BRITISH LEYLAND DIDN’T LIKE FACTORY TOURS
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.’