A celebration marking a century of car-making in Oxford, England, will be held March 28, 100 years to the day from when the first Bullnose Morris Oxford was built by William Morris, a few hundred yards from where the modern Mini plant now stands.
Just 20 cars were built a week at the start, but over the century 11.65 million units have been produced. Today, Plant Oxford employs 3,700 workers who make up to 900 Mini subcompacts a day.
Major investment is under way at the factory to create new facilities for the next-generation Mini. The project includes installing 1,000 new robots for both a new body shop and the existing plant.
This represents the lion’s share of a £750 million ($1.1 billion) investment program that also sees the significant upgrading and installation of new facilities at the auto maker’s Hams Hall engine plant and the Swindon stamping operations.
Over the decades that followed the first Bullnose, cars came from a wide range of famous British brands – and one Japanese – including MG, Wolseley, Riley, Austin, Austin Healey, Mini, Vanden Plas, Princess, Triumph, Rover, Sterling and.
The Pressed Steel Co., part of the Cowley operation, also built body shells for Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Jaguar, MG, Standard-Triumph,and Hillman, as well as tooling dies for Alfa Romeo.
It also has produced Tiger Moth aircraft, ambulances, military trucks, jerry cans, military glider components and parachutes. More than 80,000 repairs to damaged Spitfire and Hurricane aircraft were made at the Cowley facility during World War II.
Plant Oxford has had eight owners over the past 100 years, beginning with founder Morris, who owned the factory both directly and through Morris Motors until 1952, when the auto maker merged with archrival Austin to form British Motor.
In 1967, BMC became British Motor Holdings after merging with Jaguar, and the following year that group was merged with the Leyland truck company (which also included Triumph and Rover) to form British Leyland.
Nationalization followed in 1974, and the group was renamed several times until it became Rover Group in 1986; two years later it was privatized with the sale to British Aerospace.
It in turn sold the group, which included Land Rover, toin 1994.
Difficulties including an unfavorable exchange rate and falling sales ledto sell both Rover and Land Rover in 2000, but it retained the Mini brand, Plant Oxford, the Swindon stamping operation and the Hams Hall engine plant that was then preparing for production.
Today, Plant Oxford is flourishing with the manufacture of the Mini Hatchback, Convertible, Clubman, Clubvan, Roadster and Coupe.
Plant Oxford also has contributed to the industrial activities of countries from around the globe by producing tens of thousands of cars for export in complete-knocked-down kits for assembly in overseas factories.
Countries that have built cars from those kits include Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Cuba, East Africa, Ghana, Holland, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Spain, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Trinidad, Turkey, Uganda and Uruguay.
By 1967, CKD cars comprised 40% of British Motor’s exports, with its kits assembled in 21 plants around the world. Plant Oxford has shipped 1.7 million Minis to more than 100 countries since 2001.