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Tucked away in Ford’s huge Cologne plant in Germany is one of the most incredible collections of Blue Ovals this side of the Atlantic. We got access…

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We’re no stranger to taking a trip across the water to feature some of the best cars in Germany, but over the years we’ve heard stories of hidden treasures inside Ford’s Cologne factory. Much like Dagenham’s Heritage fleet, which is basically a private collection of cars maintained for occasional press and event uses, a similar set-up exists across the water.

The collection is the brainchild of Wolfgang Laufer who started over 20 years ago in the outskirts of Cologne in a small workshop personally restoring old Fords in an effort to illustrate the history of Ford in Germany. With an ever-growing collection from the earliest pre-War vehicles right up to the latest racers, Ford quite rightly took note of this opportunity and started to contribute with their considerable weight in tracking down relevant cars and parts, plus adding in a small budget.

Ten years in, the collection had grown so much that Ford agreed to give Wolfgang a substantial space on site in the Cologne plant’s huge grounds and make further use of the collection themselves. This progressed into a number of the cars being kept road-legal and ready for various public events throughout the year.

In store

Today the complex includes a workshop with three mechanics and 120 cars in storage. Wolfgang has now officially retired, but is still very much involved, and came along specially to show us around what has never been fully explored by any other journalists — so far.

So with a great feeling of privilege we headed he factory site that is Ford Köln-Niehl which is equivalent in scale to that of a small town — and found at the end of Henry-Ford-Straße!

It would be fantastic to have public days, and believe me I really wanted to share this day with every Ford-mad friend and colleague, but the security to get on-site is so tight, especially when you want to bring photographic equipment in, too. So sit back and take in all the awesome stuff I managed to snap in our brief but fascinating nosey around this great place.

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The Escorts

The white Mk1 is quite a special one, being the very first ever to be built in Germany. The ultra-basic 1100 (without even a servo) has been kept aside for posterity ever since and never even registered. The condition is staggering, timewarp material, but going by the odometer which says 417 km it must have seen a few joyrides around the factory grounds.

Over in the ’80s corner though is the Escort that took my breath away. A stunning Mk3 Escort XR3 which ticked all my ’80s anorak boxes. Up close it was no disappointment, even the interior had zero wear and an uncracked dash! Surprisingly Wolfgang informed us of how it was a rotten wreck when it had been acquired by the collection. This car sums up just how dedicated the small team here are. In the big scheme of things the XR3 was always overshadowed by the typically cherished RS models, but the restoration on this Mk3 was astounding — it looked like it had just rolled off the production line. 

Alongside was a super-mint Cabriolet representing the late ‘80s Escorts. Fully original and in superb condition complete with two tone paint, some unusual interior trim and a speedy working electric hood, this was as good as convertible Escorts ever got from the factory and it was great to see one so original, and in perfect working order.

The Capris

Another car that was made in huge numbers in Cologne was the Capri. Surprisingly there were no regular models in the collection, but more than making up for this were most likely three of the most exotic Capris of all time. 

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In the road-going department was an early RS2600 which was receiving some gentle workshop TLC.  Still in the original bumperless guise before legislators put an end to that, and running mechanical injection which was as equally advanced for its time as it now is alien to today’s eyes. Wolfgang perks up when we’re around the Capris, and tells us of how back in the day the RS2600 was a known Porsche killer on the Autobahns!

Around the corner is his favourite – the Mk1 Broadspeed Group 2 racer. The dry-sumped 3.4 V6 sits noticeably further back towards the cut-down bulkhead, and with individual throttle bodies, mechanical fuel injection, electronic ignition and quad cams it was light years ahead of the average showroom models. Inside, nestled behind the modern harness which had to be fitted for its recent outing at Goodwood is a booster for the rear brakes. And when you see just how huge the wheel and tyre combo is that becomes understandable – 14.5 inch wide, three-piece centre-locking BBS rims at the rear!

Parked alongside the Mk1 is the truly breathtaking Zakspeed Capri. Everyone knows how crazy these spaceframed Group 5 monsters look in photos, but only in the rare occasion of getting up close and personal to one can you truly appreciate just how nuts they really are. For starters the ride height is absurdly low, and the width is comical. It features a completely-bespoke Kevlar outer structure which in person you would expect to be fragile due to the scale of the panels, but the reality of this machine of epic abilities couldn’t be further from that! Just standing alongside it’s obvious to see that in its assembly every panel is easily removable and often lacking even the most basic cosmetic shielding from the elements. Even getting inside the Zakspeed requires some a cautious mix of physical agility and care as the door barely opens wide enough for anything but the slinkiest of drivers to slide in past the seatbelt check strap which stops the door from prising off the oversized front wing!

What’s mostly fantastic about these legends is that they’re still living! Even though this collection is typically hidden away, the Broadspeed blasted up Goodwood’s hill last year, and if you have a search on YouTube you can see countless videos of the Zakspeed car tearing up the Nürburgring at a recent historic event!

Words and Photos Adrian Brannan

See more photos from Ford’s Cologne collection in our Ford Heritage special

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