From fast cars to fast food – that’s the fate of a prominent Irvine (a few clicks on I5 south of LA), California building now home to what’s left of Ford’s Premier Automotive Group (PAG) but soon to become the headquarters of huge restaurant chain owner Taco Bell.

The Yum Brands group firm has signed a 10-year lease for about two-thirds of the space at One Premier Place, a two-building centre that faces the Santa Ana (I5) freeway, the Orange County Business Journal (OCBJ) said. Taco Bell is relocating from elsewhere in the Irvine region.

The high-profile buildings, totalling about 300,000 sq ft, have served as Ford’s west coast headquarters since construction in 2001 at a cost of about US$68m.

Taco Bell will move early in 2010. Lease terms and details were not announced.

The local report said the buildings are owned by Ford which has drastically shrunk its local operations – PAG brands Aston Martin, Jaguar and Land Rover have been sold and Volvo is relocating its US headquarters to New Jersey.

Ford is keeping what’s left of its local operations in 90,000 square feet at the complex, the paper reported, adding that automaker officials had said the company remains committed to keeping a presence in Orange County.

About 125 Ford employees will remain at the site and their departments are not downsizing, John Clinard, western regional communications manager for Ford, told the OCBJ.

One Premier Place includes an 181,000 sq ft office tower and a 90,000 sq ft product development wing. Taco Bell is taking up the entire five-storey office tower while Ford’s western HQ staff and design group will be housed in the product development wing, which will be reconfigured.

A New York Times blog noted there had been no word yet on what would happen to the popular car show held in the Ford complex’s parking lot every Saturday morning.