By 28 December 2005 0 Comments Read More →

Essay : Longbridge after Nanjing

Some snapshot images of Longbridge and its surroundings as taken by Sniff Petrol’s Richard Porter and an insider.

The signs of neglect at Longbridge become more widespread, and as KEITH ADAMS explains, it’s difficult not to succumb to feelings of doom and gloom after viewing these pictures of the plant – inside and out – taken during the last couple of weeks…


November/December 2005

Still little sign of the planned re-vitalisation of the famous Longbridge plant.


Longbridge, as viewed from 6436ft on Google Earth.

AFTER Nanjing’s surprise purchase of the remaining assets of MG Rover from Phoenix’s administrators, PricewaterhouseCoopers in July 2005, there has been little sign of activity at the once great car factory. Nanjing’s management has not exactly been the most communicative in the industry, picking and chosing who it choses to talk to.

At austin-rover.co.uk, we’ve watched the progress with increasing frustration, because with no real news coming through, it’s beginning to look like the Chinese company’s ambitions to restart production at the factory looks increasingly unlikely.

However, we have been in contact with people who have spoken to Nanjiing’s Mr Wang Qui Jing – head of UK operations – at he’s telling anyone who’ll listen that the company is intent on restarting production at Longbridge – and not just sports cars. It wants the ZT to resume in the UK, leaving the ZR to a future in China. We’ve not mentioned the ZS, even though Mr Wang did because Honda might have something to say about that…

With regards to production at Longbridge, contrary to previous intelligence, following Nanjing’s takeover of Longbridge, a number of ZRs and ZSs that were on the line were completed – between August and October. So far, it is estimated that 50 were finished (but that figure could be significantly higher), although their fate is yet to be determined. Plenty of unsold (those owned by the banks as opposed to PwC) cars still reside at Longbridge, although signs of wear are now becoming apparent…

One worrying tale was recounted by someone on site recently, who asked not to be named – he told us, “I was driving through the factory in an unregistered 75, when an engineer coming the other way stopped me to see what the chassis number was on my car, so he could stamp out a plate for another unfinished car.”

The factory is also starting to look the worse for wear, and as Richard Porter’s pictures show, there probably won’t be anything done about the neglect. It’s a desperate situation, and one we can’t help but feel is now being prolonged by Chinese mismanagement of the situation.


Gallery


Richard Porter: “First picture speaks for itself. Not that the area’s going to the dogs or anything, but even the bloody sign is on the piss.”


First photo is a door on the ‘test & development’ centre or Flight Shed or however else it’s known. No crudely printed bi-lingual signage here, someone’s been out and bought an English/Chinese keep out sign. Not sure they have those in the B&Q in Selly Oak. I suppose this signals that there’s plenty of activity around this building, it certainly looked like there was stuff going on with quite a few Chinese blokes in overalls ambling down the hill and disappearing through the gates.


Down the side of Flight Shed and, an early left hand drive Rover 75 and a rather sad MG ZT sitting on its brake discs.


The view through Q gate. Aside from the 75 with no bumper, note the Tata pick up. Shudder.


No obvious signs of ‘lift and shift’ at the main plant, but look at this little convoy outside Powertrain.


That miserable Indica. Hopefully soon someone will have the presence of mind to set fire to it. According to one source: “The yellow Indica is one of the original cars brought in for evaluation, and was shown to a handfull of dealers 12 months before CityRover arrived. It was actually a Sporting model and was bloody horrible.”


A lonely 75 Tourer parked in the shadow of the Elephant House.


Round the side of the Visitors’ Centre – and still a few cars in varying states of disrepair to be spotted…


Look hard enough and you’ll see something strange about this rather neglected MG ZR. It’s actually a Streetwise prototype…


What have we here? It’s a Chinese work party smashing up Rover 45 bodyshells – they have one on its roof (to the far left), and are just about to attack it with a small crane (just out of shot to the right).


The MG TF GT prototype remains inside Longbridge – and there have been one or two very interesting technical solutions employed to sort out the oft-reported engine access issues with this car…


These MG ZRs were completed sometime in October…


The Kremlin frontage, sometime in October 2005 – as you can see, there’s little sign of activity there, although PwC auditors are still clocking in every day…


Chinese instructions scribbled on signs throughout Longbridge…


This is the Old West Works, as immortalised by the photographs taken by the crew at www.28dayslater.co.uk. Longbridge is slowly being emptied…


More sectioned cars – apparently, these were dissected in the name of training…


Production track – as can be seen, the IT Control systems remain up and running, even though no more cars will be coming through…


Many unsold cars remain at Cofton Park. As can be seen, this V8’s brake discs are rusting…

Keith Adams

About the Author:

Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and watched it steadily grow into AROnline. Is the Editor of Classic Car Weekly, and has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, Classic Car Weekly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, and the the Motoring Independent... Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasable adventures all across Europe.

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