British Motoring Heroes Celebrated
Amid the doom-and-gloom of a depression-addled Britain, several motoring milestones were celebrated at the end of last month, all of which looked back at our proud manufacturing heritage, which remains very much alive.
The Oxfordshire factory that produces MINIs today is celebrating its 100th year of carmaking, since William Morris’s Oxford emerged in March 1913. Although the home of Morris Motors initially, the Cowley plant survived throughout the British Motor Corporation, British Leyland, Austin Rover, Rover and BMW eras, and produced 11.5 million new cars. It also survived World War Two and contributed significantly to the allied war effort, producing such diverse items as iron lungs and Tiger Moth aircraft.
Many historically-important cars were made at Cowley subsequently, including the Morris Minor, Mini, the best-selling BMC 1100/1300 and Marina ranges and the Triumph Acclaim, the first product of a very fruitful Anglo-Japanese alliance. The result of BMW retaining the rights of a handful of British brands from the Rover Group sell-off meant that over 2.5million new MINI cars have been assembled at the site since 2001. Although the Bavarians have rebranded Cowley as ‘Plant Oxford,’ it cannot claim past glories as its own but few people can deny that the success of the new MINI models has added an important new chapter to the UK’s motoring heritage.
Sources within BMW UK have confirmed that, despite the Countryman and Paceman versions of the MINI being assembled in Austria, Plant Oxford is undergoing a major investment to handle assembly of the all-new MINI hatchback, a model that accounts for half of total MINI sales.
Meanwhile, Rolls Royce, a company also under the financial control of BMW, is celebrating 150 years since one of its founders, Frederick Henry Royce, OBE, was born. Although he achieved early successes prior to becoming involved with motorcars, his partnership with Charles Rolls, six years before his death in a flying accident, was his most fruitful collaboration.
Torsten Müller-Ötvös, CEO, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, said, “Sir Henry Royce, a man who came from such humble beginnings, always sought perfection in everything he did. His legacy to engineering still lives on today and I am sure he would be proud to see the cars being handcrafted at the Home of Rolls-Royce at Goodwood.”