Tucked away in a workshop located a few miles out from the heart of London is a well-kept secret very few are aware of.
Bentley: Hey there! Bentley chiming into this little article here! Now I think it is safe to say that before going to this spectacular little building I was not a great Ford fan, as Liam will rightfully tell you. Give me the odd Mustang or F150 from the mid ’60s and that is as far as my love for Ford extended.
However, I was not quite aware of how much this secret garden would open my eyes to the true history of Ford, until we entered those large sliding doors. I could now see why Liam had been so excited for this little venture of ours, it is not very often one can say that the earth’s atmospheric pressure was changed like a punch to the chest, magnificence and beauty would be a truly diabolical understatement!
Being that Liam and I both have a very different taste for vehicular manufacturing years and their coherent styling, I will now pass this article over to him, to give you the low-down on all the 80’s cool!
Liam: As Bentley mentioned above, the two of us have rather different tastes when it comes to motorised marvels! With myself having Ford so close to my heart, this was a very special and emotional experience. I have grown up around Ford’s manufacturing plant as well as their cars, it was like taking a step back in time to the experiences that my family had in their youth.
Upon entering two aircraft hanger style sliding doors, we were greeted with years of blue oval life, history and heritage that surrounded us in a flash of colour and chrome. Rows upon rows of dust sheet covered icons glistened with pride under dim fluorescent lighting.
Both of our mouths were wide open at the astonishing sight of rare bundles of every man’s dream that were sprawled in front of our eyes. I myself couldn’t ever imagine as a young boy that I’d one day be given the opportunity to be in the presence of these icons! But with Bentley’s mind now turned into mush as he ventured further into the warehouse.
Bentley: With my eyes darting around for American muscle, I was surprised to have them land on something I had never expected, a 1953 Taunus Transit! The very beginnings of Ford’s gigantic commercial line we see today. It was absolutely pristine for an obviously well used working van, right down to the original brilliantly maintained faux leather vinyl seating.
Now while I may be personally assassinated by Ford’s crack team of specialist ‘cleaners’ I have to say, I honestly thought this van was a re-modelled version of an early VW van. There are some very definitive styling cues! But the more than likely story is that both companies were ‘borrowing’ one another’s plans at the time. What really threw me with regards to this, however, is that this particular Taunus is a left-hand drive, procuring my initial suspicions into believing Ford had out and out stolen the design.
After taking a few shots of her I moved on once again looking for that prized Mustang… Once again, I was taken entirely by surprise! This time gravitating towards what the chief Ford Heritage mechanic named ‘The epitome of gangster cars!’ A late 1940’s Pilot!
This spectacular machine is encapsulated perfectly in the statement above, it quite literally is a Mafia tank rendered straight from the movies, but what really captured my attention was this car was nothing like the Taunus, it was clearly visible this car was 70 years old and it had been through the rough too! The paintwork and interior had been restored with a lot of respect to the heritage of this iconic time capsule.
The paint had only been repaired where it was needed, but the paint was matched perfectly to the fade of the original, the fabrics had minor tears with little repairs so that further deterioration couldn’t occur yet the originality was kept intact. Given the chance and choice, I would want to take a ride out in this rare beauty than any Mustang you could throw at me, even the glorious aroma of hessian, old leather, oil and fuel that meandered in and out of my sinuses from the cabin and open bonnet was absolutely incredible!
Exiting this historic vehicle I took a wander over to see what Liam was admiring. (No doubt something that likes to get dirty while going sideways!)
Liam: As Bentley very kindly mentioned – Yes. I will be talking about a couple of things that often go very sideways. Introducing the legendary (In my eyes at least) Escort MK II Rally car. For those of you who know me all too well are fully aware that the 1974 – 81 MK II Escorts are one of my all-time favourite cars. In fact, I even own one myself!
The Escort for me, in particular, holds a place close to my heart due to most of my family owning, or driving one in their lifetime. But when opening my eyes and not just focusing on the Escort in the room, I had realised I had walked upon the holy grail of rally motorsport.
