This Month In Ford's History - April
April 1925 – Trafford Park builds its 250,000th Model T
April 1944 – 10,000th Ford-engined Bren Gun Carrier leaves Dagenham factory
April 1947 - Henry Ford dies at his home in Dearborn aged 83
April 1948 – First shipment of British-built Fords to the USA
April 1964 – First GT40 built and revealed in public
April 1966 – Launch of Zephyr/Zodiac Mk IV range
April 1968 – First Escort Twin-Cam victories in international rallies
April 1984 – New Ford 1.6-litre diesel engine introduced for Fiesta/Escort/Orion
April 1984 – Ford industry first with availability of direct-injection diesel in Transit
Henry Ford's first overseas assembly plant was in Trafford Park, Manchester and in 1925, 14 years after the factory first opened, the 250,000th British-built Model T was produced. Between 1911 and 1927 no fewer than 301,980 Model Ts were assembled there, out of a world-wide total of just over 15 million.
The Bren Gun Carrier was the forerunner of today's Armoured Personnel Carrier. Powered by a Ford V8 engine, this tracked vehicle was capable of carrying fully-armed troops and defend itself against attack. The 10,000th vehicle was produced in this month at Dagenham; by the end of the war almost 14,000 had been assembled there – along with a further 44,000 in Ford's Canadian factories
Born in Michigan in 1863 of immigrant Irish parents, Henry Ford was destined not to follow his father into farming. Instead, his fascination with mechanical devices and his undoubted engineering and business talents took him on to greater things. Henry built his first experimental car, the Quadricycle, in 1896 and established what we now know as Ford Motor Company in 1903. By the time Henry died in 1947 aged 83 he had already passed on the reins of the company to his grandson, Henry Ford II.
The first export shipment of British Ford products to the USA comprised a mix of Anglia and Prefect saloons. The sale of these cars was co-ordinated from offices at New York's Grand Central Station and the prices of these 30bhp/1172cc-engined cars were set at less than $1,000 – much cheaper than any Ford US product. American consumer preferences for larger, bigger-engined automobiles meant that sales of British Ford cars were always quite small. Nevertheless exports of British Fords continued until the 1970s.
The Ford GT40 was designed to bring racing success to the Ford oval. And the Le Mans race was very much in the company's sights. Designed and developed in Britain by a multi-national team and built at the company's specially-established Advanced Vehicle Organisation near Slough in Berkshire, the Ford GT40 was a great success, winning Le Mans four times (1966, 1967, 1968 and 1969) out of six starts. Ford GT40s won many other races besides Le Mans and, in so doing, it has become a Ford – and motorsport – icon.
The all-new fourth generation of Dagenham-built Zephyrs and Zodiacs were larger and more spacious than before and featured all-independent suspension, four-wheel disc brakes and a new design of V4 and V6 engines. Power steering and automatic transmission were among the options. Noted for their long-bonnet/short-bootlid style, these new models were available as four-door saloons or five-door estate cars. By the time they were replaced by the Granada range in 1972, almost 150,000 had been built and sold.
Introduced in January 1968, the Ford Escort Twin-Cam was the most powerful version of Ford's brand-new small car. Britain's Roger Clark gave the Twin-Cam its first two international rally victories in April 1968, on the Circuit of Ireland and – two weeks later – in the International Tulip Rally in the Netherlands. The Escort Twin-Cam was the first of a legendary line of Escorts which recorded thousands olf motorsport victories over the next thirty years.
In answer to growing customer demand, Ford introduced its first passenger car application of a diesel engine this year, with the launch of a 1.6-litre unit for the Fiesta, Escort and Orion cars. Manufactured at Dagenham – now Ford's global center of excellence for diesel engines – the new engine's modest 54bhp power delivered outstanding fuel economy in the cars; at a steady 50mph the Fiesta recorded almost 70mpg. This same month Ford scored an industry first with the introduction in the Transit range of a direct-injection diesel engine.