Ford in UK: The early years
Ford made its first sale in France, home of Europe's biggest national auto industry, in 1904.
Yet the UK emerged as the anvil of Ford's early progress abroad. Two Model As went on display at an auto show in Islington, London, in March 1904. They caught the eye of Aubrey Blakiston, who set up a sales agency, ordered a dozen cars, and leased a showroom in Long Acre, London.
When only 12 cars were sold in 1904, the agency enrolled another energetic young pioneer, Percival L.D. Perry. The reorganized company, Perry Thornton and Schreiber, obtained the Ford franchise for Europe for £500.
The timing was good. French, German and British makes were transforming the UK. The Motor Car Act of 1903 recognized the mood by raising the speed limit to 20mph (32 kph).
Ford introduced the more powerful Model B in 1905. The 1906 motor show at London's Olympia saw the Ford Model N debut as the cheapest four-cylinder car in the UK. By 1909, the N was selling at 400 a year.
Ford Motor Company (England) Ltd. was established in Shaftesbury Avenue - London's theatre district - in March 1911, with Perry running the company.
Cars were shipped with wheels, hoods and screens packed separately. They were screwed together in the London area of Vauxhall - home to the company of the same name that General Motors eventually bought.
The launch of the Model T took matters a huge stage further. When Henry Ford decided to assemble overseas, he decreed that all factories should be accessible by sea.
Perry favored Southampton, but switched to Manchester, which was served by a 40-mile canal. There, Perry leased a factory on a recently built industrial estate, Trafford Park.
Opened in October 1911, the Ford operation became the most productive car plant in the UK. The company paid the best hourly rates in the area, but hired handymen rather than tradesmen, so that workers would switch from trade to trade on demand without demarcation squabbles.
Henry Ford imposed tight cash constraints on exporting - England had to pay when knockdown kits were loaded in New York. But Perry, too, was financially astute. Bridling at high freight charges on bulky bodies, he bought another Trafford Park firm to make them.
Trafford Park built 3,187 cars in 1912, the first year of production. When it made 7,310 cars the following year, Ford accounted for more than 20 percent of car production in the country.
Trafford Park went cutting-edge in 1914 with a Detroit-style chain conveyor assembly line, producing 21 cars an hour.
Production through 1914 totaled 8,352. It was 12,291 in 1915, and 16,204 the following year. It peaked in 1920 at 46,362.
Perry worked through the war as Deputy Controller of Mechanical Warfare and was knighted in 1917. He resigned from Ford after the war over dealer policy. It was a serious loss, as competition was intensifying.
From market leader, Ford dropped to fourth behind Austin, Morris and Singer.
Yet, despite market problems and a new 22 percent levy on imported components, Trafford Park worked to capacity in 1925, when it produced its 250,000th vehicle. By then, Ford was planning the venture that would replace it -Dagenham.
You can reach Ian Morton at firstname.lastname@example.org.