So, the real question, of course, isn’t “Have you ever owned a Ford?” Nope, the really real question is “Which Fords have you owned?” You see, the famous Blue Oval isn’t your everyday, run-of-the-mill automaker. The Ford Motor Company is the one who started it all way back in the day when Henry Ford decided to open up shop outside of Detroit, Michigan, and start mass-producing automobiles. The Model T, first sold in 1908, was such a stunning success—so practical and economical—that it's basically become synonymous with the rise of the automobile in the 20th century. Some auto historians even claim that practically every American who learned how to drive before World War One did so in a Model T! So, the question isn’t if you would ever own a Ford but which ones do you love the most?
I myself have owned four Ford models in my lifetime (an F-150, an Explorer, a beat-up Mustang, and a black rehabbed Bronco, if anyone is keeping score at home), and I’m sure I'll own more of them sooner rather than later.
So, Ford is both ubiquitous and usually pretty awesome. Everybody knows that, right? But did you know that there are a ton of Fords that you've never heard of, forgotten existed, or simply had no idea how cool they were, hidden away in a small warehouse outside of London, England? That’s right—the big bosses from the Blue Oval opened up a factory in Dagenham, England almost 100 years ago (that’s how old Ford is) and, over the years, have been quietly sending all kinds of models, concept cars, and other surprises to an isolated building on its premises. This is where Ford keeps one of the most valuable (both monetarily and historically) collections of cars in the world. And today, we take a peek inside and find out what Ford has been keeping quiet about all of these years.
16 Cosworth For The Win
While some motor journalists have called this little “can-do” people mover “mighty,” I think that might be a bit of a reach—that’s not usually what we say about a car that’s been out of production for decades. However, the Cosworth packed some serious power into its little frame, and we should honor Ford for trying (and mostly succeeding) to make an automobile that made the everyday work commute just a little bit more exciting.
The Cosworth pictured here is over 30 years old, although you’d never know it with its classic lines—and it debuted in 1986.
It had over 200 horses and a turbo-charged 16-valve engine, letting it get to 60mph in slightly over 6 seconds. That’s not too bad at all, especially when you consider that if you let it keep going, it could hit 150 mph!
15 The Ford Cortina Owned England
I guess it makes sense that if you put up a production facility like Dagenham, you’re going to end up making a car that was, shall we say, rather popular in England. That’s the case here with the Ford Cortina MK5, an example of which is stashed in the Dagenham warehouse. It was once the car to drive in England, outselling all competitors after its arrival in the late ‘60s—it was actually the bestselling car in England for the entire decade of the 1970s, going through five different iterations. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the lines, and I hope they have a model in a better color stashed somewhere, but you can’t argue with success, and the Cortina had that in spades. It also had a 1.6-liter engine with either a four on the floor or a three-speed automatic option. Everyone says it was just a beauty to drive, and who am I to argue?
14 Lee Iacocca Designed His Own Luxury Lincoln Continental Mark V
If you’re a fan of the auto industry (and I assume you are if you’re reading this), then you must know how influential Lee Iacocca was. And no, I’m not talking about his near-miraculous resurrection of Chrysler in the early ‘80s.
Iacocca first found fame as an engineer and then president at Ford in the 1960s and the 1970s and was hugely influential in the design and production of a few Ford models you may have heard of occasionally.
One of those vehicles was the Ford Mustang, which has been just a wee bit successful the last half-century. Another was the Ford Escort, and yet another was the infamous Ford Pinto. By the way, if you've never ridden in a Pinto, consider yourself blessed. Iacocca was also the chief mind behind Ford’s Lincoln Continental division. That’s probably why the warehouse has Iacocca’s personal Lincoln Continental Mark V. Legend has it that the man himself followed his car down the assembly line as he picked and chose what he wanted—kind of like going to a China Buffet for you or me…
13 Is This 1963 Beauty A Cougar Or A Cobra?
So, this car is an absolute classic beauty, isn’t it? The 1963 Ford Cougar II was a concept car that actually was modeled on a Cobra SX, one of the great old open-touring coupes made by Shelby (yeah, that Shelby).
The Cougar II is a really nice-looking car that also came as a convertible (the XD). It has the classic fastback look and that fire-apple-red color is just awesome.
It also had 260 hp under its hood and a whole bunch of neat add-ons, like pop-up headlights, electric top-hinged doors, and a seriously intense dashboard. The V8 engine meant it could go upwards of 175 mph, which is pretty much just fine for a car styled as a two-seat “touring” car. Ford actually wanted to compete with Chevy’s Corvette with this car, and I kind of wish they had tried just a little bit harder to do so.
