Blog : It was ten years ago…

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Keith Adams

www.austin-rover.co.uk from April 2002
www.austin-rover.co.uk from April 2002

Although 2011 was the official tenth anniversary of the creation of the site you know and love today, it was something of a phoney beginning really. I created www.austin-rover.co.uk as a repository for my scribblings on the subject and as a way of getting the wider world to fact-check what I’d done. I always believed that the best way of getting your work out there and seen by the right people was to get it published on the Internet – and how right I was soon proved to be.

Although my chosen career back then was IT and systems management, my web designing skills were pretty much non-existent. So when it came to making a website, I knew how to register my domain, and get the work up there, but struggled in MS Frontpage to come up with something even half-way convincing looking. As it happens, it wasn’t convincing looking at all. But it did get noticed. And in those opening few months of the site, I became firm friends with a number of other BL (and general) car nutters – many of whom I am still in constant touch with today.

An important person in the development of this website is Declan Berridge. I still remember receiving an email from him late in 2001, asking whether I’d mind considering looking at a website design he’d been working on for me. Slightly confused, I said of course I wouldn’t mind – and what was he thinking of. I still remember viewing his Pipex pages – and seeing a completely new Austin-Rover, complete with framed menus, consistent picture sizes, and lovely looking fonts and logical layouts.

Was I impressed? What do you think? I was bowled over.

So, over the course of the next few months, Declan perfected his design (hand-coded in a text editor, and written in HTML, CSS and JavaScript), and we both began to produce oodles of content. It was a tough few months, especially as all the wonderful new pages he was coming up with (I still believe he has the most intricate book collection I’ve ever come across) wouldn’t be seen immediately, as he was keeping his powder dry until the relaunch on 1 April 2002. And then we went live with the site… and all of a sudden were being treated very seriously by everyone.

And since then, the site continued to grow. Originally organically (aided once I’d bought a copy of Dreamweaver – as I am a visual writer and couldn’t get on with working in plain text), but since the onset and roll-out of WordPress later, far more quickly, as the site evolved into more of a magazine format (with the original reference material safely here for posterity). Without Declan’s far-reaching 2001-’02 redesign, it’s fair to say this site wouldn’t be where it is today.

So, please – take a moment to look back at the 2002 masterpiece on the Wayback machine. In many ways, the current incarnation has yet to improve on it in terms of menu functionality! Thanks again, Declan…

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

45 Comments

  1. Congratulations, Keith. I remember it well from wayback (!) and your remarkable site has inspired me ever since. I’m a fellow BL nut inspired by Jeff Daniels’ The Truth… book, which is why AROnline was, and is, such a dream site.

    Power to you!

  2. Wow! Is it ten years? As an almost daily visiter and a lover of all things BL (who else would have a fire engine based on an Morris FGK 40 sitting on their drive?) I must congratulate Keith and his colleagues on what has been/is a great piece of work. Power to your elbows gentlemen!

  3. Congratulations on ten years of the site which I have been visiting for about eight years and putting the ‘occasional’ comment on.

    Perhaps a big commemorative sign and cake should be on display at this weekend’s Pride of Longbridge event to mark this important anniversary? No, don’t ask me to make the cake as I burn toast on a near daily basis!

    I hope to meet with some of the fellow contributors at PoL this weekend when I attend it for the very first time.

  4. Oh, I remember the original version from 2001, I think. I thought it was an amazing source of historical BL information, and much needed at a time when the world was crying out for a definitive BL history. It’s been great to see the site develop and create that definitive history, more comprehensively than any book could ever do. Now a daily magazine, it still somewhere to visit every day and always to find out new things, and learn new perspectives. Best site on the web, bar none.

  5. “Where was that homepage photo taken?”

    Probably Studley Castle, it was owned by BL and it’s successors until it all went belly up in 2005.

    It was used in a lot of their press shots over the years.

  6. I have to add my appreciation of this site. Lots of detail and history to read on a wet and windy bank holiday.
    I have often turned to these pages when I need to find out some detail on a particular car or two, and like others above visit at least every other day, some times daily.
    A fantastic site!

  7. My morning ritual upon arriving at work is to get on the web and check 1) My bank account in case I’m suddenly poor, 2) My emails in case someone wants to talk to me, 3) The BBC News in case the world is about to explode and 4) AROnline for the lastest updates. I’ve missed entire meetings because of number 4, so, Keith, it’s your fault if I get the sack…..

  8. Congratulations.
    It is the best automotive/historical website of all. This richness of informations is… breathtaking! It is my mine of knowledge.

    My english is poor. I am Rover/Triumph/Jaguar enthusiast from Poland. I like many other british cars from 60’s and 70’s too. Mainly these from under BMC/Leyland wings. 🙂
    I am with You from… ? 5-6 years and i am so happy with this. Best regards.

