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My Life & Cars – Steve Saxty, Author and Ford aficionado

The writer of the popular Secret Fords books reveals a car and career history that extends well beyond the Blue Oval

While some automotive industry figures have a celebrity beyond the inner circles of the car business, others attain high levels of seniority without the general public being so aware of their names. 

Steve Saxty has worked in design engineering and marketing at Ford, was at Mazda for the launch of the MX-5 in the UK, enjoyed a stint in sales at Porsche GB, ran his own automotive consultancy with clients including Lotus, Rolls-Royce, Volkswagen and McLaren (on the F1 project), produced global marketing strategies for the likes of Nissan while employed by other large consultancies, and was global brand communications director for Jaguar. But it was a handful of books on Ford, some written while confined to barracks – well, his New York apartment – during Covid lockdowns, that really brought Saxty to the public’s attention. 

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Not that he’s a blinkered Ford enthusiast. ‘I think Ford had a golden moment in the 1970s and ’80s, and they had some of the world’s finest designers working there,’ he says. ‘And during the Richard Parry-Jones era they changed vehicle dynamics forever.’ 

However, it’s Saxty’s early backstory – not to mention the fact that the only car he now owns is a Capri Injection Special with a Turbo Technics conversion from new – that really helps explain why Ford was an inevitable topic for his venture into book writing: ‘I grew up in Essex, quite close to Ford’s R&D track at Dunton. As a young lad I was more interested in planes than cars and used to traipse to the local library every Thursday to read the latest issue of Flight magazine. 

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‘Then in the early 1970s I spent a month in Canada with a relative. There were all these huge American cars floating around and mutated versions of cars I recognised from back home but with different bumpers, and I became fixated. So afterwards I started to go to the library on a Wednesday to read the motoring magazines and soon realised I’d switched my allegiance to four wheels.’

A couple of other factors also steered Saxty towards a career in the automotive industry. ‘My father didn’t drive so my enthusiasm for cars came from my mum – she was an excellent and quite fast driver and she’s still driving now, aged 96. One day in 1974 we were driving up the A12 in Essex and she pointed out some early Fiesta prototypes with Fiat 127 noses grafted on their fronts. I was 15 at the time and thought this was the coolest thing in the world, seeing the cars of the future being developed on my doorstep; I knew this was the arena I wanted to work in. My dad was a postman, so we didn’t have new or fancy cars; I also realised that the only way I could ever get behind the wheel of a new car was to work for a car company.’

Saxty applied and was accepted for Ford-sponsored further education when he left school, joining the company as a junior design engineer. ‘However, I quickly realised I didn’t have much talent for engineering or drawing,’ he says, ‘so I moved over to marketing where there were more cars and more girls.’

Meanwhile Saxty was busy establishing his personal Ford history. An unrestorably rusty Escort never made it to the road, but a converted Fiesta van did. ‘Back then you could buy a small van and not pay the VAT,’ Saxty explains, ‘after which, in the space of about two hours, you could convert it into a regular hatchback. Plus you got the larger 1.1-litre engine for not very much money. So, aged 21 I had a two-year-old car, which was a pretty big deal.’

A much bigger deal was the Tickford Capri that followed a couple of 3.0-litre examples of Ford’s iconic coupe. ‘The Tickford Capri was truly hand-built – the engine, chassis, body, everything. It was an audacious project and the car cost the equivalent of £80,000-100,000 in today’s money. 

This story was first featured in evo issue 304.

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