Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin today (28 March) opened an exhibition marking 100 years of car production on the site of Lord Nuffield’s Morris factory, where the current Mini is made.
Iconic models on display in the building, which opens to the public on Tuesday (2 April), include a Bullnose Morris, a Ten-Six Special Coupé, a cutaway example of a Minor 1000, an Austin Mini Countryman and a Leyland Princess.
The show documents the evolution of the factory, from early production techniques and hand painting to the automated facilities of modern times.
It also remembers Cowley’s contribution to Britain in times of conflict; the factory produced 4000 Tiger Moths during WW2, as well as carrying out 80,000 repairs on Hurricanes and Spitfires.
The new facility honours the man originally responsible for bringing car production to the site – Lord Nuffield.
One of the richest men of his time, he was also one of the most modest and contributed millions of pounds from his fortune (the equivalent of £11billion today) to charitable causes. The legendary philanthropist also produced iron lungs at his factory, free of charge for any hospital that required one and set up numerous employee benefits.
His only vices in life were smoking and a love of long-distance voyages.
Alec Issigonis, who designed the Morris Minor and the Mini, is also singled out for praise. One of the highlights is a display of his sketches including an early drawing of the Morris Minor (called the Mosquito) from 1944 under which he wrote ‘the first car to embody headlamps in the front grille’.
Eric Lord, who worked at the site for almost 40 years and was celebrating his 93rd birthday, was also on hand to share stories from his career.
The day was fittingly brought to a close with a flypast from a Tiger Moth that was built on site.
Entry to the show, and tours of the modern factory, can be booked on the MINI website.