On Saturday I saw off the motor heritage convoy from Cowley to Longbridge. The fourth annual migration of Cowley-built cars from Oxford to Birmingham showcases a hundred vintage city-made cars making their way to the Pride of Longbridge rally in Birmingham, which remembers the 6,000 workers who lost their jobs when MG Rover collapsed in 2005.
In the showcase there were several original Minis, of course - everyone of my generation's first car. Looking at all the lovingly restored cars waiting to go, it takes you back when I remember how many of these models I have owned at one time or another; my first Mini, followed over the years by a Metro, the Montego (did my old Montego really look like that?), my wife's Rover 400 and a Rover 800, succeeded by my first new Mini, which after 140,000 miles I have replaced with a newer low emission diesel Mini. Looking back on the old cars, including the Morris 1100 and the Maxi, you are struck by how innovative their design was for their time, and what a proud manufacturing history we have here in Cowley.
The proceedings paid testament to the incredible amount of skill and hard work that has been the hallmark of car manufacturing in Cowley over the years. It's wonderful that enthusiasts take such time and care to preserve these historic models, not only an important part of our heritage, but a reminder of times past, so that once in a while we can see them, like old friends, bringing back memories of what was going on in our lives when we owned them.
The convoy send-off provided an opportunity to reflect on how manufacturing and industry have evolved over this time, and how good it is that the Cowley was able to attract BMW investments, and what a success the workforce have made of it. We remember too the workers at Longbridge who lost their jobs following the collapse of MR Rover, and what this meant for their community. Though times, and the cars, have changed, automotive manufacturing is a vital part of Oxford's economy, over the years producing more than 11 million cars, and providing jobs for tens of thousands of people. It underlines how crucial it is that we sustain this success for the future.
The heritage convoy event was organised by Tanya Field, from Headington, who together with a dedicated team of helpers has worked tirelessly to get everything ready -- many thanks to Tanya and everyone else who made Saturday's event such a success.