A Brief History of English Fords in North America

By: Michael MacSems
The history of English Fords in North America starts with a bit of a mystery. Ford of Canada records indicate that 205 English Ford vehicles where sold in Canada between 1933 and 1946. There is no break out by model and we do not know what the distribution network was. Given the small number, it seems likely that the cars (and trucks?) were special orders for expatriate Britons. Alternately, it is possible that some of these vehicles were simply imported for evaluation or other in-house purposes within Ford of Canada (then located in Windsor, Ontario). To the extent that the cars were sold to the public, they would have the uniquely North American specification of left-hand- drive with a mph speedometer. Has anyone ever heard of a pre-war English Ford like this?

After World War II, the British government, desperate for foreign currency, told its motor industry to "Export or Die." Ford of Britain made good on their obligation and had exported a million cars and trucks by 1955. This was a quarter of all British vehicles exported during the first decade after the War.

1959 Ford Prefect 100E

1961 Trans Canada Rally winning 105E Anglia
In 1948 Ford of Britain set up its North American Sales and Service (NASS) division. Ford of Britain had high hopes for their pre-war style Anglia, Prefect and Thames 1/4 and 1/2-ton vans. In 1948, 12,250 English Fords were shipped to the United States, but only 3,223 (passenger cars) were registered that year (plus another 2,025 in Canada). The fate of the remaining 7,000 to 9,000 English Fords imported that year is unclear, but auto historian Bill Siuru writes that as a boy he can remember seeing fields full of, mainly black, unsold Anglias and Prefects around his home town of Detroit, MI.

Still, Ford deserves credit (or blame) for being one of the first companies to try and sell inexpensive imported cars in volume. In 1950, Ford was the best selling import car in both the USA (1,850) and Canada (14,804). Between 1948 and 1970 Ford sold approximately 250,000 English Fords into the USA and over 235,000 into Canada between 1948 and 1973. Considering Canada's modest population when compared to the United States, it is clear that English Fords were considered far more mainstream in Canada than their niche status in the USA.
Interestingly enough, its seems that NASS was split in two (probably about 1950), with the Canadian and American operations being totally separate. Beginning in 1951, Ford of Canada switched from advertising these cars and trucks as "English Built" to "British- Built". Presumably this was in deference to the large Scottish community in Canada. In 1959, English Ford operations were reorganized in the USA as the English Ford Line and the organization behind it was called the English Ford Line Operation or EFLO. This would be the first year of the now famous oval (due to the racing exploits of the Cortina in 1964 and '65) English Ford Line logo. Canada briefly adopted a modified "British Ford Line" logo, but reverted back to the "Ford British" in 1960. The English Ford Line and Ford British were officially absorbed into the Ford Division in 1966.

The three best sales years for English Ford passenger car in the USA were 1959: 42,413, 1958: 33,472 and 1960: 23,602. The worst year (for which numbers are available) is 1954: 1,622. In Canada the three best sales years (cars and trucks) were 1960: 16,360, 1950: 14, 804 and 1973: 12,783. The worst year was 1952: 1,386.

Lotus Cortinas in the pits at Sebring in 1964


Mr. & Mrs. Michael Schreiner of Vancouver, BC
shake hands with the staff of the Brown Brothers
Motors after purchasing the millionth export British Ford.
The Schreiner's were flown to Dagenham to take delivery of the car.
Until the arrival of the 105E Anglia, English Fords had no sporting connotation in North America what so ever. However in 1961 an Anglia won the Canadian Winter Rally and then went on to win the 11,000 miles Trans Canada Rally. In 1963, the EFLO brought three Cortina GTs to the Marlboro 12-hour races and they placed 1-2-4. This really brought English Fords and particularly, the Cortina, to the attention of North American sports car enthusiasts. The following two years Ford brought over race prepped Lotus Cortinas and a line-up of top British drivers, and raced with great results. Oddly enough, the Lotus Cortina was only offered in the USA in 1966, with Canada also getting a handful of 1967 (Mk II) models.
With the advent of the Cortina, North American sales gradually improved over the lean years of the early 1960s. The best year for Cortina sales in the USA was 1968 with sales of 22,983 units. In Canada, Cortina sales improved year over year until the final year of 1973 with sales of 12,783. In the USA the Cortina was replaced by the 1971 Pinto (which sold 352,402 units in its first year). In Canada the Cortina was replaced by the Pinto-based 1974 Mercury Bobcat, which sold 13,076 units.

While no more English Fords were sold here after the Cortina, the Dagenham-built Kent 1600 did return to North America as the sole engine offered in the 1978- 80 Ford Fiesta. While our Fiestas were assembled in Germany, in those pre XR2 years the English 1600s were shipped to Sarrlouis for the exclusive use in "Federal" spec Fiestas.


NASS sales team meeting with potential dealers in Beverly Hills, CA May 1948.
Article provided by The International Ford History Project