Blog : Move over… to 2014

Mike Humble and Keith Adams

The Vanden Plas 1500 was British Leyland's only major UK launch in 1974 - 40 years ago...
The Vanden Plas 1500 was British Leyland’s only major UK launch in 1974 – 40 years ago…

Well, as the turkey carcass is thrown into the bin, and the in-Laws are sent packing into the cold dark wilderness, the Christmas festivities come to and end. It’s now time to welcome in the new year, and 2013 was certainly a busy year for all of us involved on AROnline, with Keith Adams, Richard Kilpatrick and Mike Humble plunging behind the settee cushions for small change to quench our thirst for buying old tat in the form of an unloved Citroen XM Turbo, an elderly Jeep Cherokee and, of course, the well-documented very early Rover 214.

Historically speaking, wind the clock back 30 years ago and we have the Austin Maestro launch whose birthday was celebrated at the Lancaster Insurance Classic Motor Show. Jump forward another 10 years and the most successful car in recent times – the  Ford Mondeo heralded a new era of front wheel drive family cars which for so many years following the undeniable success of Cortina and Sierra, kept Ford very much at the top of the tree in this sector. Can this really be so many years behind us now, or are we all just getting old?

MG3 in Shanghai

But, of course, 2013 was important for our carmakers. Jaguar Land Rover’s momentum continued with the launch of the Range Rover Sport, which moved up the automotive pecking order marrying excellent off-road ability with brilliant on-road dynamics. Many people ended up questioning why you’d really want a full-fat Range Rover.

The Jaguar F-Type roadster seemed to seduce everyone who drove it during 2013, while the Coupe, unveiled in November, completed the range and, thanks to glorious styling and realistic pricing, is set to overshadow the original ragtop when it goes on sale in 2014.

The year 2013 was a very important time for our very own MG Motor UK, as it launched the MG3 (above) to the press and public. After the lacklustre sales of the really rather competent MG6, the new warm hatchback had more to prove than ever before and it seems that it’s generally liked by the motoring writers and the punters who have bought them. There is still so much to be done in terms of public perception and credibility, but there seems to be a breeze of change from Longbridge and we hope the MG3 does well during a time where registrations are picking up again.

Other new British-built cars emerged in 2013 – the Nissan Qashqai looks set to be another big hit for the UK’s largest car maker in 2014, while the Honda Civic range was extended by the locally-developed Tourer version. The F56-generation MINI (below) was launched amid huge pomp and circumstance on Sir Alec Issigonis’ birthdate and, even if the Union flags were flown with a little too much fervour, there’s no denying the company has made a huge commitment in the UK by extending its operations in Birmingham, Swindon and at the MINI factory in Cowley.


The British car industry as a whole has been going from strength to strength in 2013. Car sales have recovered to near pre-2008 levels, while production here continues to boom on the back of the success of Jaguar Land Rover – which currently appears to be unable to make any mistakes. It’s great to see that these huge sales are being converted into investment – a drive up the M54 will show you that the i54 factory where the company’s next generation post-Ford drivetrains will be made, is nearing completion. That really is a heartening sight.

It also seemed that UK PLC began to wake up to the real value of engineering. There was a renewed interest in apprenticeship schemes, with MINI, Rolls-Royce, Jaguar Land Rover and Toyota announcing new schemes to get young people into the industry and secure the next generation. Additionally, there were a number of new initiatives in education – the Silverstone University Technical College (UTC) opened for business, its task to educate 14-18 year old students into engineering, with a number of high profile automotive companies supporting the venture.

So what’s in store for 2014? Well, in terms of British Motor history the year will mark the 30th birthday of Austin Rover’s antidote to the conquering Cavalier and the slippery Sierra with the Montego range. Further up the range saw the introduction of the all new Rover 200 series – the next stage of the BL/Honda collaboration plan that saw much more UK involvement than the out-going Acclaim. Vauxhall had a big year too three decades back with the Astra Mk2 – a car that earned Vauxhall the European Car of the Year award.

