Throughout the '30s, Ford also built tiny 2.2-liter V8 engines for its French and British cars, while the Germany-based company stayed with fours. The Rouge complex, built on a river in Dearborn, and Dagenham, built on the Thames river near London, were soon joined by the huge plant in Cologne, Germany, built on the Rhine. Henry was a stickler about putting big plants next to navigable rivers to keep shipping costs down.
But Europe after World War I, with the Weimar Republic in Germany, the Depression, and rampant automotive nationalism everywhere, grew more and more difficult for Ford. When World War II broke out in 1939, the Ford plants in continental Europe were taken over by the Axis and run by Ford of Germany. Ford of Britain in Dagenham fought back and built 13,000 half-tracks, 250,000 V8 engines and 185,000 staff vehicles during the war, while the Manchester plant built more than 30,000 Rolls-Royce Merlin supercharged V12 aircraft engines for the RAF.
By 1946, the war over, Henry Ford was 83 years old, feeble of body and mind, and his only son, Edsel, was already dead. So the eldest of his three grandsons, Henry Ford II, took over the company at the tender age of 28, formed the International Division and first toured his European operations in 1948. It was readily apparent that one model for all those countries would not work, so Ford of Britain and Ford of Germany went their separate ways on product, Germany with the Taunus, Britain with the Consul and Zephyr; the rest of the markets cherry-picked their cars and trucks from there.
These cars featured overhead-valve engines for the first time, monococque construction and MacPherson struts, in 1950. Britain and Germany continued to innovate separately for years, Britain with the Anglia and then, in 1962, with the legendary Cortina, the car that would put Ford on the map in world rallying and saloon racing with the Lotus Cortina and its 1.6-liter twin-cam engine. In Germany, the Taunus grew up into a Cardinal V4-engined market staple, and in 1962 the Taunus 12M, Ford's first ever front-drive car, debuted. Ford even sold the Cardinal V4 engine to Saab.
In 1963, Henry Ford II tried to buy Ferrari outright, but Enzo Ferrari reneged on the deal. Henry was so miffed, he vowed to beat Ferrari at his own game: racing. That fit of pique led to the creation, at a special skunk works in Slough, England, of the fabulous 7-liter V8 Ford GT40, one of the most successful (four Le Mans wins in a row, including a one-two-three in 1966) and desirable sports cars of all time.
By the middle '60s, with far-flung manufacturing, assembly and component plants all over Europe, Henry Ford II decided that a new company should be put in place to coordinate product planning, design, sourcing, purchasing and other functions to cut costs, unify product lines and get product to market quicker and cheaper than ever before. Ford of Europe was created in 1967, years before the Common Market and the European Community.
In 1967, Ford also created one of its most successful strategic alliances ever when it contracted Mike Costin and Keith Duckworth's Cosworth company to build the DFV four-cam 3-liter V8 engine for Formula One racing.
It turned out to be the most successful racing engine of all time, with 155 Grand Prix wins in the hands of many, many teams and drivers over the years. The Cosworth DFV and DFX engines went on to dominate USAC and CART racing here in the States and led to a number of production car programs over the years.