The now abandoned Ford Transit Van Factory near Southampton has some real history to it. The Factory was initially built as a shadow factory in 1939 near to Southampton Airport and was originally used to produce aircraft parts. In particular the factory, during World War II made components for the Supermarine Spitfire and later was used to assemble the aircraft. As a result it was bombed on several occasions by the Nazi Luftwaffe.
After the war, in 1947 the factory was purchased by Briggs Motor Bodies who supplied bodies for Ford Motor Vehicles in the UK. The firm was later bought out by Ford in 1953 who then gained control of the 60,000m2 factory. Production then concentrated upon manufacturing truck bodies to be assembled elsewhere.
1965 the first Transit Van bodies produced in Britain were built at the site and shipped to Langley, Berkshire to be added to the chassis. The Factory saw a huge £5,000,000 investment in 1972 which gave the site the ability to produce the whole Transit Van at the site and at its peak the Factory had 4,500 works employed.
In 2002 Ford ceased productions of all of their vehicles except the Transit Van in the UK which left the Southampton factory as the only remaining Ford vehicle producer in the UK.
In 2009 as the 6,000,000th Transit Van rolled off the production line the new Ford plant in Turkey came online which resulted in huge staff cuts at the Southampton factory reducing the work force to only 500 employees.
Production was gradually phased out from 2011 when Ford announced they were moving part of the production line of Vehicle to Turkey on a permanent basis and in October 2012 it was announced that the Southampton Ford Transit Van factory would close the following year. On the 25th July 2013 the last Transit Van and last Ford Vehicle in the UK was created here:
Visited with Spider Monkey and Andy de Kay of Behind Closed Doors. A pretty intense visit this one was we were joined half way through by an unidentified man casually wondering around the place. Not sure to this day if the guy was security but was made that assumption and proceed with cation.
Lets take a step back, It was New Years Day morning, we had just failed miserably in attempting to photograph the fireworks from an undisclosed London Rooftop and a little disappointed about having to catch them from ground level after being ejected by security. A little deflated we thought we’d have a crack at the Transit Van factory hoping it would be quiet. Once inside we had a wonder around and assumed we had the place to ourselves, a couple of hours shooting in the massive factory illuminated by the artificial lighting that was dotted around the place we moved on to the main production line. After snapping a few shots of the awesome Kuka robots we all froze as the main lights to the factory all lit up around us! We dashed to cover behind some control panels and listened as someone casually walked up and down the factory floor…
Not content with our hiding place and after a few minutes of silence we moved on in the opposite direction that we had last heard the man. We carried on shooting and made our way onto the upper platform of the production line just in time to see the man again slowly pacing p and down the factory floor. He still hadn’t seen us :). We silently made our way up the conveyor which was used to carry body panels up towards the canteen area well out of the mans way.
After a short time up there we decided it might be best to make an exit. Other than the area which the man was persistently wondering around we had covered the majority of the main building so we made our Ninja exit without being noticed. Great success and a fun explore.
First a little video walk around from our trip:
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Enjoyed this report, want to see more from here? then check out the report at Behind Closed Doors here: Ford Transit Van Factory
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