MELVIN BETANCOURT: FORD EXPLORER DESIGNER FINDS INSPIRATION IN LATIN DANCE, ARCHITECTURE
Melvin Betancourt, Exterior Design Manager
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Ford Explorer Exterior Design Manager Melvin – Mel to everyone – Betancourt finds his inspiration from a variety of sources including urban architecture and even Latin dance.
A New York City native, Betancourt lived in four of the five boroughs growing up. He started collecting Hot Wheels® in 1968, a passion that continues to this day. Strongly influenced by the 1970 Mustang Boss 302 his father purchased brand new, Betancourt’s passion for cars led to a profession.
As a young man, Betancourt aspired to own an automotive service garage in New York. To that end, he attended Automotive High School to earn his mechanic’s certifications. During his senior year, he attended a school assembly where automotive design was discussed and concept cars were presented. Betancourt was transfixed.
He then learned about the transportation design program at Detroit’s College for Creative Studies (CCS). Betancourt moved to the Detroit area, landing an illustrator job at Chrysler Tank Command, and started at CCS. Within a year, he was a drafting detailer with General Motors Engineering. Transferring to GM Design, he became a technical illustrator, and eventually landed a design internship.
Upon earning his bachelor of fine arts from CCS, Betancourt was appointed to a design position with Ford, and over 23 years with the company he has contributed to numerous products. These include several Lincoln models, the 1999 and 2005 Mustang, the 2007 Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX, and now the next-generation Explorer.
Betancourt serves as Ford Design representative to the automotive aftermarket and the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA). Nuts-and-bolts technical training combined with an artistic eye and his unbridled passion for all things automotive has helped Betancourt to elevate the company’s profile within the SEMA community.
Betancourt has an appreciation for urban architecture, and this special interest is a source of inspiration for the designer.
“Architecture and the next-generation Explorer are all about stance and proportions,” Betancourt said. “These elements make the Explorer so fresh and contemporary.”
Betancourt’s cultural roots in Spanish Harlem have instilled in him a love of Latin dancing. This lifelong passion, as both enthusiastic participant and appreciative spectator, has enabled a unique perspective for inspiring Explorer design.
“I’ve always found dancing helps release energy, relax me and clear my mind,” he said. “Yet I also look to professional dancers for design inspiration, too. I see form, line and muscle tone in a dancer’s body – just as I see these things in a modern, contemporary SUV. That’s why the new Explorer looks ripped and toned, athletic and graceful.”
Personal Insights and Fun Facts
- An enthusiastic yachtsman, Mel owned a Sea Ray 33-foot Sundancer cruiser, extensively used in exploring the Great Lakes surrounding Michigan
- Since 1968, Mel has been an avid collector of Hot Wheels vehicles, larger scale-model cars, and radio-controlled cars and trucks
- Mel is a passionate fan of Latin dancing, combining exercise, culture and performance art
- When Mel was 9, he was profoundly influenced by his father’s purchase of a 1970 Mustang Boss 302 that remained in the Betancourt family through two generations
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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 andMercury, production of which has been announced by the company to be ending in the fourth quarter of 2010, 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.
July 26, 2010