MGR@10 Month : The Test and Development Engineer’s view

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Ten years on, one of MG Rover’s talented engineering team, Nic Fasci, tells AROnline how he was affected by the announcement that his employer had been put into administration and how, ultimately, MG Rover set him in great stead for a fantastic automotive career.

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‘What do you mean, MG Rover has gone into administration?’ came the shout from downstairs, as I spent a good few minutes ranting at the TV watching the news as ‘that woman’ (Patricia Hewitt, the then Trade and Industry Secretary) told the UK that MG Rover was going ‘pop’ before us employees even knew!

That was that.

The deal with the Chinese company Shanghai Automobile Industry Corporation (SAIC) had fallen through, despite us being told by our ‘senior management’ that all was well, and we’d be in a partnership by the end of the week. We didn’t even get the chance to find out in the ‘comfort’ of the Longbridge Flight Shed, we were informed via the medium that is television. And by – at that particular moment in time – probably the most hated woman in the Birmingham region.

My dream job as Homologation Engineer had come to an abrupt and most undistinguished end. The company I loved working for; had wanted to work for since being a kid; the company that people thought I was mad to go and work for after leaving Toyota behind, was to be folded up like a used napkin and thrown away. And that would leave 6000 of us, and countless others in our supply chain, floundering. We’d not know what was to come next.

Just what you need when your better half is 12 weeks pregnant with the first addition to the family!

That said, with uncertainty ahead – what a ride it was! Joining the company just after BMW kept what it wanted, and spat the rest out like used chewing gum, provided me with some of the best memories of my working career. We were the underdogs, we were a company that could pull off minor miracles on shoestring budgets, even though the world was against us.

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Within months the MG Zed range (above) arrived and stunned the motoring press with their competency. They spawned several racing series and the 75/ZT went from strength to strength. The Rover, MG and MG SV V8s came along and injected a bit of oomph, and howling supercharged fun to our range (although slated for not spending the money on the replacement 45 instead and a ‘misuse of funds to fulfil someone’s oversized ego’).

But do you know what? I didn’t care. There were reasons for doing what we did to boost our image and prove what we could do.  We loved everything we did with our cars regardless of what people said and they weren’t as ‘backward’ as people thought – ask anyone who went to the  Motor Show Live at the NEC in 2004 and drove our cars with our engineers! 2500 test drives in four cars in 10 days – only Subaru beat us with 2800 drives, but with six cars.

I loved every day at MG Rover, keeping the cogs turning in the Product Assurance Department with my colleagues – we were the hub that got the cars homologated for the road, we had fun, we went places, we did stuff. I even got to help write the future that would never be – with the new X120 MG concept (that was meant to spawn a new MG TF, Coupe and Midget) and the new car that was bigger than 75. I had the chance to make a difference to the marketing of the company as the engineers rose up, and took control for once. I was there, that was me in there, I did that and no one can take that away from me – ever!

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MG X120 was worked on by Nic Fasci

So, 10 years on and do I still feel anger towards the Phoenix Four and Mr Howe? No, not really, and should we ever get a payout, it will fund some hair-brained building plan/kitchen/bathroom project I’m sure. Time is a great healer. I look at where I am now and the amazing journey I had with MG Rover and now the Vehicle Compliance Agency (VCA), the job I started three weeks after the MGR collapse. I would probably still vent my spleen for five minutes at them about how they foolishly let the crown jewels go for the cost of a few chopsticks and steel containers.

I was lucky. Hundreds weren’t though, I was never out of work, as on the Monday after the envelope landed on the doormat saying ”ta very much like for your hard work, but bugger off and don’t come back’, I was out hurtling around the UK in 44-tonne trucks, and then into the VCA. Others struggled and some still are today.

Nic FasciMy experiences at MG Rover meant my integration to the other side of the fence approving vehicles was easier than it could have been. I’ve been lucky, I’ve been working on products that I could never have imagined possible, like Aston Martins, Jaguar and Land Rovers, motorcycles, Honda Type R, Fire Engines, special projects for the military and the DfT, even back at MG at Longbridge on the MG6 and MG3. This unlocked loads of special memories, as well as seeing the sad side of how the site has diminished in size or been demolished.

I’ve had my own playground at Millbrook for the last four years, been to some amazing countries, met and worked with some truly brilliant and talented engineers. And I’ve put a final piece in a jigsaw to a journey that started in 1994 at university, when I visited McLaren to learn about composite technology, and the iconic F1 road car (right).

I’ve worked with McLaren on the MP4-12C/650S, P1 products.

It’s been a 21-year loop that I’m hugely proud of – and still, to this day, proud to have played my part in the history of MG Rover and Longbridge. Everything we strived to achieve with a few quid, ball of string, tie wraps, gaffer tape and a dash of imagination, we succeeded at! We were better than people made us out to be, we had world class DNA and people recognised it.

It was just a shame it was wrapped up in baggage from the 1970s and some ultimately naive and poor management decisions pre- and post-2000. However, I’m a better person for having been at Longbridge and owe a lot to simply having been there.

I’m sure if you cut me through the middle, I’d still have MG Rover running through me like a stick of rock.

7 Comments

  1. Brilliant article. I was there the dark day in the East Works when we very nearly got the engine tracks going to be told go home because our glorious leaders had sold the property rights to the chineese and we were not at that
    moment allowed to make any engines.

  2. I swallowed hard after reading that.
    The passion of the engineers Rover had was never in question in my mind. That just confirms it.

  3. How well I remember watching “that woman” make her fateful statement to the media. Who briefed her? Why did she think she had any duty to say what she said? How much was it the political naivety of a politician wading in too deep without her water wings, and how much a cynical move stage managed by “higher powers”? A sad, sad day in such contrast to the high hopes of just five years before. Mind you, don’t let me get started on what was actually thrown away when the Jon Moulton plans were kicked into touch; the Phoenix scheme obviously led to many wonders and what seemed exciting prospects, and we can’t recast history with any certainty, but the sad end in 2005 meant a cruel blow for those nearing pension age. Some of the older people who had given their working lives to the business and who I got to know before the collapse were broken by the experience.

  4. Nic’s pride and enthusiasm of working for MG Rover comes over strongly in this piece. It cant be denied that they did a lot with limited budgets (eg MG Z series). We’ll never know what might have been had the SAIC deal went through. Of course the closure in 2005 might have happened in 2010 or earlier?

    As Keith once said, BMC/BL/MG Rover was the “eternal soap opera”

  5. Nic, like you I have been in the car industry all my life. Triumph, JRT, Land Rover, Land Rover Parts & Equipment ( a “LRPEE”), Unipart with Jaguar and London Taxi contracts, then onto Cat Logistics with Land Rover and currently 10 years with XPart – one of the last remnants of the old MG Rover – but still going….hopefully for a few more years………. Good Luck and yes, those of us that have tasted time with the British Car Industry, it gets in your blood and stays there. Enjoyed your story and good luck to you and your colleagues.

    • What’s the position with XPart? Is the guaranteed supply of MG Rover parts now going beyond ten years?

  6. I am sure that even in the last days the company had plenty of talented and dedicated, romantic staff, that gave their best agaisnt the odds. It was the kind of people that under the Wilks brothers ownership made Rover move with leaps to the future, but were totally wasted under the Phoenix Four.

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