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  Monday, December 22, 2014
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Newsletter & General Austin News

 

Please Click Links or Scroll Down the page to access all News Items and Downloads

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LINK TO;

- Latest Newsletter to Download

  - News Archive Read here

- Latest on Longbridge Site Read here

- Link to Piston Broke Articles below

- Austin War Apprenticeship Ronald Earp Read here

  - Longbridge Heritage Trail Guide Download here

- Interesting Austin Facts! Read here

- Apprentice MCC (Motor Car Club) Badges See here

 

Connect to the Austin Ex-Apprentices Professional Networking Group

If you are familiar with the professional on-line networking site LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com),  then an Austin Ex-Apprentice Group has been set up on this site which will enable Ex-Apprentices who want to join up,   the ability to share contact details.  Access Group invite here

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Made Redundant in 2005?  Want to share you story?  Made Redundant in 2005? Want to share you story? 

Did you work in Birmingham’s car industry and were

 

made redundant when Longbridge closed?

 

Do you want to share your story on what really happened?

 

Retooled is a project this summer that will capture in an exciting website the experience of the workforce following the closure of Longbridge.  The feedback will be used to build a hard-hitting picture of the successes and failures of corporate initiatives.

You’ll get the chance to work with others to tell the real story and if interested to gain new digital skills.

To be part of the core team you need to be available on the following dates in 2010. All of it will happen in or near Longbridge and we’ve checked – no clash with World Cup matches.

 

1. Evening Thursday 24 June

2. Daytime Saturday 10 July

3. Daytime Sunday 25 July

 

We are interested in all contributions with places for some to get involved in the creation of the site.

Find out more by calling project organiser Lizzie Ostrom on 07841 407 401

or email lizzie@retooled.co.uk . Be in touch to register by Friday 18th June 2010. Retooled is a free opportunity.

www.retooled.co.uk

 

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austin coding system information required  austin coding system information required 

 

Austin Coding System Information Required

 

 

 

In a recent note to our Chairman,  Mr Tony Osborne,  David Austin is seeking information regarding the Austin coding system.  You can reply direct to David or via ourselves at the Association.  Here's David's request for information............

 

 

Hello Tony,

I was given your name as a possible contact on a subject I am researching concerning Austin Motors history.

I should introduce my self; My name is David Austin, and I am a member of the Metropolitan Owners' Club (UK), and Metropolitan Owners' Club (North America).  I serve as a Historical consultant to the latter organisation.

My query relates to the coding system for Austin literature.  Most of the items of official Austin factory literature (Workshop Manuals, Parts lists, Owners' Handbooks etc) nearly always begin with an "AKD" prefix.  This has always puzzled me.  I can understand that probably "A" = Austin, and maybe "D" = Department, Division or Documentation, but I cannot think of any meaning of the "K" relative to documentation.

Some-one has suggested "K" could be an abbreviation for "UK" as opposed to documentation produced by other Austin divisions overseas, but I am not sure about this.

I wonder if you would have any idea about this?  If not, maybe you know some-one who worked in one of the drawing offices or an area that produced these manuals/booklets/handbooks who might know?

I have collected quite a considerable library of literature about the Nash, Hudson & Austin Metropolitan and, if you are interested, you can view at :-

http://www.metropolitan-library.com

If you know of anyone that worked on the Metropolitan Production line (either at "Austin" or "Fisher & Ludlow"-[body builders]) who might have anecdotal recollections of the Metropolitan, that would be extremely helpful in my quest for any details of production of this unusual vehicle.

Many thanks in advance for anything you can assist with.

Regards
David Austin

Perth, Western Australia
Member No. 2 Metropolitan Owners' Club (UK)  Librarian & Archivist
Member No. 200 Metropolitan Owners' Club (NA) Member of Historical Team
Web-master http://www.metropolitan-library.com & http://www.mocna.us

 

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Works Tours - The 'Theatre' of Manufacturing

 

 

 

Stimulated by the recent criss-cross of E-Mail messages between Ian Elliott, Chris Garner, Tim King, Tony Osborne, Ivor Vaughan and others - with references going back to 1935- Jon Nightingale did some reminiscing from his 1954-8 experiences :-

 

“ - - - brings back many happy memories of the times that we Apprentices were called upon to supplement the work of the official Works Guides (mostly ex-Birmingham City/Works Policeman) on days when big parties were booked in. Worth remembering that works tours were operated on virtually every working weekday throughout the year – with the exception of sensitive pre-launch times for new models.  Cancellations were all too frequent, however, due to strikes.

