Autocar readers visit Mini Oxford plant for exclusive Paddy Hopkirk Q&A
UK manufacturing base played host to Autocar subscribers as rally legend Hopkirk talked us through his career behind the wheel
To judge by the 1000 gleaming Minis that roll daily from the famous Cowley car factory, nowadays rechristened Plant Oxford by its BMW owners, you’d have very little clue to the fact that these premises are the site of the UK’s oldest car factory.
Neither would you know that the first owner, William Morris, later Lord Nuffield, converted an old military academy to make cars here – and adopted Henry Ford’s mass-production techniques there for his Bullnose Morris Oxford cars just four years after they were more famously introduced in Dearborn.
These facts, along with the knowledge that Plant Oxford has been making motor vehicles continuously all these years, were just part of the fascinating knowledge shared with a 60-strong group of Autocar loyalists who joined our latest Subscriber Extra event on a recent Friday morning.
First they toured the factory’s body shop and final assembly plant and then they met Monte Carlo Rally legend and Mini hero Paddy Hopkirk – who gave a highly amusing talk about his extraordinary life and times before taking 20 minutes of questions that were just as lively. The session ended with a tasty lunch.
The Subscriber Extra party, accompanied by several members of the Autocar staff, had gathered in a special part of the Plant Oxford visitors’ centre (handily placed for the shop) before minibuses took them into the heart of the vast works, which nowadays contains more robots than people.
Highlights were understanding the complex organisation of the place – which aims to make a car every 67 seconds and depends on millions of just-in-time parts being delivered every day. BMW’s detailed quality controls were always prominent: Mini has always been well known for durability and classy manufacturing standards.
General opinion seemed to be that the event was a smash, with the irrepressible Paddy’s presentation a major highlight. Some of our Plant Oxford guests had previously been with us for the Subscriber Extra Bentley concept launch in Crewe, and were soon keenly quizzing Autocar event organiser Lydia Banton about the site and nature of our next event. The truth – as Lydia made clear at the time – is that we have several options but no firm plan. But we’ll know the details very soon and they’ll be published online as soon as we do. Of course, all suggestions will be gratefully received.
Meanwhile, anyone who missed our Mini tour can arrange their own by visiting www.visit-mini.com. It’s easy and it’s great.
Want to get involved with our next event? Make sure to subscribe to the magazine for all the information.
Source: Autocar Online