Morris Motors finally faded away in the same year too with the last car being a Longbridge-built Ital and the last vehicle being a Metro-based van. Staying with commercial vehicles, 2014 sees the 30th birthday of the toughest truck on two wheels – the Leyland Roadrunner. Truck building in Leyland has never been busier in recent years and its good to know the plant still produces trucks under the DAF brand – the only plant in the UK still producing trucks with well over 100 years of heritage behind them.

Other birthdays in 2014 also include the Land Rover Discovery’s and Rover 214/216’s quarter century, the Vanden Plas 1500’s 40th (which makes an interesting comparison with the year’s genuine superstar, the Volkswagen Golf Mk1), and the 60th anniversary of the Austin A40 Cambridge, Austin A50 Cambridge, Austin A90 Westminster, Austin FX3D/FL1D, Morris Oxford Series II, Morris Cowley, Wolseley 6/90, Metropolitan, Daimler Sportsman, Daimler Regina, Lanchester Sprite, Jaguar XK140 and Standard Ten…

The Austin 1800, Vanden Plas 4-litre R, Alvis TE21 also celebrate their half-century in 2014. The Landcrab, especially, will be an interesting case in point – brilliant technically,with flawed execution and styling and yet much more modern to modern viewers than its contemporaries. Wasn’t it always thus?

So lots and lots to celebrate… and mourn.

Russ Swift takes the Montego up on two wheels...
Rover 200 and Austin Montego hit 30 in 2014…
Mike Humble


  1. 30 years the Rover 213/216 was launched!!! This Allegro VdP is nearly likeable, it took me 40 years to not laugh at the sight of an Allegro… Happy New Year to all, wish you all the best for 2014 and thanks Keith & the team.

  2. It is hard to believe the 200 series was launched, seems an heartbeat ago!

    Happy new year to everybody and all the very best!

  3. Can anyone publish the figures for all uk manufacturers for December.. MG might throw up a few surprises…

  4. @1 Didier – I was at the press launch of the R200 in Northumberland in 1984 (almost 30 years ago, where did the time go?). Anyway, here’s looking forward to a fresh year of interesting news and offerings from ARonline. All the best to everyone!

  5. New Year Greetings to all.
    I’ve only just found this site and how fascinating it is… At 62 now, many of these cars are of my younger years. I remember the pre-minis of the late 50’s passing along the A49 in Shropshire which I gather was part of a circular test route used regularly by the factory drivers. I seem to remember an A35 shape with extremely fast performance…. regularly passing traffic up to 85/90mph. Managed to look under the bonnet of one one day and I remember that the carb was facing forward … the driver said it made a ram effect and hence the speed… but gave icing problems. Keep up the great work! CHEERS!!!

  6. My Wolseley Nine is 80 this year. I’ll let you know when it’s Birthday Party is. We’ll be alright for candles – there’s two perched on the front wings pretending to be headlights.

  7. Not forgetting the launch of the new Nissan Note, an interesting car which is like a cross between a Micra and an MPV and, of course, is made in Britain.

  8. Here is a late entry, the launch of the jeep typeMini Moke for civilian use came on stream in January 1964 fifty years ago!
    What can one say about the Moke, the British army didn’t want it and yet the Navy and the Australian army did, farmers didn’t want it yet all kinds of young people did and against all the odds it was manufactured not only in England and assembled in Africa, but in Australia with bigger wheels and Portugal to help Mini Metro sales. More at home on a sunny Seychelles beach than a Scottish country estate it nevertheless has a very active following with restored examples much admired and very expensive!
    Replicas abound , some say it has never been out of production with Italian Cagiva assembling examples in the later nineties into the new century in Bolonga, a Chinese example from 2006 and Moke International’s refined and some say rather un Moke example for sale this year as petrol and electric versions in Australia from Sicar and Chery Motors manufacturing in China.
    To celebrate 50 years it was featured in The Mayor of London New Year’s Day Parade and will feature in classic car shows throughout the year.

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