Austin - Post War to 2005
The Post War Period
The post war confidence of the nation and the growing influence of the U.S.A. was reflected in the new generation of Austin cars. Nothing typifies this better than the A40, A70 and the A90, culminating in Nash Metropolitan of 1953.
The British Motor Corporation was created by the merger of Austin and Morris( Nuffield) Motors, the merger had been mooted on a number of occasions before coming into being in July 1952.
The association with Pinin Farina led to the A40 Farina. This car , basically, a re-bodied A35, was a massive leap forward in styling. Pinin Farina also restyled the A55 which in turn led to the restyled Morris Oxford, Wolseley 15/60, MG Magnette and Riley 4/68.
The Mini and the Alec Issigonis Era
Launched in 1959, Sir Alec Issigonis's Austin7 and Morris Mini Minor, both to become known as the ini became a design icon.
- A transversely mounted integrated engine and gear box.
- A wheel in each corner giving excellent handling.
- Rubber suspension produced by Moulton Developments Ltd..
- A new drive shaft, with a constant velocity joint, was developed by Hardy Spicer to make the transmission of power to the road smoother.
Upmarket versions were badged as the Riley Elf and Wolseley Hornet. Other versions of the Mini include the Cooper, the Moke, the van, the Countryman, the pickup etc. Over 5.5 million Minis were produced at a variety of factories including Longbridge and Cowley.
Issigonis was also responsible for the Austin 1100/1300. The Morris version came to the market in August 1962, and the Austin was launched in September 1963. Over 2 million of these cars were produced between the launch and 1975 when production ceased.
The 1800 was launched in August 1964, stayed in production for approximately 10 years. The public never warmed to this car with total sales a little over 0.3 million.
The End of BMC
In 1968 BMC was taken over by Leyland to become The British Leyland Motor Company, or BLMC.
The Austin Maxi, Princess, Ambassador, Maestro and Montego were built at Cowley, so are outside the scope off this piece.
A very small number of Morris Itals were built at Longbridge in the period 1984-1984. Many people saw the Marina/Ital as a backward step, unkindly referring to it as a rebodied Morris Minor. This was not true, the car could be favourably compared to its contemporary, the Hillman Avenger.
The Austin Allegro, with its quartic steering wheel, was launched in 1971. It suffered many teething problems, amongst them the fact that the boot lid was too small for the boot aperture, windscreens would pop out because tolerances couldn't be maintained. Despite this over 660,000 cars were produced before it ceased production in 1982.
The Austin Mini Metro
Launched in 1980, the Metro brought the restoration of the Austin name to a BL car. To quote Harold Musgrove, Chairman of BL's Light/Medium Cars Group...we were confident that there was scope to re-establish the Austin name....Metro represents everything that is world renowned about Austin engineering: unparalleled use of interior space, coupled with astonishing economy and refinement...
In 1986 Austin Rover became known as the Rover Group and the car lost its Austin badge in 1987. The Rover Metro became the Rover 100, which it remained until it ceased production in 1997.
Honda-BMW-Phoenix Consortium-Nanjing Automotive
The first fruit of the link with Honda was the Rover 200, a modified Honda Ballade badged as a Rover, launched in 1984. The Rover 800 came next in 1986. The co-operation with Honda produced a new Rover 200 model in 1989. There can be no doubt that without Honda's input these new cars would have never seen the light of day.
The Rover Group was privatised by being sold to British Aerospace in 1988.
In 1989 Roy Axe, Chief Stylist of BL said Rover did very well out of it. Unfortunately Honda found the joint exercise an awful hassle and said they would never do that again....
BMW purchased the Rover Group in 1994. Longbridge became BMW Plant No.32 and built Rover 25s and 45s. The Rover 75 was built at Cowley.
In March 2000 BMW announced that it was to hand over Rover and Longbridge to Alchemy, a venture capital company headed by Jon Moulton. Negotiations between the two companies broke down and a bid by the Phoenix Consortium, headed by John Towers, with the backing of the trade unions and the Government was accepted.
The new company went into administration in April 2005 with debts of over .4 billion. It was announced that 6,000 people would be made redundant.
A close contest between Shanghai Automotive and a fellow Chinese car company Nanjing Automotive saw MG Rover finally sold for 3 million to Nanjing Automotive Group in July 2005.
In July 2005 The Federation of Austin Clubs, Registers and Associations celebrated 100 years of Austin. A cavalcade of Austin cars paraded through Birmingham before attending a rally at Cofton Park in Birmingham. To find out more about the Austin Centenary and the Austin Federation visit www.austinmotor.co.uk
In 2007 new owners NAC ( Nanjing Automobile Corporation ) from China announced that new MG models would be built at the site, including the MG TF sports car. At that time the workforce numbered just 130.
It is also planned to commence production of MG6 saloon at the Birmingham plant in the UK before the end of 2010, renaming the site MG Birmingham. The name Longbridge was no more.
The massive factory site was developed in 2010 . The new very large Bourneville College was built on part of the site , along with other facilities. A new "village" centre was planned and a huge retail development began in 2011.A Brief History of Austin and Longbridge - The Early Years
Austin - The War Years