On this day in auto history – May 17th

Sun 17th May 2020

It was on this day in 1929 that construction work began on the brand new Ford Factory in Dagenham, at an estimated cost of over £5 million.

Henry Ford’s son, Edsel - by then the president of the company - cut the first sod using a silver spade with construction work on the 475-acre site lasting for 28 months in total.

The Dagenham plant was chosen due to its proximity to the Thames, given that water transport was still king at the time, with the factory requiring 22,000 concrete piles to be driven down through the clay of the marshland to adequately support the factory. Inspiration for the site came from Ford’s own Rouge Rover plant on the outskirts of Detroit.

The plant eventually opened in 1931 and produced almost 11 million cars in total, including major league sellers such as the Cortina and Fiesta, before vehicle assembly finally ceased in 2002. Employment at Dagenham peaked in 1953 with over 40,000 workers based at the plant.

Today, the Dagenham plant continues to assemble around 1.4 million vehicle engines per year and employs just over 3,000 workers.