The iconic cars of the Cowley factory

The iconic cars of the Cowley factory

Britain should rightly be proud of Plant Oxford. As British success stories go, Plant Oxford – or Cowley as it has traditionally been known – joins a patchwork quilt of modern-day success stories made up of Nissan's Sunderland plant, Toyota's Burnaston facility and Honda's Swindon factory

The story began with the Morris Oxford 'Bullnose' back in 1913 - a car most notable for its bullnose-styled radiator and the fact it helped to bring affordable motoring to the masses.
Several iterations of the Oxford followed, and to do its bit for the war effort, the factory even turned its hand to making Tiger Moth aircraft, ambulances, military trucks, jerry cans, components for Horsa gliders, parachutes and even iron lungs!

By 1948 the factory was building the iconic Morris Minor of which it manufactured more than a million of the familiar curvy car.

But it was in 1959 the factory started to build the Morris Mini Minor and constructed a total of 601,817 Minis by 1968.

But that wasn't the end of Cowley's production days. The factory built a plethora of innovative and not so innovative cars for the rest of the twentieth century.

The cars of Cowley
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The iconic cars of the Cowley factory

1926 Morris Oxford

1935 Morris Eight, Series I

1960 Morris Mini Minor

1962 MG 1100

1969 Austin Healey Sprite Mk IV

1970 Morris Minor Million

1978 Morris Marina LE

1988 Sterling 827 S saloon

2001 MINI Cooper Austin Powers

2013 MINI John Cooper Works


There was the revolutionary BMC 1100 and 1300, and for one year only that British-favourite the MG Midget/Austin Healey Sprite. And during the strike-ridden 70s, Cowley was building the far from loveable Morris Marina and the curiously cheese-shaped Princess series.

Later, Cowley workers had the pleasure of producing the Austin Maestro – complete with its talking dashboard – and, in the days of when Austin Rover was in partnership with Honda, the Rover 800 and the Honda Accord in the late 1980s.

BMW Group ownership beckoned in 1994 and by 1998 the factory was building the retro Rover 75 - the best engineered Rover for decades.

But it wasn't to last - the Germans sold Rover Group in 2000 but kept Cowley. One year later, renamed Plant Oxford and kitted out with the latest equipment costing £230m, Cowley began building the new Mini, and since the Oxfordshire factory has built 2.25m of them.

Speaking on the future of the plant, BMW AG board member Harald Krueger said: "We have ambitious growth plans for Mini and are now preparing for the launch of the next generation of the Mini family.

"We will grow the model range in the coming years and our volume expectations in the medium term will see Mini reaching well beyond the current 300,000 annual car sales worldwide."

Read about Cowley's centenary celebrations HERE
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