Callum’s father, a solicitor, wasn’t a car man, but it was still a big day in 1960 when the family acquired its first car, a pre-war Standard Flying Ten, although it didn’t last that long.
“Its arrival was a source of fascination for me,” Callum recalls. “I was already drawing lots of cars, and I can remember being fascinated by the curves of the Standard’s front wings. I used to climb on top and slide down them, which my father didn’t like. And I was fascinated by what I saw as the sporty rake of the rear. It wasn’t a sporty car, but it looked good to me.”
The family used the Standard for regular trips to Edinburgh from home in Dumfries, but it was already an old car and it didn’t last; Callum remembers his dad arriving home from work on foot one day, saying the car wouldn’t be back because its engine had fallen out. “He became a Vauxhall Victor man after that.”
When he was about 11, Callum went away to boarding school and soon noticed that other kids’ parents drove Rovers and Jaguars, not a battered old Victor like his own. His often-expressed wish that the family had something more interesting must have been partly responsible for their acquiring a Ford Zephyr Mk4, the 2.0-litre V4 model.
“It was quite a novel car,” says Callum, “with that long, aircraft-carrier bonnet and short boot. The engine was so tiny they could mount the spare wheel in front of it, behind the radiator. I loved that car. We had it for years and it eventually got pretty beaten up. It taught me to drive and I used to tear around Dumfries in it, loaded up with mates. It had a big, wide front bench seat and a column gearchange, so we could go six up.”
It was perfectly apparent by then that Callum was heading for a car design career, and the family used the Zephyr to drive to Coventry’s Lanchester Polytechnic (now Coventry University), where a course in Transport Design had just begun and young Callum had organised an interview. “I drove the Zephyr into the front of a bus and totalled it,” he recalls. “We had to drive home in a hired Morris Marina.”
Coventry didn’t work for Callum the first time around. A combination of illness and a general dislike of the city’s forbidding 1971 ambience meant he eventually trained at what he calls “an eclectic mix of colleges”: a reluctant year at Lanchester, then Aberdeen, Glasgow and finally postgraduate studies at the Royal College of Art in London, where he was sponsored by Ford.