This Month In Ford's History | Part Two

March 1978 Capri


March 1945 - Fordson Major tractor goes into production at Dagenham

Throughout the second world war Ford built tens of thousands of tractors for military and essential agricultural purposes. To meet a demand for a heavier duty machine, the Type E27N Fordson Major joined the range. Originally fitted with a 28.5bhp petrol engine, it was soon joined by a 45bhp Perkins diesel alternative. In 1945 a Fordson Major cost £237 (on steel wheels) or £285 (with rubber tyres.) By 1948 Ford of Britain was building more than 50,000 tractors a year. Post-war demand was so high that a dedicated tractor assembly plant would eventually be opened at Basildon in Essex.

March 1957 - Launch of Thames Trader truck range

The new Type 500E Thames Trader range of trucks was the most versatile Ford in Britain had ever produced. It had what was known as a forward-control chassis, with a distinctively styled cab. Between 1957 and 1965 no fewer than 121,853 were produced. A normal-control derivative followed in 1962. Forward-control types were available with two wheelbases and a payload range from 30 cwt to five tons: four-cylinder or six-cylinder engines, both petrol and diesel, were available. The normal-control chassis extended the range still further: more than 19,000 such trucks would be made in three years.

March 1960 - Jim Clark wins Formula Junior race at Goodwood; first victory for a Ford-powered single seater

Ford's amazing record of motor racing victories was founded in Formula Junior in 1960 when Cosworth-tuned engines from the Ford Anglia 105E became dominant. Jim Clark, who would go on to win the World F1 Championship in a Ford-powered Lotus, notched up the first ever victory for a Ford-powered single seater racing car, on this occasion at the Goodwood race circuit in Sussex. All over the world engine builders soon found that the Anglia engine was not only very tuneable, but reliable at incredibly high engine speeds. The experienced gained in motorsport was fed back to Ford's engineering staff, who incorporated improvements into future power units destined for regular road cars.. Since that first victory in 1960, Ford engines have won championships, races and rallies, all around the world.

March 1965 - Launch of the Ford D-Series truck range

The Ford D-Series truck range took over from the popular Thames Trader and was produced at a new factory at Langley near London's Heathrow airport. In a 15-year life, the D-Series became a phenomenal success and beat all previous Ford truck sales records. No fewer than 540,000 of all types were produced. Langley, which had once built Hurricane fighter aircraft, became a dedicated truck assembly plant where an average of 750 D-Series chassis were completed every week. When launched this stylish forward-control range offered no fewer than five different wheelbase lengths for four-wheelers, and four lengths for six-wheelers. Power came from a new range of four-cylinder and six-cylinder diesels. Specialised versions eventually offered up to a 28-ton GVW.

March 1975 - Launch of Escort MKII van

Only weeks after the second-generation Escort went into production at Halewood on Merseyside, it was joined by the Light Commercial Vehicle van derivative. Like all previous Ford small vans, the new van was a specially-evolved version of the latest passenger car, offering car-like comfort in the cabin and with a versatile loading area and enclosed space. Technically, all the advances made in the new range of Escorts, including MacPherson strut front suspension and front-wheel-disc brakes, featured in the van. Like the passenger car, it would be built until the early 1980s and would eventually be replaced by the new front-wheel-drive Escort derivative.

March 1978 - Launch of Capri III and Fiesta van

There were two major product launches in March 1978 – the glamorous Capri III coupe and the first-ever commercial van derivative of the Fiesta. The Capri was the latest of the successful sporty line which had been founded in 1969. Available with a choice of 1.3, 1.6, 2.0 and 3.0-litre engines, the MkIII was a smart and fast-selling coupe/hatchback. During the 19 years of its production a total of 1.9 million Capris of all types would eventually be built.

The front-wheel-drive, transverse-engined, Fiesta van was ideal for small businesses needing to carry light loads and it completed Ford's comprehensive range of commercial vehicles.

March 1979 - Fiesta Million special editions built at Dagenham

Ford's first-ever front-wheel-drive car was the Fiesta hatchback, the smallest car which the company had produced in Europe for many years. Assembly at Dagenham began in February 1977, this being one of three European Ford sites in which this fast-selling model would be built. Along with the Escort MKII and Cortina MKIV models, it became one of Ford of Britain's most successful models, at a time when the company's share of the new car market exceeded 30 per cent. To mark the fact that the first million Fiestas would be completed within a record-breaking three years from the first car being produced (the actual car came off the Saarlouis, Germany, production line in the January of 1979) a special edition called the Fiesta Million was introduced in 1979. Based on the 1100L, it was available in black or silver body colour finish. The Fiesta became the mainstay of Dagenham and successive new Fiesta models would be assembled there until 2002.

March 1988 - Alex Trotman becomes chairman, Ford of Europe

Alex Trotman (now Lord Trotman) joined Ford of Britain as a trainee in the purchasing department in 1955. He was a key member of the product planning team which worked on the original Cortina and his early experience was in product planning and marketing. He went on to head Ford of Europe's truck operations from 1979, Ford Asia-Pacific from 1983 and became president of Ford of Europe in 1984. He became chairman of Ford of Europe in March 1988, which was a step towards further executive appointments within the Ford parent company in the USA.

After moving to Detroit in 1989 to run Automotive Operations he was named president, Ford Automotive Group and elected to the Board of Directors on January 1, 1993. His final appointment was as chairman of the Board of Directors and chief executive officer of Ford Motor Company. He retired in 1998.

March 1993 - Debut of the Ford Mondeo

Ford's new Mondeo, which succeeded the long-running Sierra in the European market, was a state-of-the-art front-wheel-drive family car range, available as a saloon, hatchback or as an estate car. The range of modern, transversely-mounted, four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines was also joined by a brand-new 24-valve 2.5 litre V6 power unit. With all-independent suspension, ABS braking, air bag safety protection and catalytic converters, the Mondeo was a big step forward for European Ford passengers cars. It was named European Car of the Year and soon four-wheel-drive versions were being offered. The Mondeo also achieved great success in touring car racing. A new style Mondeo was introduced in 2000.

Published 19 March 2003 Melanie Carter

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