Gene Martindale grew up in a small town in Indiana, tinkering with tractors on the family farm.
These days the vehicles he works on go a whole lot faster. In fact, the SVT development engineer and lead test driver is a confirmed car fanatic who lives and breathes racing. No surprise then that he played a key role in developing the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor, a high-speed off-road performance truck destined to take desert pre-running by storm.
Martindale not only developed the truck, he also was a driver on the team that raced the F-150 SVT Raptor R – the racing version of the production truck – at the Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 last year.
“Raptor proved it could handle whatever the Baja 1000 threw at us,” he said. “This was one of the defining moments in my career – driving a truck I had spent so much time on, in such an unbelievable race.”
A childhood goal of designing and racing cars led Martindale from Vincennes, Ind., to Purdue University, where he earned a degree in mechanical engineering. From there, the Boilermaker headed to the University of Michigan for a master’s degree in the same field.
Directly out of college, he took a job with Chrysler Corp., where he joined the Viper engineering group, working on the Viper street car and the Viper Le Mans race car. It was one of the most memorable products of his career, he said.
“With the Dodge Viper GTS-R Le Mans race car, we showed that an American car company and group of American engineers and drivers could beat the best European vehicles at the 24 Hours of Le Mans… not unlike the GT40 of the 1960s.” (Ford’s high-performance GT40 won Le Mans four times in a row, from 1966 to 1969.)
After that stint, Martindale took his experience to the track, racing full-time for a year in the American Le Mans Series. “Racing is my number one passion,” he asserts.
Joining Ford in 2002 to work on the modern Ford GT, Martindale now spends his days in what he considers the perfect position.
“I’m in my dream assignment at Ford,” he said. “Well, maybe if I were a full-time factory Ford race driver, I guess that would be better… It’s great working in a group like SVT where everyone is a car guy and we can talk about fast cars and racing.”
Martindale indulges his passion in his off time. “I love racing cars, especially sports car endurance racing. I also enjoy motocross and shifter karts. I continue to drive karts and motocross to keep in shape both mentally and physically for racing.”
Needless to say, his garage is a pretty full place. “I have a Datsun 240Z, which I used to race. I have a small formula car, which is being rebuilt to race. I have two motocross bikes and a trials bike. I also have two shifter karts in my garage.”
About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 176,000 employees and about 80 plants worldwide, the company's automotive brands include Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and, until its sale, Volvo. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford's products, please visit www.ford.com.
May 13, 2010