Herd studied at St Peter's College, Oxford, having turned down an offer to play cricket for Worcestershire at the age of 18. He initially entered Oxford with a scholarship to study mathematics, however he switched subjects and graduated with a double first in physics and engineering, before joining the Royal Aircraft Establishment in 1961 as a design engineer on the Concorde supersonic aircraft project, focussing on computational fluid dynamics. He worked on the Concorde project for four years and was eventually promoted to senior scientific officer at the age of 24.
He was recruited by McLaren in 1965, having been alerted to an engineering vacancy with the constructor by former school friend and racing driver Alan Rees, and worked on cars, such as the Mallite-bodied M2A test car for the Firestone tire company. The M2A subsequently evolved into the Formula One M2B car. Herd stayed with McLaren until 1968 — during which time he designed their M4B, M5A and M7 Formula One cars, as well as the successful M6A Can-Am car — before moving to Cosworth to design a four-wheel drive F1 car. He also carried out work for Frank Williams in late 1969, modifying Williams' Brabham BT26 to take a Ford Cosworth DFV to enter Piers Courage in Formula One. He co-founded March Engineering with Max Mosley, Alan Rees and Graham Coaker in 1969. The team completed 207 Formula One Grand Prix races between 1970 and 1992, winning three with four pole positions. In addition they enjoyed a great deal of success in Formula Two, and in the 1980s they made a successful foray into Indycars, with March cars winning the Indianapolis 500 for five successive years from 1983 to 1987.
He sold March Racing to the Japanese property company Leyton House in 1989 and created Robin Herd Ltd., a design office in Bicester. He quit racing in 1995 and bought Oxford United Football Club, becoming chairman, and also established a company investigating natural ways of producing energy. He resigned from his duty as chairman in 1998, and formed an Indy Racing League team called March Indy International in the following year.
- Robin Herd: 1939-2019
- http://www.mso.net, MSO.net. "Robin Herd CBE | BRDC Members". British Racing Drivers' Club. Retrieved 23 June 2016.
- Taylor, Simon (2 October 1969). "Enter the March". Autosport: 18–19.
- Taylor, Simon (March 2010). "Porridge with... Robin Herd". Motor Sport. p. 74. Retrieved 16 November 2015.