couple of stories about his handling developments. Apparently while analysing the third-gen Fiesta to see where to improve, they found the XR2i had more 'give' in its subframe than its actual rear suspension. The fourth-gen Fiesta was duly re-engineered and drove much, much better.

The first-gen Galaxy was undertaken as a joint venture with Volkswagen, with the German firm initially developing the dynamics. When Richard Parry-Jones drove a development car, he basically informed his VW counterparts that it was st, which led to an agreement that Ford would tune the chassis. The Sharan, Alhambra and Galaxy duly arrived as the first MPVs that actually handled.




105.4

1,487 posts

41 months

Friday 16th April
quotequote all
NathanChadwick said:
RIP RPJ.
I only met him just the once, interviewing him about arguably his greatest and most influential car – of course, the Mk1 Ford Focus – for Modern Classics magazine.

RIP RPJ
I was only re-reading that feature a couple of weeks back. It was a great piece Nathan.

ruggedscotty

3,969 posts

179 months

Friday 16th April
quotequote all
I had a Mk1.5... that was the one with the mild refresh... it was amazing indeed when you compared it to the escort. Such a sweet handling chassis and married to a great engine. it was an excellent car.

he was at a car show a few years ago and mentioned that i had a focus and he talked at length, very approachable and enjoyed cars, very much a car guy and that was refreshing.

RIP RPJ you did a great job on the Focus.... many corners enjoyed through driving that sweet little car.

NathanChadwick

95 posts

11 months

Friday 16th April
quotequote all
samoht said:
^ nice one Nathan smile


I recall reading a couple of stories about his handling developments. Apparently while analysing the third-gen Fiesta to see where to improve, they found the XR2i had more 'give' in its subframe than its actual rear suspension. The fourth-gen Fiesta was duly re-engineered and drove much, much better.

The first-gen Galaxy was undertaken as a joint venture with Volkswagen, with the German firm initially developing the dynamics. When Richard Parry-Jones drove a development car, he basically informed his VW counterparts that it was st, which led to an agreement that Ford would tune the chassis. The Sharan, Alhambra and Galaxy duly arrived as the first MPVs that actually handled.
His influence goes so much further – he was proud of the work he did with the Land Rover Disco 3/4, and he did great work with Aston Martin too. He was definitely a car guy, marked out by his car collection. It's telling that even though he had a Range Rover, Aston Martin Vanquish Volante and something else (can't quite remember, but it was expensive/premium) it was he and his wife's matching blue Ford Focus RS Mk3s that got the most action, just looking at the paintwork.

Genuinely gutted to not have talked to him more when I had the chance.

Edited by NathanChadwick on Friday 16th April 20:50

biggbn

11,319 posts

190 months

Friday 16th April
quotequote all
That guy is responsible for some of the best drives of my life!

MC Bodge

16,868 posts

145 months

Friday 16th April
quotequote all
biggbn said:
That guy is responsible for some of the best drives of my life!
Same here.

PAUL500

1,907 posts

216 months

Friday 16th April
quotequote all
My Y plate Mk1 focus estate finally gave up the ghost, only due to lack of maintenance a few years back, had a couple of newer sheds after that then purely by luck I found a one owner from new, low miles ex motability 53 plate example two years ago, for the princely sum of £500.

It's been a great, hassle free driver ever since, I dread having to find something as good to replace it with when the time comes. They really do set the bar even now.

Edited by PAUL500 on Sunday 18th April 16:09

LaurasOtherHalf

20,795 posts

166 months

Friday 16th April
quotequote all
Just been broken the news by Steve Saxty via social media. What a terrible shame, as I've just said on another thread, this man is responsible for some of our favourite cars being our favourite cars.

Rest in peace,

Krikkit

22,326 posts

151 months

Friday 16th April
quotequote all
Massive shame indeed, the MK1 Focus was an amazing piece of work, showing people that even ordinary cars could handle properly.

Puma and Fiesta were equally brilliant of course.

craste

1,191 posts

177 months

Saturday 17th April
quotequote all
Such a shame to hear the passing of RPJ.

