A fascinating batch of photos of Longbridge in 1984 has come to light, and they’re too good not to share. Ex-Austin Rover Maintenance Engineer Stuart Collins took these shots while ‘on the line’, and recalls the marvellous details in the pictures.
This is the Sciaky robot welding line, again there were two identical lines with Unimate robots. This threw up an interesting fact, as the robots were hydraulic it was deemed a Fitter’s (mechanical) job to program them and Electricians could not touch them due to demarcation!
Stuart Collins worked at Longbridge from 1979 to 1998, and saw many changes in his time at ‘The Austin’. Thankfully for us, he remembered to take his camera into work and took some great pictures of the factory in full flight.
‘Most of my time was spent in the New West Works, initially on Metro followed by the Honda Body In White line,’ Stuart said. He added, ‘I moved on to the 200/400 spot-welding line with a six-month period in the East Works for the commissioning of the K-Series engine line.
‘I even got sent on holiday to Talent Engineering for a few weeks to program some spot-welding robots producing the front subframe when the K-Series was fitted to the Metro/R6. Luckily, I left before the Phoenix Four era so my pension is safe with BMW. I now work for JLR at Solihull looking after the robots fitting glass to the Range Rover and Discovery.’
The pictures and captions are all by Stuart.
This is the KUKA underframe transfer machine which spot welded the rear floor, main floor and front end together. There were two identical machines that cost £7.5m each at the time.
The five-door Metro line
The next few pictures are the British Federal-built Metro five-door line. It was designed with four sets of interchangeable tooling and would batch build the four doors required for the five-door Metro one at a time (R/H front, R/H rear, L/H front and L/H rear).
Each set of tooling comprised a multi-weld station, 45 degree hemming press tooling, final hemming press tooling and HF (high frequency) curing station. The tools were changed using trailers and an air-powered winch on a tug truck to pull the tools into station.
Overview of the line
Looking along conveyor towards load end
The 45° hemming tooling
A couple of robots that spot-welded components to the inner door frame
Close up of one of the spot-welding robots (ASEA Irb90/S2)
One of the Fitters (Kevin Dwyer) carrying out a tool change – normally done between shifts
Standard Rover system of one working while two look on, fitters are (L to R) Hammond Pearson, Kevin Dwyer and Jim Phillips
Overview of maintenance ‘satellite’ workshop that covered general maintenance and immediate breakdown response. Conveyor in background has bolt-on parts for square shape 213/216 model
Foreman’s office – the only one Stuart knows is the Foreman in the white coat, Tony Cox
Fitter Jim Phillips carrying out maintenance on one of the three-door inner machines
Electrician Derek Thomas showing the size of one of the robots
Calendar on right proving it’s 1984
Comfy chair and soundproof booth, so the guys could get some sleep on nightshift.
Metro three-door production
This batch of photographs are of the Metro three-door and tailgate welding and hemming lines built by Steelweld.
L/H door line control panels. For info, today’s equivalent of those panels is a 12-inch square multi-function touch screen display!
Tailgate welding and hemming line
R/H door line with pallet of tailgate outer skins in foreground
Door hemming presses
Inside the New West Building
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.