If you didn’t get the chance to listen to Radio 4’s The Reunion last Sunday, you missed a treat. The show focused on the collapse of British Leyland and brought together Harold Musgrove, former Shop Steward, John Power, Commercial Apprentice, Chris Green and Alison Harper, the company’s first female Clay Modeller.
Bringing it all together was Radio 4’s Kirsty Wark, while former Top Gear Presenter Chris Goffey provided a Motoring Journalist’s perspective. He said: ‘My first experience of Longbridge was turning up in a foreign test car, and being told I couldn’t bring it through the gates – I had to park it out on the street.’ That had Musgrove interject by saying, ‘that’s reasonable – I arranged that for Longbridge and also for Cowley.’
That particular memory kicked off the show and made me smile. When working as a contract IT Support Engineer for BT Centrica back in the late-1990s, one of my jobs was to support Rover’s three main sites in the Midlands – Longbridge, Solihull and Gaydon. The first time I turned up there in my company Peugeot 406, I was told the same thing: ‘No foreign cars on site, Sir,’ Over the security guard’s shoulder I could see a number of BMWs lined up alongside the 800s and 600s.
Anyway, I digress…
The show is an absolute gem of a thing, and a 45-minute microcosm of the trouble and strife – the divisions – that dogged BLMC, Rover and MG Rover right to the end.
I won’t share too much on here because it’s definitely worth your time out. At one point, Chris Goffey interrupts Harold Musgrove, who’d just shared how he’d taken on Roy Axe to sort out the styling by saying, ‘despite all that you went ahead with the Allegro, one of the ugliest cars in the business!’ Harold calmly replies, ‘it’s good of you to say so. It’s remarkable how people say such silly things. I wasn’t involved in making the Allegro, and that’s a very stupid thing to say, if I may say so.’
On sleeping on nightshifts, Musgrove says this: ‘I decided I’d go to Cowley and have a look. I got in there about 11.30 one evening and there’s a man there asleep on the bench. I said: “Hey you – you should be working.” He said, “I agree with you Sir, but I’ve been here since eight o’clock and that track hasn’t moved.” There was a shortage of materials for the vehicles to be built, and as far as he was concerned, the track had stopped – it wasn’t his fault. And that’s why I got rid of a lot of the Cowley people.’
Get the programme listened to and let us know what you thought of it in the Comments section below.