12 The 1950 Ford Italmeccanica Really Exists
OK, so the Italmeccanica isn’t technically a Ford vehicle, but then again, it’s not really anybody else’s either, even if the Italian custom-maker Italmeccanica is the one that brought it to fruition in 1950. But since Ford has this beauty, it’s worth talking about. The car is actually powered by a Ford engine—a flathead V8 with double-barrel carburetor. The goal was to combine the elegance and exoticism of Italian (or European in general) sports cars with the practicality of tough, American-made cars. I’m pretty sure they succeeded, as this car is stunning under the hood, inside the cabin, and outside as well. The car could get up to almost 145 mph and while its zero-to-60 time of 10 seconds isn’t very impressive by today’s standards, it was plenty respectable all the way back in 1950.
11 Hey, It’s Party Time!
Here, we have the classic Ford Fiesta, one of the most popular cars ever made by any automaker. It’s also one of the greatest names given to a car in the history of car naming. Unlike the Chevy Nova, which Chevy tried to sell in Central America and Mexico, to no success (“No Va” means “No Go” in Spanish!), the Fiesta was an immediate hit with its “exotic” name. It was also extremely affordable and reliable—back in the ‘80s, you couldn’t drive down the street without running into a Fiesta (no, not literally, I hope…) The original Fiesta was about as basic as one could get, a two-door hatchback with a four-speed manual transmission. But if you wanted to be cool, you could always get the Fiesta XR2, which was a classic “Hot Hatch,” completely decked out with all of the extras one could ever want to make a Fiesta get noticed. The XR2 had extra spotlights, racing stripes, alloy rims (of the cool “pepperpot” variety), and other special features.
10 You've Never Seen A Ford Focus Like This!
Everyone knows someone who owns a Ford Focus, am I right? And then, of course, everyone has seen someone driving a Ford Focus around town, probably every single day. But over in Dagenham, there’s a very particular production line of the Focus that I guarantee you've never seen.
The RS500 is a crazy-powerful version of your average Focus. It has a massive turbo-powered 2.5-liter engine that produces a stunning 350 horses.
Yeah, that’s just a bit more than your everyday Focus. It can also reach 165 mph, which might be slightly more speed than the average Focus driver would ever need. This behemoth is certainly a much more recent addition to the Dagenham vault than pretty much everything else there, but it’s easy to see why. By the way, the "500" in its name refers to how many of these cars came off the production line—that’s pretty exclusive territory.
9 This Van Was Actually A Speed Demon
Have you ever seen one of those light industrial vans lumbering down a busy city street, say in Chicago, New York, or Los Angeles? You know the type I mean—the vans that are ubiquitous among plumbers, electricians, and the like. They’re almost always plain old white boxes with some guy’s logo plastered on them and usually pretty beat up as well. The vast majority of those vans are Ford Transit vans, a model that’s been around for decades. But this particular van stashed away in Dagenham is just a little bit different than your average transit van. This is the legendary “Supervan,” a van specifically designed to compete in races. So, instead of being a working van with all of those attendant parts, this one was remodeled with a Ford C100 Group C chassis and a built-up Ford-Cosworth Pro Sports 3000 V6 engine. That’s some serious power for a van, enough to allow it to reach a top speed of over 170 mph. But no, I don’t know what actual races it competed in, so don't ask.
8 Harry Potter Is Jealous
If you’re a fan of the Harry Potter universe (is there anyone who’s not at this point?) then you might remember this car. It’s pictured on the cover of the books and was also used in the movies. That makes sense, as this funky little wonder looks almost magical by its very nature and also appears to be the type of car that exists out of time—perfect for fantastical journeying, right? But here’s the real secret of the Anglia 105E: it was a pretty sweet ride all on its own, considered one of Ford’s most reliable cars in the early ‘60s. Since Ford at the time was making a bunch of very reliable models, that’s high praise indeed. In fact, in order to prove how great the Anglia 105E was, Ford took it through its paces on a 12,000-mile “world race” in 1962. The only maintenance the Anglia ever needed during that expedition was a few tire changes. That’s a pretty impressive achievement for the time.
7 Look At This Ultra-Rare Mustang Concept Car
There are plenty of rare and classic Mustangs in Ford’s secret warehouse, and perhaps we’ll do a whole article on those alone someday. No joke, Ford has enough of them to open up a Mustang museum if they want to. But today, I want to focus on a much newer, top-secret Mustang that Ford recently designed. This is one Mustang that goes into full-on beast mode right out of the gate. It’s got an engine that's 5.0 liters, an amazing show of power for any car. That creates over 410 horses. Yup, 400+ horsepower—can you believe it?
This Super Mustang accelerates from 0-62 mph in only 4.8 seconds.
Even more interesting, the car has a new technology called "Line Lock," which basically allows this muscle machine to win drag races through heating up its tires so much at the start line by burning out that its traction is increased exponentially. But really, all you actually need to do is take a look at the car, and you’ll know why Mustang continues to be the gold standard for muscle cars.
