Former Ford Factory, Homebush

by Cathy Jones

The Ford Motor Company of Canada managed the production and distribution of Ford vehicles in British Commonwealth countries which included Australia. Their first assembly plant in NSW was established at Sandown. In 1935, they shifted their NSW operations to a new car manufacturing and assembly plant at 350-374 Parramatta Road, Homebush.

The Homebush factory was designed by architects Stephenson, Meldrum and Turner and was formally opened on 31 March 1936.  A report of the opening appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald:

“The new Ford factory at Homebush will be opened to-day. Members of the company and dealers have arrived in Sydney from all parts of the State for the ceremony. The day’s programme includes a conference, a tour of the factory, and the screening in the factory picture theatre of the film, “The Ford Year.” Later each dealer will drive away In a car assembled at the factory. A dinner will be held at the Hotel Australia In the evening, when Mr. H. C. French, director and general manager, will be farewelled prior to his departure for England and Canada”.

Ford Factory Homebush 1936 illustration
Ford Factory Homebush 1936 illustration, Sydney Morning Herald

The plant included a complex of purpose built factory buildings which were altered and added to over the years. The Ford plant was a large local employer in Homebush and surrounding suburbs. At its peak, the factory operated 24 hours a day and employed around 1200 workers on split shifts. Many homes in the adjacent Telepea Avenue were built by Ford for employees.  These have since been sold and are privately owned.

The first car produced at Homebush was the 1936 Ford V8.  During WWII (1939-1945), production shifted to the war effort including making Bren Gun Carriers and Jeeps, used in the Middle East and the Pacific.  During the war, the factory was almost entirely run by women.

After the war, the factory produced Studebakers and Diamond T models, trucks and tractors. Production in the 1960s included assembly of English cars such as Zephyrs and Consuls and US models including the Galaxie and Fairlane and in the 1970s, Escorts and Cortinas.

The plant underwent major conversion and complete redesign in 1980 and in 1981, assembly of the Laser, Australia’s top selling small car in the 1980s began with nearly 400,000 produced.  By the 1990s, falling demand and reduced tariffs levels made car manufacturing economically unviable, leading to the closure of the Factory in 1994, the last car factory in NSW.

In 1992, the council boundaries were altered and this site was transferred from Auburn Council to Strathfield Council.

The Ford Factory closed in August 1994 and more than 400 workers were made redundant.  The last car made there was the Ford Laser.

From 1995-c.2000, the site was used as a Linfox distribution centre. The site was then redeveloped as the Campus Homebush Business Park in 2005.  The façade of the former Ford Factory Building facing Parramatta Road was retained as part of the development and is heritage listed on the Strathfield Local Environmental Plan.

References

‘Ford in Australia: Every high, every low’, http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/special-features/in-depth/ford-in-australia-every-high-every-low/news-story/c11876c090689d8e7bcdfb9b2f683b72

Author: Cathy Jones 2011, updated 2017

14 comments

  1. I have just been looking at St Thoma’s because I have many ancestors buried there when I noticed on this web site that the Ford Factory (which I haven’t seen or heard about for Many Years.)is also mentioned .My grandfather (Herbert Phillis) was I suppose what now a days is a Security Person on the gates of the Ford Factory for many years until his retirement.

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  2. I worked at the plant form late 1974.. on the production line to start with then onto leading hand..inspector.. chief inspectors clerk.. then out to North Sydney to the Public Affair Dept lead by Mr Phil Gross.. (dec) former Political Jouno for SMH and others. Ford gave me the opportunity of a life time to get ahead..for that I will never forget them.. Edsel Ford was a quiet mentor.. as were others.. Ford is simply a great company.

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    1. Hi David
      Phil was my father… I have fond memories of dad’s time at Ford!! The Miller st Office and Homebush.
      Clint Grose

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      1. Clinton..hi.. is there a way we can talk .. I lost contact with your Dad after he moved from Ford to Caltex. Back in 1978 I had to baby sit I guy you and your sister..?? at Belrose one evening.. not sure if you can see emails here but try please on pwdistribution@gmail.com Dave

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    1. My dad col byrne worked with Phil at nth Sydney office then they transferred to Homebush also, where I worked for 20yrs.
      Peter.

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      1. I’m pretty sure I remember Col. As a young fella, i spent a great deal of time in the North Sydney and Homebush offices.

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