Pride of Longbridge – April 2014

The Pride of Longbridge is one of those events which has grown from small beginnings, back in 2006, to something which now includes several hundred cars, many of which travel from across the country, just to take part, and to remember what was once the major player in the British Motor Industry, the former MG-Rover, and all its predecessors in title. Held in Cofton Park, literally across the road from what remains of the Longbridge plant, all cars that were made in this south western suburb of Birmingham, or which have some association with it, are welcome to attend. And so many do that, so for 2014, the organisers decided that rather than just relying on a handful of marshalls to point different models to various parts of the park, that they would have a system of pre-registration. They were overwhelmed, with 40 different clubs, all representing cars that at some point in time became part of the BL/BMC/Austin-Rover stable. After the very boggy conditions of the park last year, this year the going was best described as “soft”, so there were still some areas which needed to be avoided, but the overall result was that most similar cars were parked up together. It took most of the morning just to go around everything once, and with cars coming and going throughout that time, by the time I made a second tour, there was yet more to see. All told, over 2000 cars turned up on a rather fresh feeling Sunday. As I have only got 509 photos, that means that I did not capture everything, but you will see lots of variety here from a range of different marques and cars that span around 80 years. Enjoy the nostalgia here with a chance to see a number of cars that were once the staples of what were to be seen on our roads, most of which seemed to prompt the “We had one of those…. ” sort of stories that I heard countless times as I walked around.



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With a clear family resemblance at the rear end of this car with the Morris Minor and Oxford, this was Morris’ largest car in the late 1940s. In post war austerity Britain, it would have been an affluent family who could afford one of these rather than the Oxford or the smaller Minor.

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A posher version of the Morris Six, this luxury car was produced in the late 1940s.

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Follow on to the MG TC, the TD was made from 1951 to 1954. There were a couple of these on show.

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The TD was superceded by the TF, which was only on sale for a couple of years before the completely different MGA arrived.

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This Doretti was based on the Triumph TR2. but fitted with a completely different body. It was only sold for a couple of years.

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The first of the “Counties” cars, the Devon was produced in the late 1940s and early 1950s. There was a 2 door version available as well, the Dorset, but these are very rare indeed.

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This was Austin’s saloon car offering from 1952 to 1954. A relatively large (and hence roomy) body combined with a 1200cc B Series engine meant that performance was leisurely.

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At first glance, this looks just like the Somerset, but when you see them side by side, you can see that the front end is much longer, with far greater distance between the front wheels and the scuttle, which was needed to accommodate the 6 cylinder engine that was fitted.

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A real attention getter this, one of the A90 Atlantic cars that Austin struggled to sell when they were new. Aimed largely at the American market, the car’s relatively weedy engine and comparatively high price meant that it was not popular. But now, as period piece, the cars always attract a crowd around them on the rare occasions that you see one.

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Austin’s small car was a direct competitor to the Morris Minor, which had been launched a few years previously. Despite the formation of BMC, a merger of the old Nuffield Company which included Morris, with Austin in 1952, the two models ran side by side for many years. Countryman and Van versions were also available, though few of these have survived as they tended to be worked far harder when new.

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Top of the Austin range in the early 50s were the A125 and A135 Sheerline and Princess cars. These were luxury cars and hence a few have survived, many of them seeing service over a lot of years in the wedding car and funeral car business.

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After the relative sales flop of the razor edged Triumph Mayflower, which was too expensive for its chosen market segment, the replacement was deliberately engineered to be cheap. So cheap that the early Eight models did not even have a boot lid, for instance. Gradually a few creature comforts were put back in, and more powerful engines were fitted. This is a Ten from around 1957.

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There were a few examples of this long running model, which evolved continually since its 1949 launch and the end of production in 1964.

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A product of Cowley rather than Longbridge, which perhaps explains why one of the most popular classic BMC cars of all time was not that numerous at this event. There were, however, 2 and 4 door Saloons, a Tourer, a Traveller and a Van, so all body styles could be seen.

