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Roy Lunn (1925 – 2017), engineer of iconic autos

by Legacy Staff

The British-born automotive engineer designed sports cars and the S.U.V.

Roy Lunn, the British-born automotive engineer who designed sports cars and the S.U.V., died Aug. 5, 2017, in Santa Barbara, Calif. of complications from a stroke, according to the New York Times. He was 92.

Lunn was described by peers as an automotive engineering genius and had a knack designing cars that people didn’t yet know they wanted to drive. He oversaw development of the engine and chassis of the experimental Ford Mustang I. The two-seat sports car was the precursor to the four-seat production model Mustang which set off the pony car craze of the 1960s.


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Ford Motor Co. then tasked him with designing what became known as the GT40, a sports car built to challenge Ferrari’s dominance of the Le Mans endurance race in France. These sleek machines swept the winner’s podium at Le Mans in 1966.

The New York Times quoted Lunn, a former aeronautical engineer, describing the GT40s as “low-flying airplanes,” that were initially difficult to keep on the track. (Read the in-depth Times obituary here.)

But it wasn’t just the world of high-performance sports cars that he had an impact on. He was director of engineering for Jeep and oversaw the design of the Jeep Cherokee, the first of a new class of vehicles, the Sport Utility Vehicle, or S.U.V. He later came out of retirement to assist in bringing the Humvee up to U.S. Army specifications during the 1980s.

Always aware of current trends in the industry and with an eye to the future, he spent his last years working on what he described as a “People’s Car,” an electric vehicle made from sustainable materials, with a suggested retail price of $5,000.

Lunn is survived by his wife, Jeanie, two daughters, Nicola and Patrice, and his sister, Audrey Lyon.

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