Icons of the automotive world will long be remembered.
Every year, someone quips that so many famous people died, but logic dictates that every year, a whole load of people are going to die. That's the way of life. But in the automotive industry, a lot of really cool car people died in 2021. Influential across all spheres of the industry, they ranged from racers to designers, to visionaries that created icons of the car world. In addition to all the cars we bid goodbye to in 2021, these are the great people we lost this year:
Everyone knows J.D. Power as the authority for car reliability and quality. The establishment has become a go-to for reputable reliability ratings and J.D. Power surveys for initial quality, reliability, appeal, and more. But it was J.D. "Dave" Power III that started it all back in 1968.
If you grew up watching Formula 1, you grew up listening to Murray Walker. A titan of motorsports, the commentator spent more than 50 years in motorsports and more than two decades covering Formula 1. Murray's passion for F1 was second to none, famous for his so-called 'Murrayisms' or gaffs made in his hasty commentary. The excitement in his voice was palpable, and even after decades in the sport, every race was brought to life by Walker's voice. With the excitement that was the 2021 F1 season, we can only imagine how thrilling Murray's commentary would've been. He passed away at the age of 97, but his passion, spirit, and enthusiasm will always be remembered.
The big C claimed another victim in March in Sabine Schmitz. The Queen of the Nurburgring, as she was known to many, is the only woman to have won the Nurburgring 24 Hours and shot to fame when she appeared on Top Gear before becoming a regular host. Her memory was honored with a corner on the Nurburgring named after her.
If you've ever played with a Hot Wheels toy, there's a chance Ryu Asada was the man who designed it. He was responsible for most modern Hot Wheels interpretations, leaving his mark with his name stamped somewhere on the vehicles. Unfortunately, he left the world too soon at the age of 42, after losing his battle with cancer.
Joining Ford in 1969, Parry-Jones's influence is undeniable. Many don't know his name, but you'll know the products he oversaw the development of - the Ford Mondeo/Contour, Fiesta, and Ford Focus being three of the most important. He was influential in Ford's acquisition of Jaguar Land Rover, Volvo, Mazda, Lincoln, and Aston Martin, too. Sadly, he parted ways with the world earlier this year in a tragic tractor accident.
Robert William Unser, better known as Bobby, was an American racer and Motorsports Hall of Famer, famous for his1968 and 1974 US Automobile Club championship titles, his Indianapolis 500 wins in 1968, 1975, 1981, and 1975, and a representative for the US at the International Race of Champions. He even had a brief stint in F1 with BRM. Sadly, the larger-than-life racer passed away of natural causes in May this year.
Jack Ingram was a Nascar Short-Track Hall of Famer with more than 300 races to his name. Prolific during the 1970s, he participated in any race he could. He was more than just talented, however as he was named the Most Popular Driver in the Budweiser Late Model Sportsman Series in 1982.
American motorsports and Bob Bondurant go hand-in-hand. He was an icon that raced for Carroll Shelby as well as Scuderia Ferrari in Formula 1, but became a household name for American auto enthusiasts with the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving, which taught enthusiasts how to handle their cars.
Frank Williams may have been lesser-known as a driver, but his impact on Formula 1 was massive. As the founder of Williams F1, he paved the way for drivers, engineers, and designers in the sport, amassing nine constructor's titles, second only to Ferrari.
Al Unser Sr. was brother to Bobby Unser and a Hall of Famer himself with a successful career in IndyCar and 39 wins to his name. He was the second of only four men to have won the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race four times, and he was the winner of the National Championship in 1970, 1983, and 1985.
Shunji Tanaka was known to few, but CarBuzz broke the news earlier this month that he had passed away quietly at the age of 75. Tanaka was most regarded for his work in designing the original NA Mazda Miata, a car that became an icon of the automotive landscape.
No less influential was Hazel Chapman. Wife to Colin Chapman, she was instrumental in the founding of Lotus and all its road-car and racing endeavors and was heavily involved with Lotus even in the last few years.