This Month In Ford's History - July
July 1924: Ford announces its intention to build a huge new factory at Dagenham
July 1941: Patrick Hennessy, chairman of Ford in Britain, knighted for his work at the Ministry of Aircraft Production
July 1947: Production of the new V8 Pilot model begins at Dagenham
July 1956: Delivery of the first parts from the new Aveley parts centre
July 1969: Jackie Stewart driving a Ford-Cosworth DFV-powered Matra wins the British Grand Prix
July 1974: Roger Clark wins the Tour of Britain Rally in an Escort RS2000 – the first of three consecutive RS2000 victories in that event
July 1982: The very last Cortina is built at Dagenham
July 1986: Customer deliveries begin of the Sierra RS Cosworth
July 2000: The last Ford Escort is built at Halewood on Merseyside
Although established at Trafford Park, Manchester, since 1911, Ford of Britain needed space for future expansion. After a nationwide search, the company found a marshy site in Essex, near the village of Dagenham. During 1924 the company bought an initial 295 acres from Samuel Williams & Co., who owned the nearby Dagenham Dock. The land cost £150,000. Construction began in 1929 with vehicle production begining in 1931. In total the Dagenham project was to cost £5 million.
Patrick Hennessy took over as general manager of Ford of Britain in 1939, transferring from Ford's Cork-based operations in Ireland. He was seconded to the Ministry of Aircraft Production to oversee the motor industry's wartime efforts and was knighted in 1941. After the war SirPatrick became managing director of Ford of Britain, chairman in 1956 and finally retired in 1963.
In 1947 Ford of Britain announced its first post-war V8-engined model, the Pilot. This was the latest in a successful series of V8-powered cars The first had been sold in Britain in 1932, with the first UK-built V8s following in 1935. The Pilot was fitted with an 85bhp/3.6 litre V8 power unit, delivering a top speed of 83mph. More than 22,000 Pilots would be built in the next four years.
Sales of Ford's British products – cars, vans, trucks and tractors – rose so fast in the 1950s that new premises for the service parts side of the business were needed to relieve pressure on the Dagenham site. Ford therefore built a huge, new parts supply facility a few miles away at Aveley. The first parts were delivered to Ford dealers in July 1956. This was also the home of the Advanced Vehicle Operations group in the 1970s and the manufacturing base for the Ford Escort RS range and the Escort Mexico. Although now used for other purposes, the Aveley plant is still an important part of Ford's vehicle operations.
By 1969 the Ford-Cosworth DFV engine was already the dominant power unit in Formula One racing. At Silverstone in July of that year Jackie Stewart won the British Grand Prix driving a DFV-powered Matra. This was the DFV's 21st World Championship success. It was also Jackie's 5th F1 victory of the season at the end of which he would become World Drivers' Champion. Jackie would also rely on Ford-Cosworth engines for his World Drivers' Champion successes in 1971 and 1973.
In the 1970s the Tour of Britain was promoted for near-standard road-specification saloon cars, in a unique three-day format of races and rallies, all linked by long road sections. This was ideal for Ford's versatile rally-proved Escorts. The nimble RS2000 had a perfect specification for such a grueling event. Roger Clark and Jim Porter won the 1974 event, with team mate Gerry Marshall close behind in second place. Escort RS2000s would complete a hat-trick by winning the Tour of Britain in 1975 and 1976
The very first Cortina was built at Dagenham in 1962 and went on to break every British sales record. Twenty years and more than four million cars later, the very last Cortina rolled off the Dagenham production lines. During its life the Cortina headed British sales charts for year after year. This was the most versatile car which Ford had so far produced. Not only were there five distinctly different models, but each was available with a choice of engines, options and accessories. The Cortina also headed Ford's burgeoning motorsport programme, become a World Champion in rallies and on the race track.
To develop a new contender for world-wide saloon car racing in the mid-1980s, Ford Motorsport and Special Vehicle Engineering experts co-operated with Cosworth in the design of the new Sierra RS Cosworth. Distinguished by its huge, but functional, rear spoiler, the new model used a 204bhp turbocharged 16-valve engine, which delivered a 150mph top speed. More than 5,000 Sierra RS Cosworths were produced before the end of 1986. In later years the Sierra RS and RS500 Cosworths were so dominant in motor racing the championship regulations were often re-written, to exclude them.
Thirty one years after Escort assembly had begun at the Halewood plant near Liverpool, the last Escort was built on July 21, 2000. Already succeeded by the popular and award-winning Focus range, the Escort was a best- seller until the end of its production run. More than 5.2 million Escorts were assembled at Halewood with millions more built at other Ford plants around the world. After the Escort had retired, the Halewood factory was re-equipped and now manufactures the Jaguar X-Type range.