I was invited the the pre-launch of the MK1 Ford Focus at the NEC a few months before it was officially launched to the public.

He stated that you know if a car is good via the first 50 metres or so, and oh my god he was right - I was astonished at how well that car drove!

If you have never driven a Mk1 Focus, you must try one (preferable after stepping out of an Escort) and you can feel the difference, its like stepping from the past into the future.

Man was a legend who made millions of drivers smile on the drive to and from work.

RIP

66mpg

580 posts

77 months

Saturday 17th April
quotequote all
I was delivering vehicles on trade plates when the Mk1 Focus was launched. For a while everyone who gave me a lift would ask if I had driven one. It took me a while to get my hands on one though.

I was even asked that by a Ford salesman, while I was waiting in a dealership for the keys to something else I was picking up. At the time my own car was an Alfasud and I doubted the Focus handled as well. The salesman said that I would be surprised, but he was sure the Focus would be a match for the Alfa.

When I did eventually get behind the wheel of a Focus it was a hire car bad I used it to take three other drivers from the West Midlands to Merseyside, dropping them off one by one on the way so I was able to experience it four up down to solo. I thought it was just about the best car of its type I had ever driven, streets ahead of the last Escort. The salesman was right.

I also drove Pumas and Galaxies. Both fun in their own way, the Puma was probably the most fun you could have with your clothes on. We all owe RPJ a debt of thanks for the improvements he brought to the cars we drive.

Kawasicki

10,213 posts

205 months

Saturday 17th April
quotequote all
He could feel the difference between a good and bad driving car, like a very good vehicle dynamics engineer. He gave vehicle dynamics engineers the resources to do their jobs, removing blockers. He made decisions, and expected people to follow them.

RIP

biggbn

11,319 posts

190 months

Saturday 17th April
quotequote all
I take a weekly look for that unicorn, a cheap, solid low miles Ka just to keep for solo b road blasts. Wonderful handling, ride and poise for tuppence

Emeye

9,154 posts

193 months

Saturday 17th April
quotequote all
Richard Parry-Jones was the chassis guru who defined my love of cars.

I had a P-reg Fiesta Mk4 1.4S in the late 90s, and it was fantastic to throw around on the Cat and Fiddle on the long way home from work. In 2000, I had a fight to persuade the Peugeot loving company finance director to make sure my first brand new company car was the a Mk1 Focus. The concession was that it must be the diesel. The old TDdi engine was disappointing compared to the 1.6 petrol I enjoyed a few times in Focus hire cars, but compared to the Peugeot 306 HDi I was really meant to have and also had a reputation for good handling, the Focus was much more comfortable, solid and reliable.

I also remember an enjoyable trip to Loch Lomond in a Mk1 Mondeo 2.0Si courtesy car when my new Focus went in for a repair to some delivery paint damage. On the quiet off-season Scottish roads, I thrashed that Mondeo to the edge and it responded and delivered. You could argue that the lower powered models could be more fun to drive, as you could grab them by the scruff of their neck and fling them around at still sensible speeds.

RIP

bangerhoarder

231 posts

38 months

Saturday 17th April
quotequote all
Just hooning my Puma, and thinking about how well it drives, this morning - then to see this thread. Having owned a couple of Focuses, another Puma etc his influence and work has done a great deal for how much I enjoy driving.

Flying Toaster

267 posts

123 months

Saturday 17th April
quotequote all
105.4 said:
Without a doubt he saved Ford.

It’s been a crap few weeks for petrolheads.

Hannu Mikkola
Sabine Schmicht
Murray Walker
R.P Jones

frown
You can add Robert Opron to that list, responsible for the design of many mad Citroens amongst other things.

I bought a Puma last year sight unseen, the suspension top mounts might have been buggered but it's a brilliant handling car, lovely gear change too. For a platform that started life in the Mk3 fiesta which is supposedly uninspiring handling wise, RP-J must have sprinkled some magic dust over it to produce the Mk4 Fiesta, Ka and Puma which are all known as great handling cars.