  9. I just wanted to congratulate you and the rest of the team on 10 years of this fantastic website. Personally I’ve found the articles on the development of the cars (or lack of it in some cases) fascinating, especially when backed up by the likes of Roy Axe, Spen King, etc. There is a wealth of information on here that is presented in a balanced way that recognises the strengths of BMC/BLMC/BL/Rover cars and is not afraid to mention the weaknesses.

    I’m sure I speak for the majority of members on here when I say that this is the best car site by far, and long may it continue.

  10. “I’m sure I speak for the majority of members on here when I say that this is the best car site by far, and long may it continue.”
    I second that.

  11. When I came across this site it was like having all my birthdays,christmas’s all in one hit.We may be called sad having such interests but motoring affairs are special.This is a very special site.Don’t stop.

  12. Is it already ten years ago… I had ‘my’ first car of the month in April 2002.

    Keith – long may the ‘web resource’ continue, including the heritage of Declan’s design!

  13. Congratulations – I think I got on board with this almost from the start, can’t believe it’s 10 years. In a very positive sense, this site has wasted so many working hours of mine that I probably should have devoted to my employer !!! Here’s to (at least) the next 10 years! Even today if I find myself at a loose end I’ll think ” I’ll just go to AROnline and learn about the Austin Atlantic” or some other such fascinating oddity.

  14. Congratulations! I can’t remember when I first found your website.. but it was a long, long time ago and I’ve enjoyed (or wasted) many hours reading your excellent and well-researched articles. Fabulous stuff!

  15. I think I found this website back in 2003 or 2004. I was reminiscing about the N reg Austin 1800 which my dad got given to by his dad. Always remembered it being brilliant as a kid. The orange stip speedo and centre armrest which I used to sit on (no seat belts or boaster seats in those days). And fondly remembering sitting on the back seat after the car had been in the sun for a few hours and my legs being grafted onto the seat!!! fun days. Finding out about the development of this car was amazing…. And then realising all the info on this site!!!!!!!!! I’ve been hooked ever since.

  16. Congratulations, Keith! This really is the best car-related website I know. I stumbeled upon it some 7 years ago, I think, and still visit it almost every day. Keep up the good work [tu]

  17. Yes indeed, a very good job Keith, truly a labour of love and devotion on your part and your fellow contributors. Please keep going!

    Keith, if you ‘re looking for any more future projects, how about getting the rights to the Jeff Daniels book ’The Truth’ & republishing it with two new chapters from where it left off, or at least an afterword? The audience would be small but if you could get creative license from the owners to add some sparkle to the final chapters it could sell enough to make it worthwhile.

    Also there is a lack of published work on Derek Robinson and other trade union fools of the 1970’s & 80’s. I realise it would take immense time & research to gather the material for a (factual) book. However, this web site is the ideal forum or meeting place to start the conversations & ask for firsthand accounts to be submitted by former employees of all the closed car factories.
    You could reach out to this community for help I am sure.

    All the best to you & yours.

  18. I will daily have a look at four sites and yours is always the latest because I will have a look in the evening and so I have most time to enjoy the articles!

  19. Yes, congratulations Keith. I visit the site most evenings, a goldmine of information. I really like the way you also look at not just the cars but the trade as well. Is there any way that you could collect the thoughts and experiences of those who worked in the industry, especially during the 1960’s and 1970’s. They must hold a whole wealth of untapped knowledge and information.

  20. Can’t quite remember when I first discovered austin-rover.co.uk. Think it was in 2005 around the time MGR collapsed but it could have been earlier. Anyway, I’ve visited frequently ever since. Now, with my own laptop, visits are almost daily!!

    The site is a huge source of information, obviously. However, it has always been much more. It’s a community of, often very like minded, enthusiasts.

    The site has much expanded my already keen interest in BL>MG Rover and made it more a hobby.

    Thanks Keith. Looking forward to meeting at POL.

  21. Congratulations Keith! This really is the best web car resource out there! (with Citroenet a distant 2nd) I’ve been visiting daily for 7-8 years for my AR fix. Even now, there’s new and very interesting information added weekly. A friendly community has developed around the website, which makes the comments and forums even more welcome. Long may AR Online continue! Happy 10th Birthday!

  22. 2004, I think it was when I first visited. During a lunch break at the place I worked at the time I recall we were talking about the Sherpa van (for some reason). Anyway, back in the office and a quick Google later I arrived at the web resource. I wasted many a work hour reading every word, and beenm hooked ever since. Well done, here’s to the next 10 years!

  23. Think I discovered austin-rover.co.uk shortly after Declan’s makeover, and it was definitely the most fascinating website on the Internet for me for some time after that! Keep up the good work – here’s to the next 10!

