Scotsman Ian Callum is a rock star among automotive designers.

Ford recruited him in 1978 upon graduating from London’s Royal College of Art, and he spent the next 12 years working in the auto maker’s design studios in the U.K., Japan, Australia, Germany and the U.S.

Callum has worked subsequently for Ghia, TWR, Holden, Aston Martin, Volvo, Rover, Nissan and Mazda. He joined Jaguar in 1999 and now is director of design.

At the recent launch of Jaguar’s all-new F-Type roadster, Callum talks about the battle over a red exterior.

I always loved red cars. When we launched the XFR (in 2009), red was in the color palette for the XF, so I insisted on red for it. I drove one myself. We always had Salsa Red in the palette the past few years.

We’re always working two to three years ahead. For some reason, red had come out of our sequencing for what turned out to be this model year. I reluctantly agreed to it because I was convinced nobody bought red cars anymore. Look at the charts and the numbers, and that, in fact, was the case.

I thought, it’s a shame because red in the U.K. was a very popular color for a long time, but people like to buy greys and whites and blacks now and that’s the way it is.

So, I can’t remember the exact event of me conceding to the fact that red wouldn’t be there any longer, but it happened. And we got to about six months out on the F-Type launch (about nine months ago), and I said to my color materials team, “What we’ve got to do is get the F-Type model and paint it Salsa Red.”

What I was informed of was, “Ian, we’ve taken red out of the palette.”

I said, “That can’t be possible. We have a 2-seater sports car here. We have to have red.”

There was a lot of debate, and even my own designers were saying, “Well, actually we don’t think it’s going to work. We don’t think it’s going to sell.” Even the marketing people were reluctant because they hadn’t been selling any red cars.

I said, “Listen guys, we’re doing a red-blooded 2-seater sports car. Red is coming back in.”

They said, “We can’t because we have a finite number of colors.”

I said, “Well, take a color out.” I can’t remember what color it was, probably a grey. We have a lot of them. And I put red back in. I didn’t even have a discussion. I just did it. And we made sure the first cars we painted were, in fact, Salsa Red.

There is another red, a dark metallic red. It’s Italian racing red – very intense, beautiful. But it doesn’t have the purity of Salsa Red. The F-Type needs to be red-blooded Salsa Red. Nice thing is, we’re now developing a new red for a couple years’ time to replace the Salsa, because we discovered the red actually is popular after all.

Lo and behold, in our order line, it’s one of the most popular colors we’ve got. I walked down the assembly line (in Castle Bromwich) the other day as we’ve started to build the cars in series, and almost every second or third car is Salsa Red.

So I rest my case.

The F-Type goes on sale in the U.S. later this month, and Jaguar reports Salsa Red has a 15% take rate among U.S. orders. It’s the third highest, behind Polaris White and Ultimate Black.

tmurphy@wardsauto.com