 

As I recall, visitors would arrive for coffee and biscuits at 10.00 am. This meant that, instead of our usual 7.30, 8.00 or 8.45 am start, when on Guiding duty, we could have valuable extra sleep and roll in just in time to join the visitors – great luxury.

 

Tom Welsh, assisted by Gwen, organised all tour bookings.  Tom would normally do a brief welcome address inside the Exhibition Hall from the top of the steps. On memorable occasions when Tom was not about, a senior Guide (Bill I think), short in stature, but big in voice, would take to his stage and rejoice in the moment of power. His poshest voice would boom out : –

“ Welcome to the H-orstin.  This factory was established by E-rbert H-orstin in 1905. As a matter of H-interest his brother, A-rry H-orstin, still works here. Our tour today will start in North Works H-engine H-assembly - - this afternoon we will conclude by going to H-east Works, followed by the C H-A B.“ !

 

Ivor and the others hit the spot when reference was made to the evocative sounds, smells, sheer excitement and dynamics of the throbbing hubbub. Thumping presses, screaming pneumatics and sparking welders. Industrial ‘Theatre’ giving its best performance. We were privileged to be part of that scene, and proud to be entrusted with guests to show around.

 

I don’t remember any formal instruction being given to us apprentices on the geography of Longbridge – or how the multiplicity of processes all knitted together to create that magic : the shiny finished product that nearly always started first time at the end of the CAB.   A bit of imagination came in handy sometimes when answering questions put by awe-struck visitors, but it is fair to say that we were learning a good deal more than they were!  Add a bit of skiving from time to time, and I gradually pieced together the layout of the whole site.  I had a total of 14 ‘moves’ in different parts of South, North and East works, but never got the chance to be attached to West.  Always grateful for the freedom-to-roam that we were given – or took for granted anyway !

 

Back to Works tours, another great joy was to be included with the guests for an Exhibition Hall (strange pretentious name I always thought) Restaurant lunch.  This was no snack. It ran to four courses of Gardner Merchant’s best offering, and included a bottle of M&B ale. Feeling more like an afternoon kip, we resumed the tour for another couple of hours, only to be faced upon our return, with a full sit-down tea!

 

I have a strong recall of the great pride that we then felt to be associated with Austin/BMC at the top of its game at a time of huge pent-up post war demand internationally. The Germans and Japanese had yet to demonstrate their reconstructed industrial powers.  Only the Americans had superior volumes and world clout - - and we never dreamed that Korea or China would emerge with such enormous strength nearly half a century later. With benefit of hindsight – it is natural to ask why, in those days when profits were being made, we didn’t invest more heavily in plant and equipment, face the need to steer towards a total marketing culture on an integrated Austin/Nuffield basis and move towards a more participative management style.  Yes, easily said - - -  if only !”       

 

Jon Nightingale

 

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piston broke articles  piston broke articles 

Piston Broke Articles

 

Listed below are excerpts from the Piston Broke Magazine from the late great Barry Walker.  This magazine was run by Barry on behalf on Austin Ex-Apprentices.

 

A Tale of the Engine Factory - An Everyday Story of Motor Folk

 

Whilst working as Project Manager on the O Series Engine in 1973, we had to demolish the whole frontage of North Works, running along Longbridge Lane. Alas, all the services were on that face: power, compressed air, offices, Ambulance Station and, yes, even the lavatories. The latter became the big issue.

 

But I had a brainwave. The Foundry bogs were upstairs, on the opposite far side of the dividing wall alongside the A block line. I also knew that since the automation of some core making, there were far less females now employed in the Foundry. Both female and male loos were a long row, simply separated by a partition.

 

I did a deal with the Foundry labour. I suggested that we could move the partition further into the ladies half, in order to enlarge the gents to cater for the influx from North Works. My part of the deal was to have both sections renovated. This temporarily solved our big bog problem in North Works and the Foundry got improved facilities. Everyone was a winner.

 

All went well until I received a complaint from one of my operators on the A block line. He had been sitting eating his sandwiches, just after the renovation, when he heard a rushing noise above him and a toilet full (ugh!) landed on top of his locker, where his sarnies were kept. The plumbers (bloody basic services) hadn’t  realised that the last female trap hadn’t been reconnected to the pipework on the North Works wall side!

