BRUSSELS - John Robert Murdoch McLeod, 35, is as pure as the malt whiskey from his boyhood home, Scotland.
He is red-haired and bright-eyed, a man of no more words than necessary to make his point. Inside lives a warm passion for cars in the broadest sense.
That may explain why the three Toyota 'Fun' concept cars, which made their surprising debut at the Frankfurt motor show in September, express so much more emotion than the average Japanese car.
Time still has to tell if his efforts as chief exterior designer at Toyota's EPOC design center will fulfill Toyota's ambition to create a unique European design image. But the acceptance of the Fun concepts is a sign this may happen.
McLeod promises that the production version of the Toyota supermini that will be produced in Valenciennes, France, will look almost identical to the Funtime concept study shown at Frankfurt.
'I always dreamed about cars, from the age of seven,' says McLeod.
The designer was born in Malaysia, moved to Edinburgh and studied industrial design at what is now known as Coventry University in England.
'Formula One was my passion,' he says, 'but that has become too political nowadays.'
When he can, he devotes time to cars of the 1960s and 1970s. His special car at the moment is an early Porsche 928, which he drives for pleasure.
'True, it is not great considering its packaging, but I love that silky V-8 power,' he says. 'And it has some advanced design points, like the integrated body-colored bumpers.'
McLeod's career in automotive design started in 1987 when he was a trainee designer at Rover while in his final year of studies.
A year later he moved to Peugeot's advanced studio in Carrieres-sous-Poissy, France.
There, he contributed to the creation of the Peugeot 806 multipurpose vehicle and derivatives, followed by the Citroen Berlingo and Peugeot Partner.
With modesty he quickly points out that those cars are not his personal designs. 'I only contributed to them,' he says.
In 1993 he went to Toyota EPOC. He began working on the Avensis project, which came to fruition last autumn. Soon afterward he was appointed team leader for the new small car, known as the NBC project. Last April he was named chief designer for exteriors.
McLeod clearly enjoyed the small-car challenge.
Not only was he given responsibility to create Toyota's first all-Europe design, he and his team were involved in the product planning research.
'We had to put a lot of research into the European market,' he recalls. 'Much of it was done by ourselves, with one-quarter scale models, trying out even futuristic one-box designs.
'We found a good compromise. But more important, we were left free to decide what packaging was needed. And the whole process was concluded without time-consuming protocols.'
The creation of the NBC production model was followed by the initiative to conceive the three progressive-looking Fun concept cars for the Frankfurt show.
Over the next couple of months, Toyota will gradually reveal more details of the NBC model, including its name.
About design in general, McLeod wants to make a particular point:
'Of course I feel the awareness to safeguard mobility for the future, but sometimes it is a confusing job,' he says. 'Gasoline won't be available forever and electric power is still far away because battery technology is not yet ready. On the other hand, we cannot be visionaries in hardware, since we do not have control over current market developments.'
McLeod lives a happy life in Belgium. He is married to a French-speaking Belgian woman, and he loves Belgian beers.
Still, in his heart he will remain as Scottish as the purest Talisker and Lagavulin malt whiskies. Even if he might not breathe it every day, he loves the fresh open-air feeling of the Highlands, the mystical atmosphere of foggy weather, and the chance of a game of golf from time to time.