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Horizon designer Roy Axe dies at 73

by Bill Cawthon on

Roy Axe

Royden B. Axe, the acclaimed British stylist who created the original sketches for the Chrysler C2 Horizon, died on Tuesday, October 5 after a two-year battle with cancer. He was 73.

Roy Axe and Burton Bouwkamp

Born in Scunthorpe, England, Axe grew up in nearby Belton and went to school in Scunthorpe. His fascination with the automobile and 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 the Rootes group in 1966 and brought the young designer to the U.S.

Burton Bouwkamp wrote:

What a great loss for all of us. 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 in 1976. 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 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.

Axe returned to the UK in 1982 as the design director for British Leyland. In 1992, he set his own studio, Design Research Associates, to do consulting for automakers like Rolls-Royce. At the end of the Twentieth Century, Axe sold the business and retired to Sarasota, a resort town on Florida’s west coast.

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

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.

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