6 This Ford Zodiac Is A Beast
Here’s a car that resides in its own unique category. It was born in England, at the Dagenham plant, back in 1950, a post-war variant on Ford’s classic Model T’s and Model A’s. Alright, that last part was sort of a lie—I wanted to see if you were still paying attention—because the Zodiac looks nothing like those two old warhorses. This is a car designed to impress. Just look at those lines! If that’s not impressive enough, then consider what came standard with the Zodiac. It had an all-leather interior, “central” heating, windshield wipers, and a front-mounted spotlight. “Yeah, so what?” you ask. Every car nowadays has all of that and much, much more. But you have to remember that this was a car that came out in Britain in the 1950s—these features were so beyond what everyone else was offering, it’s not even funny. By the way, the Zodiac was originally called the “Zephyr.” I think Ford made a wise choice when they changed the name.
5 Is That A Car Or A Farm Wagon?
Alright, so you guys have to check out this particular vehicle. It’s been housed in Ford’s ultra-secret Dagenham warehouse for quite a while. In fact, since Dagenham itself was built way back in the 1930s, it’s pretty safe to say this entry has been residing there for at least three-quarters of a century. Now, that might be pretty impressive, but what’s even more impressive is what this vehicle actually represents.
It’s an original Henry Ford, designed and built in 1896.
It’s also a truly revolutionary car, given that it was the very first one that Henry Ford brought from just an idea in his head to practical reality. You all know what happened once that whole particular mindset took hold in Ford’s head, don’t you? So anyway, this is the “Quadricycle,” a two-cylinder monster that ran on ethanol and only had two forward gears. Yup, you couldn’t even try to go backward in this thing. But that’s alright; the future always faces forward, doesn’t it???
4 What's A Capri, And Can I Get One??
I’ll admit it—I had completely forgotten about the existence of the Ford Capri until I started looking into Ford’s Dagenham facility. I can’t believe I actually did that, as the Capri was one hell of a model for Ford for years. The automaker sold just under two million Capris between 1968 and 1986. The best part of this car is that the creator of the Ford Mustang, Philip T. Clark, was heavily involved in the design and the development of the Capri as well, which was intended to be a European version of the Mustang. Guess what, Phil? Your intent succeeded. Perhaps the best exemplar of the Capri and the one we see here was the Capri 280, a true “fastback coupe” that had four on the floor and a 2.8-liter V6 engine that pushed 160 horses. Plus, it looked pretty cool, which is alright by me.
3 Sorry, Volkswagen, But This Escort Beats Your GTI
Now, don’t get me wrong—Volkswagen makes a great car—always has, always will. It's “the people’s car” after all. In fact, I myself have owned multiple VWs over the course of my car career. They were, in order, a VW Rabbit (that’s a Golf sub-model from a time I’m not going to name—hey, it was free…), a ’05 Passat sedan, which went like a bat out of hell, and a ’10 Touareg. By the way, I always loved that name. But I digress. Here we have a classic Ford Escort XR31, which was a mid-1980s stone-cold-killer that was actually based on the VW GTI. In fact, this car outdid the classic GTI. This funky little “fastback” was a full-on winner for years, going through six generations. Look, any car that’s gonna go through six generations over the span of almost 30 years is one to look out for—that’s all I’m gonna say. Well, that and the fact that the red racing stripe is awesome.
2 Rally Around The RS 200
This sweet little ride is a total anomaly in that it was a complete specialty car that Ford made in the early to mid-1980s. You may be wondering why I said it was a specialty car. Well, there were only 200 of these babies produced—if that doesn’t count as an extremely exclusive model, then I don’t know what does. The RS 200 was a total beast, a street-legal rally car—if you can believe such a thing is even possible. The car had a 1.8-liter, 250-horsepower engine (turbocharged, of course), which was plenty of "get up and go" to make enthusiasts sit up and notice. The fact that pretty much the whole vehicle, other than the engine, was made of fiberglass meant that it had even more power than you might've thought. In fact, there’s actually a rally RS model that put 450 horses under its hood and did 0-60 in about 3.2 seconds. Um, guys... that’s kind of fast.
1 Is The Model T Really A Pickup Truck In Disguise?
Over a hundred years later, it’s hard to imagine what people thought of Henry Ford’s Model T when it first rolled off the production line in Dearborn, Michigan. To say it was something entirely novel and unique would be the understatement of the century. This is the car that started the whole automobile revolution and paved the way (you see what I did there, right?) for every major automaker and model that would come after it. It’s no exaggeration to say it quite literally changed the world. Here’s the craziest deal about this car, though—it’s freaking huge! Just look at the size of that thing compared to the modern cars warehoused around it. I’m pretty sure I know, after seeing this pic, where Ford got the idea for their F-350 and Super Transit models. But before they ever got around to those, they first sold almost 20 million Model Ts. Yeah, that’s pretty darn impressive, isn’t it?
Sources: hotcars.com, motoringresearch.com, motor1.com