Professor Art Hyde’s Passion for Cars, Students and Family Fuels His Electrifying Spirit
Art Hyde fell in love with the Ford Mustang around age 9.
Little did he know then he would join Ford Motor Company at age 22 in 1977 as an engineer, just in time to be part of the launch of the new 1979 Ford Mustang and the 1979 Indy 500 Mustang pace car or to go on and lead the 1983 SVO Mustang engine, the 1989 Mustang convertible, the 1994 Mustang body nor to reach his goal of becoming Mustang Chief Program Engineer in 1997.
“I knew early on this is what I wanted to do with the rest of my life,” he said.
Professor Hyde was born in Winchester, Va., home of the “Apple Capital” of the world. Growing up, he loved skateboarding, bicycling, soccer, and sailing. Gradually, all those activities fell away and his singular focus became cars, in particular, the Mustang. He would sit on his front porch for hours watching cars.
“I could name them by their engine sound as well as by their body design,” he said. “I would call out all the years, models, options. I am sure my family and friends thought this was absurd.”
The Big Apple
When he was nine years old in 1964, on one of his family’s annual June trips to New York City, he went to the World’s Fair in Flushing (now the site of the US National Tennis Center) where he fell in love and bonded with the Mustang.
“Seeing it there on a platform in the center of a fountain while my older brother and I were waiting in line for the Ford exhibit, my interest moved to another level,” he said. “Inexplicably, I knew then and there, cars, particularly the Mustang, was my calling in life. When it came time to hop in a car to go through the exhibit, I pushed my brother out of the way to get behind the wheel for the first time.”
Starting on the Path
After eighth grade, Professor Hyde started a part-time job at a Lincoln Mercury/Datsun dealer as a gofer. He quit to apprentice full-time at a foreign car repair shop. There, he would learn how to diagnose unique and interesting vehicle problems. The shop owner owned the Summit Point race track in West Virginia so he would also do preparation and pit work for a series of race cars throughout high school and college.
“I spent time fixing and refurbishing cars for resale,” he said. “I bought a 1970 Capri, known as the European Mustang. It had a blown motor and needed a paint job. I bartered with the Lincoln Mercury dealer to paint the front end and I rebuilt and installed a Formula Ford engine, modified the transmission, and upgraded the suspension with parts from a wrecked Cortina GT. It became a great car to drive.”
Following high school, Professor Hyde attended Worcester Polytechnic Institute because the curriculum was strongly focused on experiential education. The school called it “The Plan,” where students took classes for the first two years and spent the next two years working on three projects: a Major Qualifying Project, a Minor Qualifying Project and an Interdisciplinary Project. A Competency Exam followed, in which students have three days to prepare an analysis/results before defending their work to a faculty committee.
At WPI, he worked with their dynamometer on his Major Qualifying Project during the week and on foreign cars on the weekend days. He also was a guitar player for a loose folk rock band that played parties some weekend evenings.
While he found the Competency Exam super stressful, the emphasis on “learning by doing” became a central philosophy in his professional life and is one of the reasons he started getting involved with the University of Michigan in the early 1990s.
After going to WPI, he realized Ford did not recruit there, and he only wanted to work for Ford. So what does one do with that realization?
“I embarked on a letter-writing campaign to Ford,” he said. “Eventually, Ford called me up for an onsite interview. The highlight was a tour of the Dearborn Proving Ground where the manager who showed me around got over his head and rolled the car. Neither he nor I were hurt, but I really think the only reason I was hired was either embarrassment or they didn’t want me to sue.”
Professor Hyde delayed his start date at Ford for a four-month, 32-state, 28,000-mile, and five-national park cross-country trip. The whole trip was accomplished without one night in a hotel. He ate at cheap diners and either camped or stayed in college common areas when he wasn’t staying at the home of a friend or family member. Occasionally, he had to resort to playing his guitar outside laundromats and fixing cars for some gas money.
“If you aren’t a great musician or singer, busking is a thankless, time-consuming way to make a couple bucks,” he said. “I was glad that wasn’t my career.”
One of the last stops was in Ann Arbor where he tried to find a place to live. While not successful in finding anything he could afford in Ann Arbor, he found busking on the Diag was one of the more lucrative locations he played.
‘Learn As Much As I Can’
After starting at Ford, his first assignment was Vehicle Development where he was assigned to the 1979 Mustang supporting the Turbocharged 2.3L engine. From day one, his goal was to learn as much as he could about the skills and experiences he would need to become the leader of the Mustang program.
It became clear he needed an MBA to achieve his dream of one day leading the Mustang program. He enrolled in the University of Michigan Ross School of Business and graduated in 1981. He and his wife, a 1982 Michigan CoE graduate, became the first couple in Ford history to be assigned to dual international assignments from the outset of the assignment in 1985. Right after they returned from Japan, the first of their three daughters was born.
“My career plan included a great deal of advocating for myself about why I was the right person for the next position in my plan,” he said. “In the end, I achieved my goal in late 1997. The things I innovated are still in place at Ford today.”
Professor Hyde built his career around the Mustang, becoming the “heart and soul” of the best Mustangs built. He was affectionately nicknamed “Mr. Mustang” by his peers and fans alike.
