Inside Dagenham’s Ford Heritage Centre

PUBLISHED: 13:00 09 November 2016 | UPDATED: 14:28 09 November 2016

A Formula Ford racing car

A Formula Ford racing car


Usually closed to the public, the Post was given a rare glimpse into Dagenham’s automobile achievements at the Ford Heritage Centre, home to priceless cars.

Ivan Bartholomeusz and Colin Gray get under the bonnet Ivan Bartholomeusz and Colin Gray get under the bonnet

It may no longer be the car capital of the UK, but the vehicles that put Dagenham on the map can still be found in their spiritual home.

Tucked away in an aged corner of the 475-acre site quietly sits a treasure trove of motoring history.

Closed to the public, the Ford Heritage Centre is dedicated to preserving and maintaining a fleet of 120 classic vehicles.

From Model-Ts and GTs to Anglias, Cortinas and Sierras, it is a haven of nostalgia and a paradise for Ford enthusiasts.

A Ford Mustang A Ford Mustang

Mainly used by motoring journalists, the cars have featured in everything from Top Gear magazine and the German version of Auto Express to ITV’s coverage of the Goodwood festival, with the vast majority of the fleet fully taxed and road-legal.

The operation is headed up by fleet administrator Paul Harding, 51, who worked at the Paint, Trim and Assembly plant (PTA) from 1995 to 2001, putting steering shafts into about 13,000 Fiestas a month.

Responsible for the later Mk IIIs and Mk IVs, he was one of the first people in the world to get behind the wheel of the latter, having test-driven it around the M25 and as far as Yarmouth.

“I am proud to think I’ve had a hand in building these cars – we were actually creating something,” he said.

A Quadricycle built by Dagenham apprentices in 1963 A Quadricycle built by Dagenham apprentices in 1963

“It was really special to see it out on the roads and to see people enjoying themselves in something you’ve helped create.”

Among the priceless collection is a Model AA truck – the first model to roll off the Dagenham production line in 1931 – and a replica of the Quadricycle – the first vehicle developed by Henry Ford in 1896 – created by apprentices at Dagenham in 1963.

The last ever Cortina made, a silver Crusader which came off the Dagenham production line on July 22 1982, can also be found alongside the speedier Formula Ford car.

At the centre of the operation are former stamping plant tool-maker Ivan Bartholomeusz, 57, and ex-prototype engineer Colin Gray, 67 – both Ford men through and through.

Reporter Mark Shales in a truck Reporter Mark Shales in a truck

“Some people say we should be looking forward but you only get to where you are by looking at where you’ve come from,” said Ivan.

“It’s really nice to get visitors down and hear their own relationships with the cars – ‘I learned to drive in one of those’ or ‘my uncle had that’.”

It’s not just the ordinary family cars on show of course.

One of the most eye-catching vehicles on display is the Escort Mk I Mexico RS which Hannu Mikkola stormed to victory in the 1970 London to Mexico rally.

“It’s really important to have this place because it shows the progress of the company and what’s been achieved,” added Colin.

Related articles


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Barking and Dagenham Post visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Barking and Dagenham Post staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Barking and Dagenham Post account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Latest Barking and Dagenham News Stories

8 minutes ago

A youth charity which has been serving the community for more than 100 years has secured funding to build 100 new affordable homes.

54 minutes ago

Headteacher Sir Paul Grant, 60, looks back over 27 years at Robert Clack School after saying goodbye to his pupils on Thursday, July 20, ahead of his retirement on Thursday, August 31.

A hospital trust is encouraging people to become ward managers as part of a 10-year development scheme.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

If you’re wondering what the weather has in store for us this weekend why not watch our three-minute Met Office update on whether we’re getting rain or sunshine?

Friday, July 21, 2017

A motorcyclist has been injured in a rush hour crash in Dagenham.

Friday, July 21, 2017

A new nursing course has been launched to help the chronic shortage of nurses in east London’s hospitals.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Acid attackers who live in council properties in Barking and Dagenham could be thrown out of their homes, it has been revealed today.

Friday, July 21, 2017

There has been a 71 per cent increase in rough sleepers across Barking and Dagenham since 2013 – the largest of any London borough.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Most read news

Show Job Lists


Having a brand new kitchen is something that lots of people want but can only dream of. Sadly keeping up to date and making our living spaces as nice as they can be is a costly and incredibly stressful business. Even a fresh coat of paint makes all the difference but isn’t easy or quick.

Who wouldn’t love the chance to go on a shopping spree. Imagine being able to walk into a shop and choose whatever your heart desires without having to worry about how much it costs.

Digital Edition


Enjoy the
Barking and Dagenham Post
e-edition today


Education and Training


Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now