Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ford of Britain Turns 100

We don't see many of them on the roads these days, but at one time the best selling imported car brand in the USA was Ford. That's right, the quintessential "English Ford" was the nation's leading automotive import in 1950. This week the maker of those cars turns 100.

A bug's rear - geddit?
Ford of Britain traces their roots back to the first batch of American built Model A vehicles imported in 1903. In 1911, Ford opened an assembly plant in Manchester in a former trolley car factory. Employing 60 people, the factory assembled cars from imported American mechanical components with the bodies supplied by UK manufacturers. The enterprise was so successful that a new plant was built in 1914 utilizing the moving assembly line perfected by Ford in the US. The British driver regarded Ford products so highly that, just 5 years later, 41% of all cars registered in the UK were Fords.

By the time the second World War ended, the UK was in dire financial straits and an "export or die" decree went out from the government. The need for foreign currency to pay off war debts was urgent and Ford of Britain realized that their very survival depended on exporting cars. A ready market was found in North America.

Although not the first time British Fords were shipped to Canada, they especially embraced these post-war small cars built by a familiar name. In 1950, Canadians bought almost 15,000 UK Fords. America took in just over 1,800 but our interest in smaller cars was a bit behind that of our neighbors to the north. 

Worldwide, by 1955, Ford of Britain exported over one million vehicles, almost one quarter of all British vehicle exports. By 1970, over 250,000 British built Ford cars and trucks had been sold in the US and Canada.

Probably all of us interested in British cars had some experience with an "English Ford" at one time or another. I hope you would share your experiences with me in the comments sections.

Happy Birthday, Ford of Britain.       


  1. I'm afraid I didn't even know English Fords were imported to North America until I bought a started researching my Anglia, boy have I learned a lot since then!

  2. James, you run an absolutely grand web site!


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