Roy Axe, Rootes Group / Chrysler Europe designer

Royden B. Axe, the acclaimed British stylist who created the original sketches for the Chrysler Horizon, died on October 5, 2010, after a two-year battle with cancer. He was 73.

Born in Scunthorpe, England, in 1937, Axe’s fascination with automotive design began at an early age. After finishing his education, Axe took an apprenticeship with the Rootes Group in the mid-1950s and was design director by the time he was 29. His stint with Chrysler began when the American automaker bought Rootes Group in 1966.

roy axe

The Roy Axe design most recognized by Americans would be the Chrysler/Talbot/Plymouth Horizon and Dodge Omni, small cars planned, engineered, and designed mainly in France and England. It began in mid-1974 with Axe’s pencil sketch (below). Roy labeled it "C6 SWB (short wheelbase)" because this was before the "C2" code name was established. The car was eventually named European Car of the Year and Motor Trend Car of the Year.

Burton Bouwkamp wrote:

He was a remarkable person and a good friend. We worked together in 1975 when I came to Europe to head Chrysler Europe Product Development. I was instrumental in getting Roy to consider a move to the USA. He had decided to quit Chrysler Europe to start his own design business but I talked him into going to Detroit to hear what Chrysler USA had to offer him. He met with Hal Sperlich and based on this conversation he decided to give Highland Park a “go.”

roy axe and the chrysler alpine

Roy made enormous contributions to Chrysler product designs until he left in the early 1980s to return to England. Had he stayed in the USA I think he would have been Chrysler’s next VP of Design.

In late 1975, as Burton Bouwkamp recounted, Roy Axe was promoted to Director of Design for Chrysler at the Design Center in Highland Park, Michigan. He stayed in the United States for seven years, then returned to the UK in 1982 as the design director for British Leyland. In 1992, he set his own studio, Design Research Associates, and worked with clients including Rolls-Royce. As the 20th century ended, Axe sold the business and retired to Sarasota, a resort town on Florida’s west coast.

Simca C6 - C2 sketches by Roy Axe, Chrysler Director of Design - Europe

To learn more about Roy Axe’s role in the development of the Horizon, visit Development of the Chrysler Horizon here at Allpar.com.  

For a much deeper look at Roy Axe, get the book he wrote: A Life in Style.

Chrysler History and Other Bios

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