BRI­TISH LEY­LAND DIDN’T LIKE FAC­TORY TOURS

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - 7 Brilliant Stories -

MG knew peo­ple loved its sports cars – and plenty of them lapped up the chance to visit Abing­don to see them be­ing care­fully bolted to­gether.

While the man­u­fac­turer had been al­low­ing would-be cus­tomers into the Ox­ford­shire plant on an ad-hoc ba­sis since the 1930s the idea of giv­ing of­fi­cial fac­tory tours be­came a big part of MG’s busi­ness in the 1960s. The man­u­fac­turer went to the trou­ble of print­ing sou­venir fac­tory guides for vis­i­tors tak­ing part in of­fi­cially or­gan­ised tours, a few copies of which sur­vive in the club’s ar­chives.

But what worked un­der BMC’s man­age­ment didn’t trans­late too well when MG was ab­sorbed into the newly formed Bri­tish Ley­land em­pire in 1968, with the new man­age­ment tak­ing a dim view of its assem­bly fa­cil­i­ties be­ing used as petrol­head tourist at­trac­tions.

MG Car Club ar­chiv­ist Peter Neal re­mem­bers tak­ing vis­i­tors around the Abing­don works when he was em­ployed there as an ap­pren­tice, but says that un­der BL the of­fi­cially or­gan­ised tours were brought to a halt in 1969.

He says: ‘It was def­i­nitely good pub­lic­ity for the com­pany in the 1960s, and all sorts of peo­ple used to en­joy look­ing around the fac­tory – I re­mem­ber tak­ing a group of young Volk­swa­gen em­ploy­ees around once, who just loved the cars and wanted to see how they were made.

‘It was a shame that BL frowned upon it, which is why it all fiz­zled out. There were still fac­tory tours or­gan­ised on a one-off ba­sis through­out the 1970s if peo­ple wrote to us in ad­vance – if a group of US cus­tomers wanted to see the cars be­ing made, we weren’t go­ing to turn them down.’

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