RS200’s – In fact 3 of them. Yes, you read that correctly. Three.
As the name gives away, there were only ever 200 of these production cars made that were road legal. Unfortunately the RS200’s full potential never really came to light as a series of incidents stopped group B rally in 1987.
I was also standing in the presence of a car which started a production series that would be known throughout all teen youths of the ’70s and 80s – The 1970 London to Mexico World Rally Cup winner. The Ford Escort 1850GT.
This car to me is everything. This is where Ford, in my opinion, started the first in a very long line of successful rally winning vehicles. The fact that this very car was the reason as to why the Mexico series of Escorts even exists made it so much more important. My heart stopped at the sight of something so special that it wasn’t too long until Bentley had to physically drag me away from it just so I spent some time looking at other gems that were tucked away in this little bit of motoring heaven.
Bentley: It is only right that this article begins its end with the notion of this remarkable piece of engineering and design. A true market leader and the blissful machine that brought us mass-market motoring consumerism! With Liam now inadvertently sulking while being dragged by his ears across the warehouse floor, I stood him and myself in front of the three Ford Model T’s they have, all freshly back from a countryside tour, one of which was still covered in mud from where it had been driven across fields to its display area, That is correct! This car, along with all the others in this building are not in any shape or form, ‘trailer queens’.
Of which, far too many examples, unfortunately, find themselves turning into amongst private collections! These model T’s featuring two coupe’s and a rare 4 door version show many of the exemplary advancements in the short space of time that they were manufactured, going from carriage like interior design and basic mechanical functions, to locking doors and and an impressive interior not dissimilar to what we continue to see up until the late ’60s!
I’d give my right arm to drive one of these surprisingly nimble gentle giants, however, according to the friendly chief mechanic you need to be specially trained to drive them as their pedals and gearing works nothing like the system we know of today! Now that all that shiny brass had finally captured the attention of Liam, he had unbelievably stopped sulking… were they now tears? He’s an emotional fellow!
Liam: Emotional? How dare you sir! In reality – Bentley is correct, I’m not normally the kind of chap to be overwhelmed by such old cars, but something about the model T’s captivated my mind and imagination of what it must of been like for someone seeing a car for the first time, wondering if they knew that one day, anyone could own one! The fact that even a young lad or girl could do a little after school job and earn enough cash for their first set of wheels really shows how the automotive industry has evolved. But I’m getting sidetracked let’s get back on topic.
A particular car that caught my eye wasn’t exactly old or iconic – but was the new 2016 Ford Mustang. The thing that made this individual Mustang so special though was the fact it was the first ever right-hand drive model to enter the UK. The very first one! How crazy is that?
Its sleek and aggressive looking design took me completely by surprise. Now I throw my hands up – I admit, I’m not a massive fan of muscle cars but the new Mustang is one that I genuinely would own, particularly as a daily driver. It’s also surprisingly practical considering what was under that bonnet. My opinion is that it is essentially an affordable supercar. Sheer brute power with a sprinkle of reality to bring it back down to earth – I’d love to get my hands on one for a drive one day!
Bentley: And on that note, we have found Liam’s secret love for muscle cars, I dare say that makes us even! With the stunning Mustang in our wake, we wandered towards the exit, passing cars as they dazzled us with their history, lights flickering off and leaving the cars in a sullen murky glow from the tiny skylights above us. Even then as we both looked back pondering the breathtaking experience, they glistened with keen temptation, urging us back for more!
And come back we shall indeed! Before the final set of lights went out, we found one last staggering piece of automobile history, The Ford GT40, this particular one was a 2005 but the lines, right down the the dash board trim were heavily inspired by the original, of which there are two at Ford Heritage, one a 1960’s Le Mans winner and the other the pace car for the same series.
Bringing the gigantic blue shutter to a close with a light tap and plunging the stunning example of a Flatbed Model A into total darkness, we jumped into my Beetle both silently struck down emotionally and physically by one of the most privileged experiences of our young lives!