Radio 2's Chris Evans kicked off the Ford of Britain's Centenary Tour of Britain at Tower Bridge in London today. Arriving in a 1974 Ford Escort Mexico, he met a convoy of cars spanning the 100 years Ford has been building cars in the UK.
The line-up included a 1911 Model T, a 1966 Anglia and the new 2011 Ford Focus Estate and Transit Connect Electric van.
Then there was the Escort Mexico, top of Evans' current shopping list. 'I'm having a snoop around for one to stick in my garage,' he said. 'I don't have a modern car, I drive to work in a 1987 Ferrari.'
As well as celebrating its 100-year heritage in the UK, Ford is keen to look forward. 'It's not a history lesson,' a spokesperson told What Car? Ford plans to have five pure electric and hybrid-electric cars on the market by 2013, including the electric Transit and a fully electric Mondeo, due to hit showrooms next year.
Ford is famous for making premium technology affordable. It was the first to bring anti-lock brakes to the mass market in the 1980s with the Scorpio, and has now introduced 'hands-free' automatic parking as a 500 option to its best-selling Ford Focus.
It is making motoring affordable that has helped drive Ford's success, said Andy Barratt, Ford of Britain sales director. 'When you consider that Ford has produced 26.5 million cars here in the past 100 years and there are 4 million of them still on the road you can see how it has touched people.
'8% of all British families now run a Ford and we see ourselves being part of the fabric of the nation, continuing to give people high-technology transport solutions that are affordable and frugal.'
Mass-market electric vehicles 'still a way to go'
'Electric vehicles for the mass market have still got a little way to go and there needs to be a whole lot of investment in charging infrastructure,' said Barratt. 'The Transit Connect Electric, for example, does appeal to certain sectors of the market, and it demonstrates our technology and where we are in the development cycle.
The Ford fleet will now hit the road on visits to 20 locations around the UK. The next is planned for Friday, August 19 at junction 4 of the A1M in Hertfordshire. Michelin-starred chef, Phil Thompson, will be serving Ford drivers free breakfast rolls made with the help of his mum, who works in the kitchen at Ford's Dagenham factory.
Other events will take place in Glasgow and Cornwall, with the climax a parade of 100 Ford vehicles set to take place on September 16-18 at the Goodwood Revival in Chichester, West Sussex.