 

The poor fellow couldn’t finish his sandwiches! One way of dieting, I guess.

 

 Ivor Vaughan          ( Ex. Piston Broke No 2 Article)

 

 

MG RV8

 

A familiar sight at hill climbs over the last few years has been a MG RV8, with a most unlikely history, owned and driven by Tim King (65-69) and Kim Johnson (66-70).

 

Built in 1992/3, the MGR V8 was one of the prototypes,  immeadiately preceding the vehicle that was crash tested for homologation purposes. The car was also used for all the original publicity material. Longbridge folklore has it that only photographs of the the left hand side of car were ever used, because all panels and gaps on this side were perfect, whereas they were all over the place on the other.

 

Until Rover Product Development  Engineer and ex-apprentice, Dave Peers suggested that prototype number 5 should be used to publicise the new model, it was destined for the baler.  Dave had designed successful hill climb cars such as the HiTech single-seaters for many years and felt that speed hill climbing was just the sort of activity that would appeal to MG enthusiasts.

He gathered a small team together, including John Yeo and Kim Johnson, and succeeded in  winning sponsorship from several suppliers such as Oselli, Portland Engineering, Krafthaus, Koni and Michelin. The Oselli engine started off at 3.9 litre, but the enthusiasm of David Oldham’s team at Oxford took over and the V8 grew steadily in size, finally ending up at 4800cc.  360PS and 460 Nm torque (190 PS and 318 Nm standard), gave it the ideal performance for powering up hills.

 

The early history of the car was chronicled in several articles in such magazines as MG Enthusiast and Safety Fast and the project was also mentioned in David Knowles’  book, MG V8.

With such a history the car was manna from heaven to every MG enthusiast, particularly as it was the first competition MG to come out of the factory for over 20 years. Here, at long last, was something for the hungry fans to write and read about.

 

Tim and Kim have never won a championships with the car, since it is 200kg heavier than most of its rivals and as much as 4-500 kg heavier than a Westfield or Caterham with similar engines. It still has the wooden facia, for example, but it certainly picks up its skirt and MG fans think it’s simply wondrous. It looks pretty dramatic too with its large rear wing and front splitter and it sounds fantastic. Tim and Kim bought the car from Rover in Nov 99.  There have been occasions when they have won their class and a couple of years ago Kim took FTD at the MG International at Silverstone, on a weekend that Tim was working! Last year they were leading after practice, but then the clutch broke.

 

 

MGF

 

After three pretty good seasons with the RV8, Rover offered them one of the new MGFs.

This was another pre-production car, which had been thrown together for the Tokyo Motor Show, whisked out there and back on a Jumbo jet and then abandoned.

 

It only had 3 km on the clock when they got it in 1997. Since then power has been increased from 120 to nearer 170 PS, with twin weber carburettors in place of the more usual fuel injection, because as Tim put it, “our feeble brains don’t understand modern engine management systems.” Lightweight panels and 8 inch wide slicks were fitted. But at 950kg it is still a heavy car, because of today’s crash test requirements. Even so, they took fastest MG and first in class at the MGCC sprint at Curborough, near Lichfield on 2 Apr 02.

 

Barry Walker      (Article Ex Piston Broke No 2)

 

 

Small Torque about an Apprentices' Magazine

 

The well-known television personality, Clive James, was raised in the same municipality in Sydney, Australia, where I now live. I’ve never met him but once read his autobiography, aptly named Unreliable Memoirs. It’s worth a mention here because that’s how I feel about the following thoughts.  It’s not that I wish to exaggerate or deceive but, at times, I’ve found that my recollections of events 50 years ago differ from those of my contemporaries.

 

So, with this in mind, here goes..........

 

I joined The Austin at Longbridge as an engineering apprentice in 1948. Then 18 years old and straight from Wimbledon College, I was wet behind the ears but passionately in love with a 1929 Austin 7 Chummy acquired two years earlier for 35 quid. In those days, I regularly walked past and occasionally into The Allard Motor Co factory at Clapham, London, to drool over their latest creations.

 

During my final year at school I applied for an apprenticeship there and was accepted. Weeks later, I received a nicely worded letter from Sydney Allard himself explaining their expansion plans had been put on hold and they’d decided not to indenture any apprentices that year.  My next port of call, Austin’s, proved more accommodating and late in 1948 I fronted up before Wally Greaves and Bobby  Howitt, respectively supervisor and assistant supervisor of the apprentices’ department at Longbridge. Wally had inherited the position from John Marsh, Bobby was once Herbert Austin’s private secretary and, rumour had it, Austin has decried that Bobby had a lifetime job with the company.

