Jay Ward is Pixar Studios’ art director for all things related to the movie Cars. As a special guest last Halloween at the Hilton Head Island Motoring Festival and Concours d’Elegance, he conducted a personal tour of GMC’s “Life in the Suburbs” exhibit, which included everything from Cushman scooters to a Divco milk truck. We spent five minutes together afterwards.
Q. What are the coolest things in this Life in the Suburbs exhibit?
A. I’m a hot rod guy, so the ’32 Ford hot rod with the original owner, that’s pretty amazing, right? The guy built the hot rod in the ’50s. That’s pretty special. In fact, it even has a period flathead in it and speed equipment on it.
Q. Of current production vehicles on the road, even aside from what you may drive, what is catching your eye over and over, and why?
A. There’s a few things going on in the automotive world that are interesting. In the last 10 years, what they’ve done with four-door sedans looking more like coupes, there’s been some beautiful stylization that way. It’s good to see station wagons still hanging in there. I saw the new Volvo Polestar wagon, a traditional small wagon that in the U.S. is kind of dying out but still beautiful to see. Cadillac’s new ATS. I really love the new ATS-V, I think that’s so cool that an American car company is trying to rival the Germans with the Ms and C63s. There’s so much exciting stuff. I think we’re in a pretty lucky time. I figured 15 years ago that we’d see horsepower numbers going down and top speeds going down. But actually they’ve used the technology to make these cars more efficient and still keep the power. That’s the cool thing. Now you can actually get over 20 mpg and still hit 200 mph.
Q. With your hot rod perspective, is there much interest in your heart and mind in electrified vehicles?
A. It’s funny. I think everybody else should get an electric vehicle so there’s more gas for my old cars. I encourage everybody to go out and get a Volt so I can have more gas for my hot rods.
Q. How about schools of design or any one automotive designer whom you know about and may consider as a leader in the field?
A. I love J Mays’s stuff when he was at Ford, the retrofuturism stuff. He did an amazing job. He gets kicked for it now, but he did a lot of stuff nobody else was doing. He was taking risks. American car design was getting really homogenized. The retro stuff kick-started American cars to start thinking about their lines a little more and think about what is an American car. How much heritage do you put in there?
Q. From the movie Cars, was there one character represented as a car that just didn’t make it into the script?
A. Oh, quite a few. The original Sally was a Mustang, because we thought about the song “Mustang Sally.” The problem with the Mustang is, it has a very thick grille in the front that looks like a mustache on a female car. People say, “Why did you guys use a Porsche for Sally? That’s kind of a guy car.” A Porsche has a rear engine and no radiator grille in front, perfectly smooth, like you want a female shape to be. The mayor of the town was a Packard. That character went away when Doc Hudson became the town judge and the doctor. So we lost the Packard character. We went pretty far down that road for a while.