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Intended primarily for the important US export market, these small convertibles were sold between 1954 and 1961. They were not fast with what started out as the 1200cc B Series engine, but these days they always generate a positive reaction as people like the style and the period colour finishes.

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Replacement for the A40 Somerset was the A40 and A50 Cambridge. Most sales were of the A50 version, as the A40 was just as anaemic as the Somerset. A facelift was applied in 1956, when a new and longer rear end changed the look of the car and slightly more power was made available from the engines.

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The Westminster was a 6 cylinder posher version of the Cambridge. It was also sold in A105 Vanden Plans format.

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Intended as a replacement for the Morris Minor, this design was only ever offered in Wolseley and Riley guises, between 1957 and 1965. Ironically, the Minor went on to live until 1971, so it both pre-dated and post-dated the putative replacement by some number of years.

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This was the first Pininfarina designed car that Austin offered. Launched in 1958, it filled the gap between the diminutive A35 and the larger A55 Cambridge. Allegedly good to drive, thanks to a peppy A series engine and MacPherson strut suspension, it soon spawned a version with an opening rear window as well as a drop down boot, so many will cite this as the “first” hatchback. That’s an arguable point, but even so the car sold well enough, though these days it lives in the shadow of its close rival, the Morris Minor. The A40 was facelifted in 1962, with the same styling update to the front being applied as was made to the larger Farina Saloons

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When the first of the Farina designed cars was launched in early 1959, the Wolseley 15/60, it was not evident that not only would BMC offer a complete range of cars which shared the same basic design with only detailed changes between them, but that Peugeot’s 404 and Fiat’s 1800/2100 would look awfully similar. The Peugeot and Fiat were expensive in the UK thanks to the extra costs of Import Duty, so a rare sighting, whilst the full range of Austin A55 Cambridge, Morris Oxford Series V, Wolseley 15/60, MG Magnette Mark III and Riley 4/68 were all cars which sold well in the UK. The styling of all of them was changed in 1962, when the tail fins – popular in 1959, but a quickly passing styling fad – were all but removed, and the front ends were modernised, along with larger versions of the B series engine finding their way under the bonnet.  These were A60 Cambridge models, one of them with the rare Automatic gearbox.

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The Farina touch was also applied to the big saloons, the Austin Wesminster and Wolsely 6/110. This is a Series 2 version of the A110 Westminster.

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Enthusiasm for the classic Mini is undiminished, and there were a lot of Issigonis’ masterpiece on show. They were fewer of the very early and now very valuable cars present, and nothing as rare as the Beach Car that was present last year, but even so there was a nice array of models from standard cars from the early 1960s, to Coopers, estate models, vans and a couple of Clubman and 1275GT cars.

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There were also plenty of examples of the many different limited edition cars produced in the second half of the model’s 41 year life.

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There was even an ERA Turbo. These cars were spectacularly unreliable when new, perhaps the result of putting more stress on the mechanical components than they could bear.

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Rust claimed almost all of what was for many years Britain’s best seller, long before the classic car movement really took hold, so there are far fewer survivors of the car which Issigonis master-minded as a bigger brother to the Mini than you might expect. Launched in 1962 as the Morris 1100, with a sporting MG version appearing only weeks later, the car was additionally offered as an Austin, Wolseley, Riley and Vanden Plas. In 1967, Mark 2 models offered an optional 1300cc engine, and a two door body style joined the 4 door and estate models. There were examples of all of the different marques present except, strangely,  the MG.

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The ever popular MGB was evident, with a number of models from the long production life of this British sports car.

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There were a couple of the short lived 6 cylinder MGC models as well.

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There were also examples of the MGB’s smaller relative, the Midget.

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There were a few of the P6 cars including the V8 powered 3500S, the car that many a thrusting exec would have aspired to when it was new in a way that they would now want a BMW 5 series.

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This pre-production Austin 1800 is believed to be the oldest surviving “Land Crab”.

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Other models included Mark 1, Mark 2 and Mark 3 cars, and a mix of Austin and Morris as well as the Wolseley 18/85 and Six versions.

