Behind the wheel of Ford's 100 treasures

FORD Dagenham this month boosted its �2.5million treasure trove of cars with a 100th model, as production neared the landmark centenary year in Britain. The living museum including prize-winning racing cars, extremely rare and experimental contraptions

FORD Dagenham this month boosted its �2.5million treasure trove of cars with a 100th model, as production neared the landmark centenary year in Britain.

The "living museum" including prize-winning racing cars, extremely rare and experimental contraptions and mass-produced vehicles that defined decades of driving around the globe is truly second to none.

The US car giant does not own any other collection on this sort of scale, not even at its Detroit HQ where Henry Ford founded the company in 1903.

Its second largest European collection, kept in Germany, is around half the size of Dagenham's.


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Ford bosses hope their mind-blowing "heritage collection", a car workshop manned by motoring experts, could become a museum in the not too distant future.

Built over a quarter of a century, it includes two rare GT40 sports cars, similar to a model F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone sold for $2.4million - around �1million - in 2007.

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According to the car giant, the 100 golden set, which comes with an overall �2.5million insurance price tag, features irreplaceable models and is, in fact, priceless.

Rare pearls includes the Supervan 3, a transit van concealing an F1 engine, which has done 150mph on race tracks such as Knockhill in Scotland, Brands Hatch and Silverstone.

Another rarity is one of the 101 limited edition GT "super cars" built for Europe, which can do 212mph and one of which was tried by Jeremy Clarkson.

Just sitting in the sleek 2005 model can fulfill, if only fleetingly, the dreams of every grown-up boy racer.

While getting behind the wheel of a rare 1949 black V8 Pilot, brought in by the late collection founder Ron Staughton, is akin to stepping onto the set of post-war gangster movie.

But perhaps the most exhilarating experience came as I was unexpectedly drafted in as co-pilot to take a spin on icy roads in the Escort that won the 1995 London to Mexico rally and spectacularly crashed at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in Sussex in 2009, before being serviced at Dagenham.

The collection, boosted by private donations, continues to grow with its 100th addition, the 2009 Ford Focus RS, before UK car production reaches 100 years in 2011.

Collection administrator John Nevill, 42, said: "The Focus RS joins some very special cars and proves you're never too young to be a classic.

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