- Mar 17, 2013
- Reaction score
- Grimsby, UK
The history of the site at Swaythling on the outskirts of Southampton dates back to 1939 when Cunliffe-Owen built a factory to assemble aircraft parts. The site manufactured parts for the Spitfire during the war and was bombed many times.
The factory was sold to Briggs Motor Bodies after the war when Cunliffe-Owen was placed in receivership in 1947. Briggs supplied vehicle bodies to the Ford Motor Company. Ford bought the company and hence acquired the factory which now specialised in producing truck bodies to be used with the chassis that were produced at their Slough plant.
From 1965 Ford started to produce the Transit Van in Britain. Bodies were manufactured at Swaythling and transported by road to the Slough plant. In 1972 Ford invested Â£5 million in the Swaythling plant to enable it to produce the entire Transit Van at a single site. The site employed 4,500 workers during that time until the mid-1980's.
The site was very compact, being enclosed by the M27 motorway, a railway line, a graveyard and Southampton Airport. This meant expansion was impossible, so parts of the site are built on a vertical axis to maximise the use of space. The paint-shop expands upwards to a height of six stories, rather than the traditional horizontal layout.
In 2002 ford ceased production of passenger vehicles in the UK, and in 2011 announced that production of the Transit Van would shift to Turkey with the exception of the short and medium wheelbase, and Tourneo minibus versions - production of these variants was ramped up at the Swaythling site. As parts of a larger cutback of their European production capacity Ford announced in 2012 that production in the UK would come to an end the following year. The Southampton site produced its final Transit Van in July 2013.
Heading down south with SpiderMonkey, we didn't really know what to expect once we got in. One of my favourite industrial explores to date was what we were greeted with! A few hundred people still work at the site as part of the decommissioning process, so we decided to visit on Boxing Day to give us a good chance of success - a decision that worked out well. The Robots were the highlight of the visit, and it was very interesting to see the vast production line.
A few days later we revisited, this time in the company of Proj3ct M4yh3m, but unfortunately we seemed to spend most of the day hiding from security! It was still another very enjoyable visit, nonetheless.
View even more images from here over on my website -
Ford Transit Van Report on BCD Urbex
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