End of an era as Mini production is halted

The end of an era for British motoring came today when the last "classic" Mini rolled off Rover's production line in Longbridge.

The end of an era for British motoring came today when the last "classic" Mini rolled off Rover's production line in Longbridge.

But the car is not destined to disappear from the nation's roads for a few years yet. As well as a huge army of loyal drivers determined to preserve their cars as classics, an updated BMW model which is almost a foot longer than its tiny predecessor is due to be marketed.

Designers, engineers and those involved in getting the Mini on the road during its six decades as one of the world's berst-loved cars watched the final six cars roll of the line at the Birmingham plant. They said the occasion had left them with a mixture of happiness and regret.

Paddy Hopkirk, 67, who won the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally in a Mini Cooper S, said: "Time marches on. I didn't think when I first came to Longbridge in 1963 that I would be here again in 2000 and the car actually still being produced. It was not a good seller when it was put on the market in 1959. But long term the Cooper put it on the map and it became the in car to have."

Mr Hopkirk, whose rally win involved a struggle through sub-zero temperatures as he raced from Minsk in Russia to Monte Carlo, thought the future looked bright for the new BMW Mini.

"I've seen it and driven it and I think it's a very good car. We mustn't forget that a lot of British engineering went into it and the handling is amazing," he said.

John Shepherd, 78, and Jack Daniels, 88, members of the production and design team who worked on the Mini under head designer Sir Alec Issigonis, paid tribute to their little car's durability.

Mr Shepherd, who worked at Longbridge for 27 years and was responsible for the body and structure, said: "I see today with sadness and pride. I was always sceptical but I could see its potential. I thought that we would never get away with putting on outside flanges.

"But it even grew on me. What made it a success was when we started making it in the rallies. It became a cult." Mr Daniels, the number one design and development engineer, who retired in 1977, said: "This is not the happiest day, it's the end of the vehicle but I have always realised for some time that it was inevitable. "We knew that the Mini had a finite life. But three to four years ago it was going to die but Rover, with due credit, managed to keep it going, but they can't go any further." Mr Daniels, who attributed the car's success to its handling and manoeuvrability, added that he was pleased that BMW had retained some of the features of the original design. With a wry smile, he said: "It's not a Mini, although there's a gist of the Mini which was very pleasing. There's something in the shape of the Mini, I can see some of mine in it."

The last car was driven out of the factory by 1960s singer and Mini owner Lulu.

MG Rover has unveiled its first Birmingham-produced Rover 75. Chief executive Kevin Howe said this signified a new era for Longbridge and the company. "After many months of unprecedented changes and uncertainty, we are not only producing the last Mini but the first Longbridge-made Rover 75 saloon on time to exacting quality standards. "We expect to reach full operating volume very shortly and by this time next year we will be producing eight models. It's the start of a new beginning for Longbridge." Bernard Ringham, 57, of Oldbury, West Midlands, who worked on the Mini for 24 years, said: "It's sad, but it's time to move forward. We've got to grasp the future. We've got new models like the Rover 75 and hopefully there will be other cars coming on stream." But he added that many workers at the plant were disappointed to see the Mini move to Cowley as they had thought a new facility built in Birmingham would allow them to make the a new model.

News
i100
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsAll just to promote a new casino
News
i100
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
News
i100
Sport
Tom Cleverley
footballLoan move comes 17 hours after close of transfer window
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
News
Boris Johnson may be manoeuvring to succeed David Cameron
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Java/Calypso Developer

£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Java/Calypso Developer Java, Calypso, J2EE, J...

SQL Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Developer SQL, C#, Stored Procedures, MDX...

Front-Office Developer (C#, .NET, Java, AI)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-Office D...

C#.NET Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer C#, WPF, WCF, ASP.NET, Prism...

Day In a Page

Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

Stolen youth

Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

Made by Versace, designed by her children

Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Anyone for pulled chicken?

Pulling chicks

Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband