At left, a 24-year-old Jamie...
At left, a 24-year-old Jamie poses with his first new car, an '87 GT convertible ordered immediately after joining Ford Motor Company.
He's one of those driven souls who practically glow with boundless energy-like a 120-volt light bulb drawing juice from a 240-volt circuit-and, as Ford's new director of North America Motorsports, Jamie Allison is certainly in a position to put that over-revving enthusiasm to good use. Despite the job title, his responsibilities include overseeing not just the company's continental race efforts, but also the Ford Racing Performance Parts business that is so familiar and important to all who read this magazine.
Having been with Ford Racing since 2003, Jamie's ascent to the division's top seat came in January of this year, taking over the role from Brian Wolfe (who moved on to another posting in FoMoCo's corporate universe). Over that 7-year span, Jamie has been instrumental in bringing to market such programs as Ford Racing's turn-key racecars (FR500S, FR500C, Cobra Jet, Boss 302R, and so on), and the FRPP catalog's cost-effective, bundled S197 Handling, Power, and Super Packs.
Looking back, the course of Jamie's life is living proof of the American Dream. Born in Lebanon, his family managed to escape that country's civil wars in the late '70s and immigrated to Dearborn, Michigan, where he already had three uncles in the employ of Detroit's Big Three. Always a "car guy" and indelibly influenced by a fast-driving father, Jamie earned his electrical engineering degree from the University of Michigan and set his sights on the automotive business.
Says Jamie: "You can't grow up in Dearborn and not have your life shaped by Ford." In January of 1987, at 24 years of age, he signed on with the company under the Ford College Graduate program and immediately ordered his first new car-a Mustang GT convertible. Regrettably, ownership of that Fox ragtop was cut short after it suffered the bad luck of getting caught in a flash flood-with Jamie stuck behind the wheel.
We tried to recreate that...
We tried to recreate that pose with his latest ride, a new 5.0 ragtop, received just days before our interview. In between, he has had examples of nearly every V-8 Mustang produced between 1987 and 2010.
But the bad luck surrounding the earlier purchase of his first car-a '70 Barracuda that he bought from a neighbor of his parents as soon as he turned 16-had been entirely self-inflicted.
"My mom always knew that I lived kinda on the ragged edge of recklessness in terms of driving," says Jamie, "and she didn't want me to buy that car. I bought it anyway for 50 bucks, but in order to drive it on the street, I needed a [license] plate. So my mom watched as I went across the street and took a plate off a van. I put it on my car, went for a drive-when I came back, the cops were waiting for me."
Yup, his own mother had turned him in. The Barracuda was impounded; the fine to get it back was $250-which Jamie couldn't afford-so he sold it to a friend and that was the end of his first car.
That brush with the law didn't deter him, and Jamie's career at Ford began on the engineering side, yet he professes to have always had a knack for business and so decided to supplement his original degree with an MBA. That business degree opened even more doors inside the company, and Jamie gradually worked his way through positions on both the product and marketing sides of Ford's corporate ladder-quite unusual as most automotive careers are normally spent wholly within one discipline or the other.
Those parallel paths ultimately converged in 2003 when he got a call about an position for which the ideal candidate would have both product and marketing experience. That position involved overseeing the performance parts side of Ford Racing, and because of his uniquely varied corporate background, Jamie turned out to be that ideal candidate.
When he arrived at FRPP, Jamie noticed that the parts catalog of the day was dominated by pushrod race hardware. "There was something missing," he says, "and that was a connection to stuff we sell today." So he prioritized development and engineering of the now-familiar Handling and Power Packs for the then-new S197 Mustangs, which proved popular not only with FRPP dealers and enthusiasts, but also with certain folks in Las Vegas, who used them in creating the '06 GT-H and other Shelby models.
Taking a cue from Porsche, he also saw a market for turnkey race cars, the result was the road-race FR500C, FR500S, FR500GT, and new Boss 302R models, along with the '08 and '10 versions of the drag-race Cobra Jets (FR500CJ), all of which have done well, both on track and on the corporate ledger sheets. Another recent program that bears Jamie's fingerprint is the Ford Performance Group website, an umbrella site helping to bring together various existing Ford/Mercury/Shelby enthusiast clubs.
Everyone has his own management style, and Jamie's seems to be lead by enthusiasm. We sat down with him for a quick Q&A session just a few days after taking delivery of his latest Mustang, an '11 GT convertible that, given the man's itchy-trigger right foot, will be a great testbed for FRPP's '11 parts and calibrations.