England and the MINI factory

Back from ten days vacation in England! Drove about 1300 miles in a diesel engined Renault Laguna which did about 700 miles on a tank of gas, but we still paid 100 pounds (over $150) in fuel for our trip – about double the cost-per-mile of GBMINI.

I counted sightings of MINIs and Minis for a few days, but once I reached 50 MINIs (and 20 Minis) I stopped … so lots more of both “size” than in USA, and many older Minis still on English roads. The MINI is a “normal sized” car over there; many other cars are similarly sized or even smaller! A “small” American SUV (like the Honda CR-V) looks big over there. But with the cost of fuel, the narrow roads and tiny parking spaces, those smaller cars are needed. Our Renault was large compared to many other cars (about the same size as a Honda Accord).


This was the smallest BMW we have ever seen – much smaller even than a Mini, but it had two passengers and was travelling at about 50mph on the A1:


One of the highlights was a sudden chance to visit the MINI factory at Cowley, near Oxford! We called the MINI factory and found that they do daily tours (morning, afternoon and even evening) but you need to book ahead a few weeks … however, we lucked out and managed to squeeze in with a school party, and visited in the morning before our flight home! After the tour, an easy 1.5 hour drive took us to Heathrow Airport with an hour to spare before check-in.
When we arrived at the MINI factory, there is a big panel which clearly indicates that MINI is a BMW brand; very different to the US impression where MINI tries to separate itself from BMW. “Round the back” we saw lots of MINIs being loaded for transportation to UK dealerships – the US cars are taken by train to Southampton docks. We ignored the “no cameras” sign …

 

The visitor centre is behind a big “INFO” sign; inside you have to wear special overalls and there are a few cars on display (including one of the submarine-equipped ones from Austin Powers 3. We were not allowed cameras in the factory.


The long poster above at the visitor center details the history of the Cowley factory from 1912 (premises purchased for development of Morris Oxford) through 1959 (MINI launched at Cowley under the Morris marque) through to July 2001 (new MINI launched).

Although you cannot take pictures in the factory, there was an “INSIDE OXFORD” CDROM available for free – it contains the same “spycam tour” available on the MINI International website.
If you want to take the tour, contact the MINI manufacturing plant in Cowley, England: +44 (0)1865 824000.

2 thoughts on “England and the MINI factory

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