For more than 100 years, there has been a plant in Cowly, Oxford in the U.K. churning out vehicles from many different automakers.
MINI currently makes all its cars except the Countryman here, but the plant has an interesting and diverse history. We recently got the chance to visit the factory and learn about its storied past. Here are seven of the most interesting cars ever built at this factory.
1. Morris Oxford
The first car that was built in the Oxford plant was way back in 1913. The Morris Oxford Bullnose sparked a whole industrial revolution for the city. Powered by a 1,018-cc four-cylinder side-valve engine with fixed cylinder head, more than 300 of these vehicles were made in 1913. (Photo from Wikipedia)
2. de Havilland Tiger Moth Airplane
The Cowly, Oxford, plant didn’t just make cars — during the Second World War, it was also building airplanes like the de Havilland Tiger Moth. From 1941 to 1945, Morris Motors plant made approximately 3,433 Tiger Moths for the war effort. (Photo from the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum)
3. Honda Legend
As one of the first luxury models that Honda made, the Legend (also badged as an Acura) was built in collaboration with Britain’s Austin Rover Group, which used the Cowley, Oxford, plant back in 1985. The company agreed that the British market Legends would be built in Plant Oxford, although apparently a few vehicles didn’t meet Honda’s quality standards and ended up being used as inter-plant transportation.
4. Morris Marina
The Morris Marina was made at Plant Oxford between 1971 and 1980 and was a vehicle that sold pretty well, moving more than 800,000 units. However, it wasn’t a vehicle that was well received, with critics being extremely harsh on the vehicle. It’s commonly referred to by U.K. automotive journalists as one of the worst cars ever made, specifically due to its front suspension setup that was known to cause severe understeer. Its low pricing is what made it a popular hit with car buyers. (Photo from Wikipedia)
5. Rolls-Royce Bodyshells
Many high-end vehicles had their body shells built at the Pressed Steel part of the at the Cowley, Oxford, operation including Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, and Jaguars. Today, the plant makes bodies for all MINIs except for the Countryman.
6. BMC Mini
The British Motor Company made Britain’s famous and most produced vehicle, the Mini which also started life in Plant Oxford. Although assembly of the car occurred in many other plants around the world, the Oxford plant made the vehicle for nearly 10 years, from 1959, while helping set a huge standard for the British auto industry.
7. 3 Million MINI Coopers
In 1994, BMW acquired the Oxford Plant as part of its purchase of Rover Group. Since 2001, BMW has been making modern MINI vehicles there, and what started off as just the MINI hardtop has expanded to a whole lineup of vehicles. The MINI Oxford plant makes the 3-Door and 5-Door Hardtop MINIs, the Convertible, Clubman, and John Cooper Works edition vehicles. The only MINI not made in the plant is the Countryman, but still, there has been 3 million cars moved out of the factory so far.