Among some of the most memorable cars to feature on the silver screen over the years are those that have come from Ford, and as part of their UK Centenary Tour the Blue Oval stopped off at Elstree Studios where they wheeled out five of their biggest stars of film and television.
Of the five, the most distinctive is without doubt the gigantic Fab 1 created for the 2004 Thunderbirds movie. This imposing, very pink car is definitely not something you’d want to drive down the average British high street, nor would it be much fun trying to tuck it into a tight spot at the local multistory car park, but it’s a stunning thing to view up close. OK, so seeing it in the metal and getting to check out some of the finer details only serve to remind you that this is effectively a very large prop created for a single purpose – the screen built-in to the steering wheel which displays complex animations in the movie is in reality static, and there’s some rough edges here and there – but there’s no denying the craftsmanship that went into creating Fab 1; the interior is sumptuously appointed with white leather and chromed instruments, and the way that roof lifts up and moves backwards to ease entry is just incredible. It’s a car that is more than suitable for the needs of an aristocrat such as Lady Penelope.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is a Ford Anglia that looks positively minuscule next to Fab 1. This version of the Anglia (the 105E) entered production in 1959, but has gained popularity in recent years due to its appearance in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. The car on display at Elstree, complete with a fake Hedwig in a cage on the rear seat, is owned by John Colyer, the honorary president of the Ford Anglia 105E Owners’ Club. John helped the filmmakers source a total of 15 Anglias to use in the movie, and with an obvious affection for these little cars he is quick to point out that despite what you saw on screen not one Anglia was actually wrecked during production – instead unsalvageable MOT failures were used for those scenes in which the car was seen to sustain damage. And as if to highlight how Harry Potter has raised awareness of the Anglia he adds that Rupert Grint himself now owns one of the cars.
Of all the vehicles on display, the oldest is a bright yellow Siva Tourer based on the chassis of a 1957 Ford Popular 103E – or as it’s better known to legions of Dr. Who fans: Bessie. This car played a recurring role in the adventures of John Pertwee’s third doctor, and even went on to make brief appearances in stories featuring the fourth and seventh incarnations of the time lord. The model on display at Elstree was lovingly restored by its owner Dr. Dean Rose over the course of two years; his dedication to transforming the car from the dilapidated state in which he bought it to the pristine condition in which it can be found today even extended to a two year search for the correct type of plastic hand to affix to the right-hand side of the windscreen. Over 40 years after its first appearance in Dr. Who, interest in Bessie remains strong, and Dr. Rose happily makes his car available for convention appearances and even weddings.
Rounding out the five models on display are two cars that normally wouldn’t get a second glance as they appear to be nothing more than two of Ford’s bestselling cars from the last 30 years. But despite the ubiquity of their nameplates, both the Granada Mark II and the Mondeo seen here have played important roles in pop culture. The Granada, for example, was a familiar sight in the later years of The Sweeney, while this generation of Mondeo actually made its debut alongside Daniel Craig’s 007 in the James Bond movie Casino Royale.
From minor roles to more outlandish vehicles such as Fab 1, the Ford Motor Company has enjoyed a rich history in film and television during its first 100 years in the UK – one that will no doubt continue in the years ahead.