  24. Well done Keith and Co, I remember stumbling upon the site by pure accident way back in the early days and have been hooked ever since ! Who would of thought when you 1st started you would be writing about its very demise…. Like the comment about the Jeff Daniells Book.

    Have said it before and will say again, You are the “Unsung Hero’s”.

  25. @Paul (No. 11) We all know about the lack of comprehensive development of some of the cars, and know about their foibles and their contribution to the downfall of our once-glorious Firm. What this site has given us is the backstory behind every part that went into the cars that shamed and glorified the British motor industry post-war. The site has given us the dead plans, proposals and designs that allow us to dream and conjure up images of what could have been. It gives us the views of the insider and the irrational fanatic. Some of the cars may have been poorly developed or constructed and should be detested by every man on earth- many of them do without knowing the cars at all- but somehow the endless archive of information and the various contributors, forum-posters and even the people that may just check the place out once in a while have been able to take both the legends and the failures to our hearts, and champion the former and find the best in Britain’s failed car lines.

    This is a truly unique place, for truly unique cars and petrolheads alike.

    P.S. This long and rambling ode may make no sense when you read it. If so, bear in mind that I wrote it at about midnight. I am very tired.

  26. @H.Jones (No. 33)You’ve summed up perfectly why we have a place in our hearts for the cars of BMC and its successors.

  27. Well done Keith and team, great and informative site,am primarily a BMC, BLMC, BL, ARG MGR man, but I do the info on other marques too. I find all the news and updates very interesting and informative especially on MG. Also to the fact of interesting snippets of facts and pictures from the past.Recently the info on whats happening with BL in India on trucks and buses. Congratulations and look forward to your next ten years. Regards Mark

  28. This is surely one of the best Automotive sites on the web. I realise now I must have discovered it soon after it was launched. I’d purchased an MG ZS 180 in late 2001 with my company cash-for-car allowance. I was looking for some info on parts supply issues at the time – remember that ? I came across this site and have been a regular visiter ever since.

    My connection with BL/ARG/MG goes back to the 70s through to the early 90s when I worked for a couple of large distributers, then got into fleet management and leasing. So I saw the good and the bad from both a dealer and a customer angle.

    My view of the product was, and still is, pretty unbiased. The cars themselves were at least as good as the competion most of the time, and better than many a lot of the time. They fell down when they had quality issues or when they had been in production too long.

    Ford cars through the 80s and 90s were pretty dire products in my view but they were lapped by the public because the models were regularly updated and basic engineering meant they were easy to fix. Ford also had a different approach to problems compared to BL/ARG. Ford would simply say the ‘new’ model no longer had the old model’s problem and encourage the customer do a trade in for rather than try and fix their current car.

    The information in this site fills in a lot of the gaps in my knowledge and makes sense of a lot of things that were going on that didn’t seem to make any sense at the time.

    So congratulations at creating this excellent resource, keep up the good work. The coverage of other marques is something I’m finding very useful as well.

  29. as a previous long time a-r owner (minivan =1100=mg midget x2=mini cooperx2=mgbx2=and metro) i am constantly fascinated by the website content that you provide and visit most evenings even though i have forsaken rovers for others (renault 16–renault 4–ren 18 estx2–cliox2–citroen bx–megane sport and currently a feelander 2) keep up the good work we still like to read about our earlier motors both the good and the bad. almost better than my weekly magazine.

  30. Thanks Keith,
    Many happy returns.

    Thanks to you I now have 2 x Metros in my garage MG & 114 cabriolet. I have also developed a roving eye for 1980’s Rovers. Is there a cure?

  31. Even the URL is a sign of the times.

    I discovered austin-rover.co.uk in July 2003. I worked in the Technical Support department of an educational technology company. Needless to say, with dealing with schools, the Summer holidays were somewhat quiet.

    The company had a somewhat relaxed internet policy i.e if the firewall permitted and you had nothing to do, you could use it so by the end of the hols, I’d pretty much read the lot.

    The fact that I still visit the site at least once a week says a lot about the prolific input that contributors continue to make.

    Going back to that URL, I’m now in telecoms working for a company that took over Pipex!

  32. I remember typing, ‘austinrover.co.uk’ as I was bored really and coming across this site, it was back in 2002. So fascinating….

  33. Bravo, and thank you sooooooooooo much! I discovered aronline in 2005, realised I didn’t need psychiatric help…I’m not the only one spending hours reading about a defunct brand/group. Here’s for another few decades…

  34. Congratulations on ten years of running this wonderful website. I don’t recall how many years I’ve been a regular visitor, but I first came across it whilst trying to remind myself who the voice of the talking Maestro was.

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