Steel map com­mem­o­rat­ing a cen­tury of British car pro­duc­tion un­veiled

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - THIS WEEK - John Lakey

Austin and Rover en­thu­si­asts, their cars and for­mer Long­bridge em­ploy­ees turned out in force on 16 Novem­ber to re­mem­ber the his­toric site of ‘The Austin’ ( lat­terly MG Rover) – im­mor­talised in a stain­less-steel plaque map­ping out the fac­tory perime­ter and the build­ings within it.

Funded by Birm­ing­ham City Coun­cil, Arts Coun­cil Eng­land, Long­bridge Pub­lic Art Pro­ject (LPAP), St Mod­wen and the Austin Long­bridge Fed­er­a­tion, the map was un­veiled in the re­tail park oc­cu­py­ing the space where Austin’s No. 2 Ma­chine Shop once stood. The dis­play, backed by LPAP, will al­low fu­ture gen­er­a­tions to un­der­stand how enor­mous, (and sig­nif­i­cant) ‘The Austin’ was to lo­cal res­i­dents.

It was the brain­child of for­mer fac­tory en­gi­neer and exap­pren­tice, John Baker, lat­terly chair­man of the Austin Long­bridge Fed­er­a­tion (ALF), and cre­ator of the Austin Mem­o­ries web­site.

Once his idea had been ap­proved by LPAP and a lo­ca­tion had been de­cided, John was able to de­sign the map, which is to scale. He said: ‘In the end I de­cided to base the map in circa 1985. It in­cludes some very in­ter­est­ing facts about the fac­tory’s war ef­forts in the Sec­ond World War, which were ex­tremely im­por­tant, too. I also de­cided to use 1964 as the ba­sis for some other facts as that was when Long­bridge had over ten miles of in­ter­nal roads and em­ployed 26,300 peo­ple.’ A frac­tion of the orig­i­nal Long­bridge fac­tory site is still used by MG Mo­tor UK (and its par­ent, SAIC) for ho­molo­ga­tion and emis­sions test­ing pur­poses; the re­main­ing land was re­de­vel­oped by prop­erty firm St Mod­wen into hous­ing, shop­ping cen­tres and smaller in­dus­trial units. Nearby Austin Vil­lage, built at the be­hest of Her­bert Austin for his work­force dur­ing World War One, still stands. long­bridge-archives.tum­blr.com austin-mem­o­ries.com

Long­bridge Town Cen­tre Car ParkBe­tween Austin Av­enue and Cooper Way (be­tween Marks & Spencer and Pound­land) Sat navs: Use post­code B31 2UQ ABOVE The Rev Colin Corke, Vicar of Long­bridge, with his 180,000mile Rover 75 Tourer.RIGHT ALF trea­surer, Mike Lash­ford, with one of his Austin A35s. He has driven an A35 of some de­scrip­tion since he was 17. Ex-Long­bridge en­gi­neer, John Baker, un­veiled the site’s new map. Dis­play of clas­sics fea­tured pre- and post-war ve­hi­cles.

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