As Mustang Chief Program Engineer, Professor Hyde made the Mustang consistently profitable, raised customer satisfaction, reignited Mustang Clubs all over the globe, created Mustang Alley at the Woodward Dream Cruise, participated on the Mustang Board of Directors, wrote a column for Mustang Times, and oversaw the development of a stream of new Mustangs, including the Bullitt, Mach 1, and the all-new 2005 Mustang that for the first time had its own dedicated platform. These vehicles were widely heralded for producing more power with better styling, higher quality and higher profits.
‘Change of Pace’
His next challenge was increasing the number of shared body and electrical parts within Ford North America. “This new job was central to the Corporate Revitalization Plan and gave me a change of pace, a chance to recharge, and a chance to be with my kids more,” he said.
Other key achievements include leading the 1987 Festiva program which was the first vehicle exported by Kia outside Korea, the 1991 Escort/Tracer program produced in Asia, Africa and the Americas that became one of the top 10 selling vehicles globally and creating the Global Product Development System (GPDS), a lean model-based systems engineering new product creation process used by all Enterprise groups from Planning, Design, Engineering, Purchasing, Finance and Marketing. GPDS reduced timing by 20 percent and on-time program delivery by 80 percent, achieved best-ever product quality levels, and over $2 billion in annual savings. The process was used for all new vehicle and technology development programs by Mazda, Volvo, Jaguar-Land Rover and Aston-Martin and is still being used in all the global Ford Engineering Centers. For the last 10 years of his time at Ford, he led GPDS implementation globally for about 500 programs as well as the continuous improvement of the process process, methods, tool, and business results.
‘I Flunked Retirement’
Over a 40-year Ford Motor Co. career, Professor Hyde gained deep automotive engineering experience in vehicle and technology development, program management, vehicle engineering, and body engineering.
“Both Ford and the Mustang brand represent the core American ideals of egalitarianism, independence, self-determination and self-expression. The challenge of keeping both of them competitive, current and growing for the next generation of leaders and for the world in total was a labor of love,” he said.
During his time at Ford, Professor Hyde was the business leader of the Ford College Graduate Program and was invited to lecture on the world-class engineering of vehicles in the Integrated Vehicle Design class beginning in the early 1990s. He later authored a course on Lean Systems Engineering for ISD (AUTO 512), which he taught at nights for 12 years starting in 2004. Just before he retired from Ford in 2017, this course was re-written to be more Systems Engineering focused. It is now known as ISD 522 Systems Engineering Architecture and Design.
After he retired from Ford, Professor Hyde kept teaching at ISD as an Adjunct Professor. In June 2020, there was an opportunity to be appointed an Associate Professor and Program Director of Automotive Engineering. He leapt at the opportunity to make a difference to the students, as well as invigorate the program, position it for the new reality of the automotive industry, and infuse it with more experiential engineering learning opportunities.
“It was a crowning achievement in my life,” he said. “Within a week of finding out that I would be appointed to this full-time position, though, my wife of 38 years passed away after a three-year struggle with ALS. It has been very bitter sweet, but she wanted me to do this as much as I did.”
Professor Hyde is focused on ensuring ISD is recognized as a preeminent educational center for developing solutions for complex socio-technical problems. As part of that, he is striving to ensure the Michigan Automotive Program is among the top global graduate programs for preparing and inspiring students to become the leaders who will engage in the rapid technological and business restructuring of the Automotive Industry to create the optimal transportation solutions the world needs going forward. Tactically, the first step he took was to improve existing courses and develop the new courses needed to enable students to understand and be effective in the new world of the automotive industry and a variety of other complex product industries (aerospace, appliances, telecommunication, and medical products).
In 2020, he renovated the AUTO 501 Integrated Vehicle Design class to connect the lectures of industry experts to a full semester product creation project to enable them to demonstrate application of the concepts the lecturers were talking about and to bring technical leadership debates into the class to broaden the perspectives of students for the socio-technical and business issues they will face on the job. He also created a new course on the Fundamentals of Vehicle Dynamics to better link first principle vehicle physical behavior with the vehicle parameters that influence them. The class was inspired by a class he took through the SAE with U-M Professor Tom Gillespie who taught it 50 percent in a classroom and 50 percent on the test track.
“We can’t take students on a test track, but we can give them a taste of it using state-of-the-art vehicle simulation software,” Professor Hyde said. “During this summer we were gifted a vehicle simulator by Mechanical Simulation Corporation who created the vehicle dynamics application we use, CarSim. It has been set up in UMTRI just a short walk from the new Ford Robotics building on North Campus. The plan is to have students experience their assignments on this simulator and project teams, such as M-Racing and Solar Car use it to become more competitive.”
Lastly, Professor Hyde has been spending many hours each week advising students on how best to extract maximum value from the Michigan experience and how to attract employers. “Helping students to define their career goals and then getting them on the right track to achieve them is very rewarding,” he said.
‘People Matter Most’
Professor Hyde’s hobbies include collecting and playing guitars, playing pickleball, tennis and golf, spending time with his grandchildren, and working on his four classic cars in his brand new “monster” garage. One of his cars is a 2015 Shelby GT350R he drives at track events at speeds up to 165 MPH.
“In the time since my wife passed, I work on my collection of cars,” he said. “I hoped it would make me excited, but frankly working with the students and seeing my three daughters and two grandchildren brings me more joy than the garage, cars, or guitars could ever do. I guess this is the real lesson – people matter most.”