At a location near Ford’s giant engine factory in Dagenham in Essex, just east of London, lies some of the company’s most treasured possessions.
There, the British arm of the American giant stores a number of rare machines – either one-off prototypes, or survivors of long-superseded model lines that once ran to millions.
Our colleague Claire Evans was recently invited for an exclusive look through it. Join us for a rummage through the enticing collection:
Ford Cortina Crusader (1982)
The Crusader was a final run-out model in 1982. It featured a 1.6-liter 72bhp Pinto engine, good enough for a top speed of 94mph. It cost £5435 in 1982, the equivalent to £19,000 today ($25,000) – more or less what you’ll pay to get into a Mondeo in fact if you haggle hard enough.
With 30,000 sold, it was almost embarrassingly successful. Indeed, to this day it’s Ford's best-selling special edition model in the UK, and buyers opted it for it instead of the Cortina’s replacement, the controversial Sierra, which was hardly the intention.
Ford (Ferguson) Capri 4x4 (1971)
Did you know that there was a four-wheel drive Capri? Well, we’d forgive you for not knowing, as it never got beyond the prototype stage. Just 17 were built to demonstrate the possibility, but just one it seems survives, and you’re looking at it.
Ford (Ferguson) Capri 4x4 (1971)
Power was from the familiar 3.0-liter V6, usually producing 160bhp, and now tuned to 250bhp to support the extra weight of the Ferguson Formula 4WD system, and all had automatic transmission. Following the ‘race on Sunday, win on Monday’ formula, the idea was that the car would run in rally cross events, but it seems the whole idea was dropped. Boo.
Ford Escort Mexico MK1 (1970)
The Mexico was built to celebrate Ford’s victory in the London-Mexico rally. Sweet to drive, it produced sprightly performance for its day, with 0-60mph completed in 10.7sec, off to a top speed of 100mph. Power came from a 1.6-liter engine, producing 86bhp @ 5500 rpm, with 92 lb ft of torque.
Delightful nimbleness came due to kerb weight of just 850kg (1870 lb), and it proved a popular package; 10,352 were sold over four years. Its price in 1970 was £1,150, or £18,000 ($23,000) in today’s money – just a tad less than you’ll pay now for a Fiesta ST, which in ‘popular performance’ terms is probably the Mexico’s spiritual successor.
Ford Escort RS Cosworth Rally (1993-1996)
The four-wheel drive Escort Cosworth is one of Ford’s most famous cars, not least because it took a nameplate that in period was famously mediocre, and transformed it into something profoundly great. What helped was that despite appearances and name it was no Escort underneath; instead, lay the chassis and mechanicals of the Sierra Cosworth.
Delivering 224bhp from a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine in standard form, this model here is the Group A rally car that competed in 1997 with driver Juha Kankkunen at the wheel. Rally spec delivered 310bhp, and a claimed 0-60mph time in just 3sec.
Ford Fiesta ST Rally (2006)
Here’s another interesting rally car, this time one based on the Fiesta Mk5. Sponsored by the world’s finest car magazine, it competed in the Junior World Rally Championship. Modest power of 150bhp may not sound much, but we’re certain it was great fun driving this front-wheel drive car at heroic speeds. It competed in 2006-2010, and weighed 1137kg (2501 lb).
Ford Focus Hatch (1998)
The Focus Mk1 put Ford properly back on the family hatchback map with its strong handling, sharp looks and everyday pricing. Produced in 1998-2004, this particular example featured a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder petrol engine, producing 130bhp and had a starring role in Autocar.
In November 1998, we borrowed it with the aim of completing 100-laps of London’s M25 orbital motorway in 10 days or less. 25 journalists took the wheel over the period , driving at a steady 70mph where possible. We completed the 11,770 miles in 240 driving hours, at an average speed of 49mph. The challenge went without incident, and the car chalked up 36.3mpg in the process. This particular car was also used by Ford to advertise the merits of the 2009 scrappage scheme.
Ford Focus RS Mk1 (2002)
Great though the Focus was, it was the RS version that cemented the model’s reputation, delivering 212bhp from a turbocharged 2.0-liter, a 0-60 time of 6.3sec, off to a top speed of 143mph.
Its price in 2002 was £20,000, the equivalent of £32,000 ($42,000) today. Weight was 1278kg (2812 lb). Handling was hairy in the hands of the undisciplined, but driven with ahem, focus, delight awaited.
Ford Granada Mk2 2.8iS Ghia (1977)
This rather special early Mk2 Granada was powered by a 2.8-liter ‘Cologne’ V6, that delivered 160bhp. Its special ‘Metric TRX’ alloy wheels are the key indication of an unseen element – this was one of the first Granadas to ever get fuel injection.
And the wheel size meant that only special Michelin TRX tyres designed for the higher powered engine could be fitted.
The Ford GT performed a double-duty for Ford. It helped the company celebrate its 100th birthday in 2003, and also paid homage design-wise to the GT40 model that famously beat Ferrari at LeMans in 1966.
Power came from a 5.4-liter supercharged V8, delivering 550bhp, a 0-60mph time of 3.4sec, and a top speed of 205mph. Despite a relatively large production run of 4038 vehicles delivered worldwide, they’re increasingly valuable. And doesn’t it look splendid, even under a dust sheet?
Ford Mondeo Mk1 (1993)
After the Escort Mk5 disaster, Ford regrouped to reboot its medium car offering, coming up with the Mondeo to replace the Sierra. Its ‘world car’ status could have ensured another fiasco, a car designed for everyone and noone.
Instead, it was a triumph, delivering composed, predictable but enticing handling poise even from a modestly powerful engine. Our verdict at the time? ‘Mondeo is king! The best family car.’
Until 2016, Ford would never officially sell you a Mustang in the UK. So what on earth is this 1967 US import doing in the British collection? Well, this GT390 edition spent its life until 2014 in California’s benign conditions. It was then brought to the UK and restored to its all-original glory, complete with a dark green colour to help it resemble the ‘Stang piloted by Steve McQueen in the famous car chase in the 1968 film Bullitt.
Ford acquired it at auction in 2017, and then quickly pressed it into service to help publicise the new Bullitt edition of the contemporary Mustang, first unveiled in early 2018.
Ford Sierra Cosworth Sapphire 4x4 (1990)
This handsome devil was one of the most desirable Fords you could buy anywhere in 1990. The original Sapphire RS Cosworth arrived in 1988, but the car was upgraded to a four-wheel drive version in 1990. Power came from a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, good for 220bhp, a 0-60mph time of 6.6sec and a top speed of 146mph.
Refinement was high, and secure handling meant this was by far the most pliable fast Sierra, and the police were huge fans of the car as also, unfortunately, were criminals who liked to pinch them.
Ford’s commercial vehicles arm is currently running a ‘Backbone of Britain’ advertising campaign for its various models, none of which are now built in the UK. That wasn’t the case when this very late model Transit emerged from the now-closed Southampton factory in 1984, and it’s certainly hard to imagine a certain aspect of British culture without the ubiquitous Transit van plying its various trades across the land.
Power for this model came from a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine, delivering 65bhp.
Lotus Cortina (1963)
It’s interesting that perhaps Ford’s most famous fast model is also one of the oldest. Its 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine produced 105bhp, which delivered 0.60mph in 10.1sec, and a top speed of 108mph.
But it was the way it did it that really mattered. Deft handling for the time was in part aided by 905kg (1991 lb) in kerb weight; it also brought Lotus glamour to this humdrum family saloon world, complete with white and green paint that separated it forever from lesser brethren. On track, it took Jim Clark to a race series win in 1964. Just 3301 examples were made, and survivors are getting very valuable.