When given the oppurtunity to throw some questions towards the chief nameplate engineer at Ford SVT, we jumped at the chance. We tried our best to meet with Jamal at SEMA 2012 in Las Vegas but being responsible for one of the biggest names in factory performance, well, he’s a hard man to catch. We were able to secure a few moments of his time and it was worth it.
With over two decades of time spent at Ford, and having worked on many of the most successful projects to come out of Ford’s high performance division, Jamal has a very credible resume and probably one of the coolest jobs any car enthusiast could ask for hands down! In his time at Ford, he has had his hands in vehicles such as the Ford GT super car, the factory off-road famed Ford SVT Raptor, and most recently the bow tie slaying Shelby GT500 line.
Born and raised in St. Louis, he has covered all of the auto bases from car sales to nearly a decade of time working with a SCORE trophy truck team, which brought home 3 Baja 1000 titles. Now deeply planted in Detroit, he is setting a precedent within SVT to create the best performance vehicles on the market, period.
Now onto the Q&A.
TMS: Something enthusiast always want to know, what’s your favorite all time mustang, SVT mustang, and /or ford vehicle. It’s sort of a staple question always brought up by members.
JH: Favorite all time Mustang – I have 3! 1965 Shelby GT350, 1970 Boss 429 and a 2000 SVT Cobra R. Racing car: 1967 GT40 Mark IV hands down.
TMS: What vehicles are parked in your garage?
JH: 2013 Shelby GT500 (with winter tires for the next 6 months!)
TMS: Is there a car or truck that sparked your passion that led you to where you are today?
JH: I grew up watching Formula 1 on TV as a kid and that’s what started my fanatical obsession with fast cars and racing…the legendary Ford Total Performance cars from the 1960’s have always cast a huge shadow in my eyes: Shelby Cobras, Shelby Mustangs, GT40s, Daytonas. How can you match that ancestry?
TMS: What are some of the projects you have worked on both at and away from Ford that you always look back at and smile?
JH: There are a couple odd ones: in college, we built a twin turbo small block pickup truck that ran on CNG (compressed natural gas) as part of an SAE student design competition. It was a lean burn engine with no cats and 12.5 compression. Incredible fuel economy and decent emissions considering no cats. Very weird setup I know but it actually worked really well considering we were just a couple of college kids with no clue! Lol. The first racing car (truck) I worked on was the Enduro Racing Trophy Truck in 1999. It was a single seater front mid-engine where the driver straddled the transmission and the pedals were on opposite sides of the bell housing – kind of like a go kart. It had a 600ish hp 5.8L-4V (5.4L-4V derived) modular engine with velocity stacks and an 8 into 1 exhaust collector that sounded like a F1 car. It was coupled to a 6 speed paddle shift automatic transmission. That truck took the overall win in the one time only Baja 2000 – the longest non stop off road race ever run. They later pulled that powertrain and replaced it with a 1000+ hp all aluminum big block with a 2 speed transmission. To this day, that was hands down the scariest vehicle I have ever driven in my life. You needed to be very brave and committed to drive that thing past 50% throttle off road!
TMS: Is there anything you ultimately would like to build or be a part of in the automotive industry, not even necessarily Ford related?
JH: I want to do a modern Shelby Cobra. Carroll and I talked a lot about doing that car again while he was still with us.
TMS: Did your role and time spent with the SCORE trophy truck team have a major influence in the direction and overall goal for the SVT Raptor?
JH: Absolutely. As soon as we started thinking off road for an SVT truck, I knew instantly that I wanted that truck to invoke a pre-runner.
TMS: Is there one feature you wish you could have brought to Raptor that didn’t make it to production?
JH: Actually it was one thing that I didn’t want on the truck – running boards – that had to be on the truck. When you would take the truck into the desert at high speed the tires would just spray the body with debris. So we had to include unique wide running boards designed to deflect rocks and keep them from damaging the body sides.
TMS: At one point, was the Raptor program put on the back burner with the likelihood of not seeing production? What obstacles had to be overcome to let this product receive the go ahead? Now that it’s a very successful program, has that helped solidify your position to get your ideas pushed forward?
JH: We actually brought the Raptor back to life 5 or 6 times through its development. No matter what obstacle was put in front of us, we devised a plan to address it. We were relentless. Between the Shelby and the Raptor we have a lot of momentum product wise and getting stronger with introduction of the Focus ST – our first global performance vehicle. We are given a lot of latitude as long as we meet our business metrics.
TMS: Will we see a next gen Raptor based off of the next F-series or is there the possibility of the Lightning moniker making a comeback, especially with the trinity motor available?
JH: Time will tell!
TMS: What was your motivation to take the 2012 GT500 and go so much farther in performance advances with suspension, power, and technology in the 2013 GT500?
JH: The Boss 302 turned out so good that its performance envelope was approaching the GT500. Being the top of the Mustang pyramid, the GT500 needed a serious upgrade in order to do that. It got one. Plus we like beating the you know what out of Camaros.
TMS: Like above, is there one feature you wish you could have brought to 2013 GT500 that didn’t make it to production?
JH: Yes – a 750 hp version of Trinity. Just kidding!
TMS: What would you like to see in the next SVT Mustang? A Cobra R perhaps?
JH: I’ve always wanted to do another Cobra R. It’s overdue. The problem is finding the time and engineers to do it with everything else on our plate.
TMS: With Team Mustang working on the 2015 platform, does SVT work hand in hand in development with them in hopes to have a model out the same year, or is there a 1-2 year gap given to them in order to let them fully develop the platform and their goals for it before SVT goes in and gives it a steroid shot?
JH: We keep an eye on everything they are doing but really they are the lead for the Mustang platform. When we need some items changed, we will speak up but we are usually on the same page. We generally like to introduce our cars 1 year after the platform gets updated.
TMS: Looking ahead, is there any indication of a flagship SVT vehicle such as the Ford GT in the future? Any products outside of the Mustang and F-series line candidates for potential SVT treatment?
JH: No plans for a super car at this time. We have a new Focus ST that was developed in Europe by TeamRS and look out for an announcement at this year’s LA Auto Show about another product we have coming out in the US. We have globalized our performance car group and we generally will do the RWD and trucks in North America, and the FWD products in Europe.
TMS: Is there anything SVT relies on from the Mustang enthusiast community that helps guide the direction the brand takes?
JH: One of the greatest things about the internet is all the public discussion that is out in the open for everyone to read. The discussion forums and reactions to our products (and others) matter a lot, and we pay very close attention to that online, at car and club meets, at races, etc. So keep telling us what you think. No matter how crazy it is. Actually, the crazier the better.