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Dunton Technical Centre
Ford Dunton

View from the front
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Location within United Kingdom Essex
Former names Ford Research & Engineering Centre
General information
Type Automobile Research Centre
Address Dunton, Laindon, Essex, SS15 6EE
Coordinates 51°34′52″N 0°24′18″E / 51.581°N 0.405°E / 51.581; 0.405
Elevation 45 m (148 ft)
Current tenants Ford design team
Completed 1 January 1967
Inaugurated 12 October 1967[1]
Cost £10.5 million.[1]
Technical details
Other dimensions 268 acres (108.4 ha)
Floor count 4
Design and construction
Client Ford of Britain
Landlord Ford of Europe
Services engineer G.N. Haden & Sons
Main contractor George Wimpey

The Dunton Technical Centre (informally Ford Dunton or Dunton) is a major automotive research and development facility located in Dunton, Essex, United Kingdom owned and operated by Ford Motor Company. It is the largest automotive technical centre in the United Kingdom and takes its name from the nearby Dunton Wayletts.[1] Ford Dunton houses the main design team of Ford of Europe, alongside its Merkenich Technical Centre in Cologne, Germany, and around 3,000 staff currently work at the site.[2]


The entrance to Ford Dunton.

Ford Dunton is situated at the junction of West Mayne (B148) and the A127 Southend Arterial Road, in the district of Basildon. An electricity pylon line straddles the site. In front of the building, to the north, is a vehicle test track. To the south is the Southfields Business Park. The site lies in the religious parish of Laindon with Dunton, formerly in Dunton and Bulphan before 1976. Dunton is a small hamlet to the west, with a former church near Dunton Hall. There is a Ford dealership on the B148 on the north-west corner of the site.



Ford Dunton was constructed by George Wimpey for a contracted price of £6.5 million. The total cost of the centre was around £10 million. The centre originally had 45,000 sq ft (4,200 m²) of space for design work, making it the largest engineering research centre in Europe. Another development site at Aveley had been opened in 1956 which made prototype cars and spare parts, and closed in 2004.[3] Ford's earlier UK design site was at Birmingham, and it previously had seven engineering sites around the UK, with five in Essex; these all moved to Dunton.

Ford Dunton was opened by Harold Wilson, then the British Prime Minister, on 12 October 1967.[2]

1967 to 2000

At the time of its opening, Dunton was assigned responsibility within Ford of Europe for vehicle design, interior styling, chassis and body interior engineering, engine calibration and product planning. Ford's Merkenich Centre in Cologne, Germany was given principal responsibility for body and electrical engineering, base engine design, advanced engine development, exterior styling, homologation, vehicle development (ride, handling, NVH) and transmission engineering. This was a 'systems' approach to the engineering process intended to eliminate the duplication of engineering responsibility within Ford of Europe.

In the late 1960s Dunton worked on an experimental electric car, first shown on 7 June 1967, and called the Ford Comuta.[4]

On 10 May 1971 Peter Walker opened a £1 million engine emissions laboratory at Dunton, the largest of its type in Europe. In November 1974 the world's first automated (computerised) multiple engine (six) test bed was constructed at Dunton, built in co-operation with the engineering department of Queen Mary, University of London. Prior to this time engine research had been carried out manually at the site. In 1974 a Honeywell 6050 computer was installed at Dunton at a cost of £820,000. The computer was linked to Merkenich and to the Ford test track at Lommel in Belgium. From 1978 Dunton had access to a CDC Cyber 176 computer at the USA base in Dearborn.

By 1984 staff at Dunton were conducting video-conferences with colleagues at Merkenich, using the ECS-1 satellite, and enabled by British Telecom International. In 1988 Dunton prepared the way for design of the Mondeo (codename CDW27) by pioneering, in collaboration with Merkenich, the World Engineering Release System (WERS). Dunton at this time was the most advanced automotive development centre in Europe.

In 1995 Dunton, in collaboration with the University of Southampton, developed a device which is capable of detecting different types of plastic (for recycling) using the triboelectric effect, including polypropylene, polyethylene, nylon and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS).

On 16 December 1997 Alexander Trotman, (Baron Trotman) opened a £128 million environmental engine testing facility at Dunton.[5]

2000 to present

In 2003 a Silicon Graphics International (SGI) Reality Centre was constructed at Dunton, incorporating SGI Onyx 3000 visualisation supercomputers, using the InfiniteReality3 graphics rendering system.

In March 2010 Ford announced plans to develop a new generation of environmentally friendly engines and vehicle technologies at Dunton following an announcement by the UK Government that it would underwrite £360 million of a £450 million loan to Ford from the European Investment Bank.[6] In July 2010 the new coalition government confirmed that it would honour the loan commitment, and the contract was signed in a ceremony at Dunton attended by the business minister Mark Prisk on 12 July.[7]

In recent years Dunton has been responsible for the development of the ECOnetic range of vehicles, and has contributed to development of the EcoBoost range of engines.


Dunton houses the main design team of Ford of Europe, alongside its Merkenich Technical Centre in Cologne. Currently Dunton has responsibility for the design of the Ford Fiesta, the Ford Ka, engines for Ford of Europe (powertrain), commercial vehicles and the interior of Ford of Europe cars. It has facilities to simultaneously test fifteen cars and around one hundred engines. It is claimed to have the world's largest anechoic chamber. Around 3,000 engineers currently work at Dunton.

Ford Dunton is also the home of Ford Team RS, and as part of the Special Vehicle section of Ford, developed the XR family of 'boy racer' vehicles with the Ford Fiesta RS Turbo, more recently becoming the RS family of vehicles. Ford also notably worked in this area of design with Cosworth of Northampton.

Notable staff

  • Eamonn Martin, 1993 London Marathon winner

See also

  • Whitley plant - was also owned by Ford
  • National Engineering Laboratory


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Back to the future for Ford", The Engineer (26 October 2007). Retrieved on 7 June 2011. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Ford Dunton turns 40", Daily Gazette (13 October 2007). Retrieved on 7 June 2011. 
  3. Aveley site closes in 2004
  4. "Battery-car progress - at 8 mile an hour in 25 years", New Scientist (9 December 1971). Retrieved on 7 June 2011. 
  5. "Motorists face fines for dirty fumes", BBC News (16 December 1997). Retrieved on 7 June 2011. 
  6. "Jobs safeguarded at Ford in Essex", Essex County Standard (18 March 2010). Retrieved on 7 June 2011. 
  7. "Coalition to honour £360m loan to Ford Dunton", Basildon Recorder (13 July 2010). Retrieved on 7 June 2011. 

External links

Video clips

News items

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