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There was just one example of the large saloon that was introduced in 1967 that then singularly failed to fin many buyers. Fewer than 10,000 of these cars were sold before the plug was pulled in 1970. A shame, I think, as the longer rear end added some balance to the styling compared to the ADO17 “Land Crab” whose middle section it reused.

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As usual at events like this, there were very few Maxi at the event. This car, which promised so much, but was never really developed to deliver it, has largely faded from view and that is a pity. One of the cars here was a very early G registered car. These are the ones with the truly awful cable operated gearchange, supposedly one of the worst ever offered in a production car.

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A lone example of Triumph’s small family car from the early 1970s, the Toledo, finished in Mimosa, a couple which suits the car pretty well.

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One of the last of the fastback versions of the Spitfire, the GT6 had a 2 litre 6 cylinder engine, but it never sold as well as the MGB GT, its main rival. This one featured very period Magenta paintwork.

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A small showing of Marina and Ital models, with the rarely seen Estate versions of both the first generation Marina and the later O Series models among them.

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Also present was one of the rare Mumford convertibles. I never saw any of these when they were new, but they do pop up at classic events now, so clearly a few have survived.

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The Allegro was crucified by press, media and consumers when new, but it had its fans, too, and a enthusiastic Owners Club was founded a long time ago, so a surprising number of the cars have survived. There were plenty of them here, including some of the high end Vanden Plas models and a couple of rare Estate cars.

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When I first saw this car, something did not quite look right. It was badged a Wolseley, and indeed there were Wolseley models in the initial 18/22 range when launched in March 1975, though these were shortlived as they disappeared when the range was rechristened Princess in September of that year. Reading the information sheet in the car revealed that this is actually a pre-production car, dating from the middle of 1974, and as such it does not quite match the final spec, so this one has the trapezoidal headlights that featured on the Austin models, and no raised central section of the bonnet like the production Wolseley did. It is almost certainly the oldest 18/22 series car to have survived.

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There were a number of other Princess cars present, too.

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The Ambassador was only produced for a couple of years, from 1982 to 1984, and whilst the hatchback should have been there from day one, the styling changes were questionable. Few were made and few survive, so it was not a surprise to come across only one example on show.

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There were several of the stunning Rover SD1 cars on show. As always, there were far more of the post 1982 facelift cars than the earlier models.

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“A British Car to beat the world”. So was the strap line used when the Metro was launched in October 1980, and everyone believed it. Acclaimed by the press, and deservedly popular even before a certain young lady who became a Princess was known to drive one, the tragedy is that the car simply lived too long without the necessary development. The revised models that came out in 1990, with the excellent K-Series engine and a 5 speed gearbox did much to recreate the belief that the best small hatchback came from Longbridge, but competition got ever tougher and by the end of production in 1997, vilified by poor crash test performance, and now known for significant rust issues, the car simply lived too long. What is really tragic is that details of proposed replacements that should have been launched in the 1980s came to light, and they look as if they could have done it all again. And then we would probably remember the Metro more favourably than most people do. That said, there are still fans, and a number of them brought their cars here. They came in a variety of bright colours (something we need again for our monochrome car fleets these days!), and there were a few of the peppy little MG models and a rare Cabrio among the displays.

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The last car to bear the Triumph badge, the purists decried this as little more than a rebadged Honda Ballade, which of course is what it was. A decent enough car, it served its purpose in the three years that it was on sale, as it was a portent of more to come with the Rover badged Hondas.

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The Montego marks its 30th birthday on 24th April this year. For a car that was in the Top 10 best sellers for most of its life, there are surprisingly few left, rust have claimed most of them. This one is believed to be the oldest. It was made in February 1984, and was sold the day before launch to a lady customer.

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As a former Montego owner, who was very pleased with the both models that I owned, I am always pleased to see these cars and they bring back many memories. I owned a couple of 1.6L saloons, the first of which was made just after the Austin badges were removed, and the second one was a facelift car with two tone paint, and a particularly well equipped interior for a fleet staple car. My father had a couple of 1.6L Estate models, There were representative examples of the range from its inception to a couple of late model Estate cars. I was particularly pleased to see a non Turbo MG model as these are very rare.