 

Lord Austin was dead by then of course but I heard a lot about him from Bobby Howitt, because I later became his official weekend chauffeur. Austin’s colourful vocabulary was still a byword among the older staff. They reckon he spoke two languages, English and Profane and no-one in the foundry who could match him in either! Mind you, I think he might have learned some of his profanity when serving his time in Australia. Young Herbert Austin lived in both Sydney and Melbourne when working for Wolseley Sheep Shearing Co. At one time he stayed in Thomas Street, McMahons Point, Sydney, and there's a plaque to this effect at the junction of Thomas and Union Streets.

 

Within weeks of coming to Longbridge in late 1948, I made an immediate impact by causing a strike that stopped an entire machine shop. I was operating a lathe when the overhead bulb blew, so I went to the store and asked for another. I was told to wait and the matter would be attended to later. As yet profoundly unschooled in the world of industrial relations, I soon grew tired of waiting and took a bulb from a nearby piece of machinery not in use and plugged it into ‘my’ socket.  Almost immediately, a shop steward hauled me before the factory superintendent, demanding I be given a right-old bollocking for changing the bulb.  Matters would have rested here, had I not compounded the indiscretion.  When the superintended asked why I hadn’t waited for the electrician to do the job, I replied (truthfully) that he and the other maintenance people were too busy playing cards. All hell broke loose! The shop steward accused me of being a “management stooge” and a “trouble-maker” and called a strike until I was transferred to another shop.

 

Soon after this incident, Wally Greaves sent for me and explained that the department planned to launch an apprentices’ magazine, or rather re-launch one. Two earlier attempts – one called The Austin Apprentice, the other Manifold – had failed. The latter started in 1935 and finished, I think, when WW2 broke out four years later. Now Wally wanted a new magazine and I was asked to volunteer’ to edit it.  Some months later I realised my appointment was a case of mistaken identity. At the time there was a famous motoring identity, S C H (Sammy) Davis, who had been a racing driver and became an influential motoring journalist. It happens that my father, Conrad, was a newspaper journalist, working for The London Evening News and my application form to become an apprentice simply gave his occupation as ‘journalist.’ Someone in the apprentices’ department put two and two together and come up with the conclusion that I was Sammy Davis’ son.

 

Wrong! He was no relation, but the assumed connection was sufficient to get me the job as editor of the new magazine. That in turn took me into a privileged world, in which I could wander around the factory almost at will (always with a clip board in hand), take time off to visit “the printer” and slip into Dr Weaving’s Experimental Department. I even occasionally drove antique cars from the Austin museum on the grounds that I was writing an historic feature.

 

The first issue of Torque appeared in early 1949, about five months after joined the company. Wally and I co-opted Dan Clayton, Stan Cracknell and Ted Scrannage to help with the editorial, plus Roy Clements, Graham Robinson and John Rowe to help with production, sales, business and advertising. Soon, Peter Houlston and Cliff Vincenti joined the merry gang.  Who thought of calling it Torque? Early in the piece, we were mulling over ideas for technical articles and I think it was Dan Clayton who said: “We ought to talk a bit about torque.” There it was, a ready-made name!

 

To the best of my knowledge, using Torque in that context was an original thought but it later became so hackneyed that columns called ‘Technical Torque’ and such like appeared in most motoring magazines.  We also had fun trying to work out a motto for the new magazine. One suggestion was to parody a famous wartime phrase and say ‘Give us the Job and we’ll finish the Tools’!

 

Torque was laid out and printed by The Redditch Indicator Company who relished having an ‘in’ with the mighty Austin organisation and quoted a low price, hoping it might lead to greater things. I never learned whether or not it did, but the people at Redditch were fantastically helpful the whole time I was associated with Torque.

 

Our financial guidelines were vague but I was told the magazine would have to stand on its own feet. Fortunately though, we got off to a good start when the MD, ‘Len’ Lord (later Lord Lambury) shelled out for the print cost for the first issue. The Apprentices Committee managed to sell the entire print run of 500 copies, with Bob Faulkner personally selling one hundred copies on the first day, a feat akin to Dennis Compton making 100 at Lords before lunch.  One amusing tale concerned a staff member who was perusing his copy when a stalwart of the inspection department came over. The latter, who was responsible for inspecting engine components for the slightest error, calmly enquired if he could borrow the “book” as he was about to take his family to Torque (Torquay) for their annual holidays!

