History of Ford manufacturing in the UK
Ford’s manufacturing association with the UK began more than a century ago, starting with the car that originally made the company a global colossus.
The first factory outside North America was opened by Henry Ford in Trafford Park, Manchester, in 1911, to build the Model T, and the company soon became the UK’s largest car-maker.
Further plants were opened in locations such as Dagenham, east London, in 1931, Halewood, Merseyside, in 1962 and Bridgend, South Wales, in 1980.
A strike by female staff at the Dagenham plant in 1968 led to the Equal Pay Act.
The story of the 187 sewing machinists working long hours in poor conditions, who walked out in anger at being reclassified as “unskilled”, was made into a hit 2010 film.
The hugely successful Fiesta model began being built at the factory in 1977, with more than one million produced by 1979.
But, facing a drop in demand and intense competition, Ford stopped building cars in the UK in 2002.
It has continued to manufacture engines in Bridgend and Dagenham, as well as transmissions in Halewood.
In March 2008 Ford sold its luxury UK car brands Jaguar and Land Rover to Tata Motors.
Ford ceased all UK vehicle production in 2013, when its Transit van factory in Southampton closed.
Ford’s cars and vans have added to British popular culture in several ways.
They have featured in many television series, often crime shows, from the Zephyrs driven in 1960s’ show Z Cars through the Cortina and Granada models of The Sweeney, and Bodie and Doyle’s Capri in The Professionals in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Later that decade the Ford Escort XR3i became popular, despite being often lampooned as a “hairdresser’s car”.
The Transit helped spawn the concept of White Van Man, the archetypal sexist, wolf-whistling and speeding van driver who was a danger to other road users.
The best-selling van in the UK for more than a quarter of a century, it was often seen as his weapon of choice because of its ubiquity on the road.