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There were fewer Maestros, but again there was variety from basic 1.3 4 speed cars all the way to the top of the range MG Maestro Turbo.

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ROVER 213/216

This was the second Honda based car that Austin-Rover offered, and it sold well, probably better than expected, as once the S Series engine was inserted, it became easier to convince hard-nosed Fleet Managers that it was indeed British. Although not the roomiest car in the class, it was leagues nicer than a Ford Escort, and I recall asking Avis for these in preference to anything else when I first started work. There aren’t many left now, though.

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ROVER “R8” 200/400

Amazing to think that it will be 25 years in October since the launch of the R8 model Rover 200. An excellent car that went straight to the top of the class, it developed into a full range with 3 door, cabrio, the 400 Saloon and Tourer and the 200 Coupe. There were examples of all of them here.

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Gordon Sked’s Rover 600 design was considered a very elegant car when new, much praised for looking far better than the Honda Accord with which it shared its underpinnings. Indeed, I was all set to get one until I realised I could afford an Alfa instead, and I am sure I would have been pleased with it as a progression from the Rover 414 I had been driving at the time. Sadly, the cars have become tattier and tattier and most have now been recycled away. There were a couple of them on show here, though, neither of them in completely pristine condition. Maybe their turn will come?

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The XX Rover 800s were a joint development with Honda, sharing much with the now largely forgotten Honda Legend under the skin. The 2 litre M series engine was a notable advance, and significantly more powerful than the offerings in chief rivals of Ford Granada and Vauxhall Carlton.

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Among the second generation models was a very rare long wheelbase model.

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It was joined by saloon, hatchback and coupe versions.

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Produced for a couple of years as a presage to a commercially far more significant MG, the MGR was a modernised version of the popular MGB. A lot of them were initially sold to Japan, but many of these have since been re-imported to the UK.

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MGF and TF

As ever, there were lots of the popular sports car that started out life as the MGF and which was updated into the TF in 2002.

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ROVER 200/25 and MG ZR

There were quite a few of the last small Rover, the 200/25 and the MG version, the ZR

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The 200 BRM Owners always put on an impressive show, and this year was no exception, with a line of more than 25 of these cars making a striking sight. Only available in Brooklands Green, with the orange mouth making them easily recognisable, this was a limited production car only sold for a year or so from 1998. 795 were made for the UK, and a further 350 for export markets.

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Even a couple of the Streetwise, a car that aimed to capitalise on the growing enthusiasm for the tough off-road look despite the lack of any mechanical changes let alone four wheel drive, were present.

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ROVER 400/45 and MG ZS

The 400/45 and its MG derivative, the ZS were also well represented.

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ROVER 75 and MG ZT

I would say that there were more of these models than any other type at the end. The youngest will now be 9 years old, and the oldest coming up to 15, so I suspect that they will start to diminish in quantity in the foreseeable future. Examples of the complete range of Rover and MG models were on show.

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Rarest example on show was this long wheelbase model.

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A single example of the ballistic SV-R turned up late in the morning

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Although the MG6 has been on sale for a couple of years, you don’t see many, but although the car is apparently popular with locals, there was plenty of variety in the registration plates on them, suggesting that the car has its fans around the country. There was a good mix of Hatch and the Magnette saloon models.

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I don’t think I’ve seen a single MG3 on the road, even though it has been on sale since last autumn, but clearly quite a few have been sold as there were a large number of them gathered together here.

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And finally…….. HUSTLER

This intriguing machine was built in 1974. It was based on an Austin 1300 chassis, but had the Maxi E Series engine to power it.

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This Singer Gazelle Convertible had somehow found its way into the main display. Not sure why, though.

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This Mark IV Ford Zephyr was not actually part of the event, but was the car of one of the visitors. As these are rare, I could not resist taking photos of it, and including them here for you to enjoy.

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Next year will mark the 10th anniversary of the end of the MG-Rover organisation, and there is sure to be an ever bigger event to mark the occasion. I will be doing what I can to ensure that I am there.

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