 

We published Torque four times a year, with a steadily increasing circulation, thanks to strong support from the Austin Ex-Apprentices Committee, especially Frank Allen, Leo Dove and Cliff Lewis. By the Spring 1950 issue, we had 140 subscribers in twelve separate countries. Our very energetic sales manager, John Cox, blitzed the factory, selling hundreds of copies around the workshops at one shilling a pop, a big reduction on the original price of 18 pence. We had five full pages of advertising and sold out the print run of 1000 copies. Amazingly, we actually made a profit!

 

To keep sales on the boil, we made a special stand for the Austin Apprentices’ 16th Annual Dinner in 1950 to display early and current copies to the 280 current and former apprentices attending the dinner.  Not all readers liked Torque. One critic wrote to say we should bore into the management like terriers, another thought we should lead a campaign to demand more pay. Several wanted us to produce articles of greater interest.

 

Looking back, they were probably right, but I should add that Torque had been carefully vetted, some might say censored, by Wally Greaves from Day One. Dan Clayton’s article ‘This Happy Breed,’ published in the first edition, made Wally especially vigilant. Largely a spoof on the history of the Austin Seven, Dan’s article brought a howl of protest from some old timers who’d been associated with the project during the 1920s. The phrase producing the greatest ire ran: “It was the only true ‘horseless’ carriage on the road, since its engine was more in the nature of a donkey engine.”

 

Despite the critics, our circulation kept climbing and we printed and sold 2,000 copies of a special edition published to coincide with the 1951 Festival of Britain and the opening of the new Car Assembly Building built on the former Flying Ground. By this time, Dan Clayton, Peter Houlston and myself were nearing the end of our ‘time.’ I can’t remember who decided to change things and ensure continuity for the future but the magazine staff was reorganised for the issue dated Winter 1951-52. Yours truly was promoted Managing Editor (whatever that is), Dan Clayton switched to running sales and Mike Nolan took over the editorial duties.

 

Dan and I finished our time in 1952 and the Winter 1951-52 was the last issue produced by the founding committee. Fortunately, Mike Nolan very effectively took up the reigns and was still doing a great job when I moved from the UK in 1953.

 

Pedr Davis (48-52)

 

 

THE AUTHOR: PEDR DAVIS

 

After finishing his apprenticeship in 1952, Pedr worked for George Harriman’s office on assignments in Australia, Canada, and the USA. He resigned in 1957 and emigrated to Australia to marry Dolores, an Aussie girl, who he’d met two years earlier.  He worked briefly for BMC Australia, before starting his own business as a freelance technical journalist. He also became involved in television and radio. He has had over forty books published, on subjects ranging from cars and historic aircraft to biographies. Until he retired seven years ago, he had his own publishing company, Marque Publishing Pty Ltd, which is still flourishing since he sold it.  Pedr and Dolores have three sons. One is Vice Chancellor of Griffith University, Brisbane, another Features Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald, and the third a director/producer for ABC television.  Hobbies include digital photography and vintages cars. Pedr still has a 1926 Bugatti Grand Sport and 1952 MG TD, both aquired in the early eighties and restored by himself.  The couple travel a fair bit.

 

( Article Ex. Piston Broke No2 )

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MINI Happy Returns!


text Ian Elliott, pictures from BMIHT Archive


 



 

Original Mini is 50 this year, with lots of celebratory events and activities planned.  Looking back over those 50 years, however, there have been some terrific official Birthday Parties for this irrepressible little car.


The seed of the idea wasn't a milestone birthday at all, but a one-off 'Mini Festival' held at Brands Hatch in May 1967. Organised by the BMC publicity department, the Festival celebrated the first 8 years of the Mini's life, which had been extremely eventful. In addition to a rich selection of factory-built Minis (including Mokes, Coopers, Elfs and Hornets) an extraordinary array of Mini-based ‘specials' were paraded around the track. Cut-down 'Minisprints', Unipower and Landar racers, Mini Marcoses, Crayford convertibles and dozens of other professional or home-made variations on the Mini theme were to be seen. Naturally, there were several Works Mini Coopers on parade, then at the peak of their competition successes (and celebrating a great 'revenge' win in the 1967 Monte Carlo Rally to make up for the organisers' unsporting disqualification of the Minis that took a moral 1-2-3 victory in 1966). One of the highlights of the event was a Mini Fancy Dress competition, which was particularly well supported by BMC dealers.


