Walter Hayes, the ‘Father of the DFV’, Formula One’s most successful engine, has died, aged 76. This eloquent and intelligent former Vice-President of Ford Motor Company, and past Vice-President of Ford of Europe, had been battling with cancer, and appeared to be responding well to treatment, when his condition suddenly deteriorated on Christmas Day, and he passed away on Boxing Day.
Hayes joined Ford of Britain in 1962 after a mercurial rise through the Fleet Street ranks from copy boy of the London Daily Mail to its Associate Editor, and thence the Editor-in-Chief of the Sunday Despatch.
Though best remembered for the £100,000 he raised and handed over to Cosworth’s Keith Duckworth, which led to the DFV, his achievements spanned the entire motorsport horizon and beyond during a 36-year career with Ford. When he arrived the company was considered a staid, blue-collar brand. When he left it boasted perhaps the greatest sporting heritage of all and he’d had a hand in all of it: the Lotus Cortina, the GT40, Formula Ford and the rally Escorts. He got things done, cut through red tape, yet charmed his bosses and won them over. He soon became a trusted confidante of Henry Ford II, and worked closely with him during a five-year spell as ‘vice-President,
Public Affairs, Ford US, during 1979-84. a, “Walter had a knack of saying the right thing at the a right time,” says Duckworth. “He knew how to deal with people. He was well managed, well mannered and organised.” But blessed with a streak of devilry.
Jackie Stewart: “Sometimes he’d speak to his bosses to get his ideas cleared. But he always made sure that he’d done them first.
“Walter was a tremendous man and I don’t think Ford Motor Company will ever know his true value to them. He brought a genuine dignify to Public Affairs, and he had a great way of doing business too very polished. Walter was a true gentleman.
“He had a great feel for the media and had a sense of when was the best time to leak things. And he carried it all off with style. Na one comes close to him these days.
“He wasn’t a motoring man, but motoring was his chosen field. But such was his breadth of knowledge, such was his ability, I think he would have had a similar energising effect in whatever task and arena he put his mind to.”
Born in Harrow on 12 April, 1924, Hayes was educated at Hampton Grammar School. He joined the Royal Air Force, for whom he was a cadet pilot, and after WWII embarked on a journalistic path. It was during his time with the Sunday Despatch that he made his first motorsport contact, inviting Colin Chapman to be the paper’s guest motoring columnist. He had a knack of gathering the right people around him: Chapman, Duckworth, Stewart, Mike Costin, Ken Tyrrell. Achievers all.
In 1965 he was voted onto Ford of Britain’s Board of Directors, and in ’68 was appointed its Vice-President, Public Affairs. In ’77 he was elected a Vice-President of FoMoCo in the United States. He also enjoyed two spells as Vice-Chairman of Ford of Europe 1976-79 and 198489, and was awarded a CBE in 1979. He left Ford in 1989 to join Aston Martin Lagonda as Director (1990), then Chairman (’91), and retired in ’94. He was buried at a private ceremony on 5 January. Motor Sport offers its sincerest condolences to his family and friends. PF