Vauxhall has celebrated 50 years of production at Ellesmere Port by recreating the 1964 scene and the original press image of the first vehicle coming off the line, in the same production location with today’s Astra alongside.
The first new car to be produced at Ellesmere Port on 1 June 1964 was a Vauxhall Viva HA, a model name that would run through three generations until 1979, before being eventually replaced by the Astra. The Viva cost £527 7s 11d at launch.
The Astra Mk1, Vauxhall’s first front-wheel drive car, was built on 16 November 1981. The Astra has since become Vauxhall’s best seller and continues in production to this day. Ellesmere Port was built on the site of RAF Hooton with construction starting in 1962. It should have been called Vauxhall Hooton Park but this was changed shortly before production began as it was deemed to be too close, phonetically, to Luton which could have caused much confusion internally.
The factory came to West Cheshire as a result of a Government strategy to develop production plants with the ‘Big Five’ motor manufacturers in new industrial development areas across the country. Vauxhall, Ford and Standard Triumph chose the Liverpool/Wirral/Merseyside region. The Board of Trade offered financial inducements including 40% towards plant and machinery costs and 25% towards construction.
Ellesmere Port has weathered a number of motor industry storms over the years and was recently threatened with closure. The determination of the strong workforce working closely with the management team and UNITE The Union has ensured the plant’s survival into the next decade with the allocation of the next generation Astra. Production of the new model will start in the autumn of 2015 with Ellesmere Port being the lead plant of only two producing this important model across Europe.