The tenth birthday of 1969 wasn't celebrated in this way, because the new company, British Leyland,  probably didn't want to focus on the age of the car when the average model life was 5-8 years. Instead,  they turned the spotlight on the new Clubman and 1275GT models as the most 'modern' of Minis. By 1979, however, things were very different. The Mini had already become a classic in its own lifetime, and the Austin Morris division of what was now called BL was proud of its most famous product. What's more, they had a solid marketing reason for making a fuss of the 20th birthday - they wanted to communicate to the public that the Mini was to continue in production alongside the new supermini due for launch (as Metro) in 1980. So, in addition to the 'Mini Special' Limited Edition models, the Donington race circuit was booked for the Mini Extravaganza. Noel Edmonds (remember him ?) dropped in by helicopter to open the event, there was a Mini Autocross event, parades of special Minis, a fleet of Mini 20 Specials for the press to drive round the track and a grand cavalcade at the end. Some 20,000 visitors came to enjoy the fun. I was driving the late John Cooper around the perimeter track,  (in a Mini, of course), when we heard on the radio that the IRA had murdered Lord Mountbatten by blowing up his boat. That dampened things down a bit.

 


The official plan was to run Mini until 1982. Of course, it was still selling too well to even think about discontinuing it, so by 1984 there had to be a Silver Anniversary 25th Birthday Party. Building on the experience of 1979, a team of Austin Rover marketing staff planned the 25th 'do' over several months - again to be held at Donington. This time there were Mini 7 races as well as Mini-cross and autotests, plus a whole range of Mini-themed funfair activities and a special 36 page commemorative brochure. This event really pulled in the Mini-loving public, from UK and overseas, with around 60,000 attending, to the embarrassment of the caterers, who initially refused to believe that the numbers would top those of the previous event. They had a real struggle to ship in extra beer and staff, because there was a Mini-jam all the way back to the M1. One amusing anecdote concerned a senior Austin Rover Director. He had driven to the event in one of the 25 special display versions of the Mini 25 Limited Edition. These 25 cars were positioned around Donington so that no visitor could miss seeing at least one. When our Director returned to his Mini 25 to drive home, it absolutely refused to start. Nothing obviously wrong under the bonnet, so he made other arrangements to get home. Later we discovered that all 25 display cars had had their ignition leads carefully transposed, so that the engines looked quite normal, but were completely incapable of running! 25 years later, will the Mini-joker now please own up? Mini 25 would be surely be the last big Mini event, everyone thought.


Not a bit of it. Mini was just getting into its stride by 1989, with lots of interesting developments to come. There was nothing for it but to really roll out the barrel for Mini 30. The larger Silverstone Circuit was booked, a glossy 78 page Mini 30 magazine was issued through newsagents in advance to publicise the event, and the international Mini clubs were encouraged to make a huge weekend of it. Russ Swift's team did their two-wheeled Mini acrobatics, Stuart Hall ran a Mini 'Knockout' competition, and the grand finale, an attempt on the record for the most number of Minis on a track saw 5093 Minis filling the Grand Prix circuit. In the car parks there were another 32,000 Minis, and the 120,000 attendance figure beat even the British GP. The success of Mini 30 played a significant role in boosting Mini product plans for the 1990s, with the relaunch of the Mini Cooper and all the other fantastic developments leading up to the new generation BMW MINI.

 

 


In fact, by the time that Mini 35 came around in August 1994, Rover belonged to BMW, who were certainly keen to continue the Mini legend. The Mini 35 party at Silverstone evolved from the experience of Mini 30, though it was felt necessary to charge for entry this time, which trimmed the attendance back a little. The revenue helped to pay for more elaborate entertainments, which ran to fashion displays, monster trucks, motorcycle acrobatics, Sumo wrestlers and many other distractions. Oh- and there were quite a lot of Mini events too! This time the Cavalcade was a more structured affair, with a chronological theme running from Mini No 1 to the latest Mini 35 Limited Editions, including one thousand Minis or Mini-derived vehicles in between.


