Whilst I’ve been periodically gathering more of the history of the Unipower GT for well over 50-years now, locating some remaing participants in its creation have eluded me, often just due to the usual excuses of a lack of time when committing energy to a busy career and building a successful business, not forgetting of course a growing family.
One such contact from the pre–Universal Power Drives (UPD) period, was a Ford employee called Ron Bradshaw, who was approached by Ernie Unger to pen an early render of what would ultimately be the car’s distinctive body shape. Ron was a Ford stylist, working in the UK on the Ford GT40 programme tasked with beating Ferrari in the Le Mans 24hrs race. Some independent articles would incorrectly attribute Ron to being the body designer of the GT40, although there are some styling clues. My book, the definitive history of the Unipower GT, only speaks of his 'involvement' with the GT40 programme, as even as recently as two-years ago, his actual role was not totally clear.
Yes, he did indeed pen the early render for Ernie and Val’s vision and which would then be modified to meet the demands of utilising commercially sourced parts and of course production. It must be remembered that as he was styling the Unipower GT ‘on the side’ from his Ford work, almost as a favour, he wished his significant contribution, to be kept below the radar. His render, did however incorporate his name in the stylised drawing, but of course no mention of what was to be the Unipower GT (which of course did not even have a name at this point !).
I recently decided once again to revisit trying to find out more about Ron’s current whereabouts and did the usual Google search with some variables. This threw up a thread with a post from Peter Perry on the a GT40 forum, which was both informative but with also some sad news.
Peter Perry posted the following in April 2023
“Ron died a couple of years ago in Victoria, Australia. I had become friendly with him in the 1980s when he was in Product Planning and Design in Ford Australia, involved with the interior design of the EA26 Falcon.
He was my boss in the Ford design office during the preparation of the GT40 for the assault against Ferrari !. Not to diminish his achievements, Ron was not responsible for the design of the GT40. The original GT40 was designed at the Ford US design office (Styling) and shipped to the UK for preparation for the Le Mans race. Ron and I had the responsibility of bringing the exterior and interior design to a race ready condition. That meant that we worked closely with the Ford racing group at Slough, following their guidance, and Specialised Mouldings, who were responsible for the production of the fiberglass shells. We worked directly with John Wyer, Eric Broadley and Roy Lunn. I was responsible for the first front end used on the first Le Mans cars that was aerodynamically a disaster - Ron worked with later aerodynamic guidance and was responsible for the subsequent front ends, along with the tail spoiler (Ed: note the upturned tail on Ron's drawing). We both worked on the interior and Ron was primarily responsible for the ventilated seats that were made by Harold Radford. As a side note, I designed the steering wheel and Ron the centre medallion.”
So this has finally confirmed Ron's role with the GT40 from one of his close work collegues. He was obviously a very talented stylist and with a very good grasp of aerodynamics. Attributes he applied well to his design render for what was to become the Unipower GT.
However it is also with great regret that I had not managed to locate Ron earlier, especially as I used to visit Australia on occasions, as it would have been wonderful to have heard recollections from one of the last remaining ‘missing links’ in the Unipower GT story.
My condolences go out to Ron’s family and friends albeit belatently.