On a personal note, my wife always drove Minis during this time, so I took whatever was the ‘Mini of the moment’ to the 25th, 30th and 35th events. In 1989, anyone arriving at Silverstone in a Mini had the choice of either parking in a normal car park, or was encouraged to park up on the Grand Prix circuit ready for the grand cavalcade at the end. This seemed too good to miss, so we parked up our Mini City as the very busy marshals directed us, five cars abreast (leaving just a service lane around the track). Many visitors were probably wary of being ‘trapped’ in this incredible Mini car park at the end, because it could have been even bigger – though there had to be some free space in order to run the cavalcade! In fact the cavalcade went off remarkably smoothly – although one or two high spirited types decided to take to the grass after Copse, quickly discovering that it offered zero braking friction, and several Minis got bent noses and tails. After we’d done our complete circuit, we were led off the track somewhere past Becketts and across a field track, and thence into the quiet country lanes around Silverstone. This worked brilliantly, allowing 5,093 Minis to be diffused smoothly away from the area. The 35th cavalcade in1994 wasn’t so effortless – I took a Mini 30 that time, and was grateful for the extra luxury inside, because this time the Silverstone folk simply fed us to the normal exit – we all sat in the ensuing traffic jam for an hour! In compensation, I later found that a photograph taken at the event of our Mini 30 had appeared in the BMW Annual Report for 1994!

 


For the 35th party there had been a 116-page souvenir magazine, which of course, had to be bettered in 1999 for Mini 40, when the page count ran to 152. Mini 40 was again at Silverstone, attracting some 70,000 people. Many of the now traditional elements were in place, but the one item that marked out this last of the 'Original Mini' Parties was that a 'teaser' viewing of the new MINI was set up in a darkened tent ; Mini only had another year of production to run by this time, in order to complete its incredible 41 year run. We shall not see its like again, but it is reassuring that British Motor Heritage at Witney is still making Mini bodyshells, subframes and many other parts to keep this immortal Brit on the road. Happy  50th, Mini!


 

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SPOZ and the closure of longbridge in 2005  SPOZ and the closure of longbridge in 2005 

SPOZ on Life and the 'Closure at Rover'

 



Former 2006/7 Birmingham Poet Laureate and Ex-Apprentice Giovanni Esposito,  better known as ‘Spoz’,  has turned to his true vocation and talent since leaving MG Rover in 2005 and has had his award winning work published, recorded and aired on national radio.  He’s also a member of the renowned ‘New October Poets’, has taken part in so many festivals,  he’s just lost count (including Glastonbury) and even had a commission from the BBC.  To find out if Spoz’s work is your cup of tea,  get yourself over to his website at Spoz.net  There is a health warning,  though as it ‘May Contain Nuts and Rhyming Language!!’

 

Here's something SPOZ penned just after the closure of MG Rover in 2005.

 

 

Identity Poem (A Job’s Not Who You Are)                                             

 

By Spoz

 

For twenty five years I was that man,

That man who’d get up some time after six

And take his biggest risk – cornflakes or wheatabix?

That man who fell out of bed and fell into work,

Fell for the ‘Rover’, over the ‘Merc’

And the ‘Beamer’ – ‘cause they were for dreamers.

That man who’d got the beautiful house,

The beautiful wife, the beautiful kids,

I was a genius… yeah…

You should have seen us,

Happy with my lot and everything I’d got,

That I’d worked for with my job, called a career,

The something that was getting me there…from here.

 

But I never got there.

Me and five thousand ex-Rover colleagues never got there -

Where ever there was,

“We know it isn’t fair, Spoz,

Our hands are tied, the management lied,

Now don’t scream and shout,

But the light at the end of the tunnel’s gone out”.

 

Understatement – I was dazed

Understatement – I was confused

Understatement – I was in shock

But I was no stick of rock.

Cut me in half and it didn’t say Rover - it was over …

I was punch drunk, I was floored,

But it was time to sever that umbilical cord.

Find a new identity -

The one I knew I was meant to be.

 

‘Cause a job isn’t who you are, it’s what you do,

There are bigger things in life that define the likes of me and you,

Like that little fishy from your dad,

The tiny egg from your mom,

A sprinkle from a miracle and the two become one,

You or me – see?

But that’s just biology,

It happens every day,

Because your God and my God kind of made it that way.

It’s the trail you tread, not as a job but a vocation,

From every nation and global location,

That when mixed with your genes, no I.D. card can describe,

The different identities from one common tribe.

 

 

 

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