Monday 10th September 1979
British Leyland (BL) announced it was to end production of all MG models. The history of the marque has been a bumpy one since the creation of the brand in 1924 by Cecil Kimber, who chose the letters MG as a tribute to William Morris, the owner of Morris Garages.The original MGs – known as Morris Garage Chummies – were made by fitting tourer bodies to Morris Cowley chassis. Purists, however, say the first true MG was the 14/28 sports model, which was also the first to sport the distinctive octagonal logo.Originally the cars were built in Oxford, but production was shifted a few miles south to Abingdon in 1929, where it continued until the plant was closed amid huge protests in 1980. The Prince of Wales was one of a number of distinguished MG owners. His first car was a cobalt blue MGC GT, which was bought in January 1968. Ironically on the day the Abingdon plant shut, he was performing the official opening of British Leyland’s Mini Metro plant in Longbridge, where MGs had also been produced since 1962. The closure of Abingdon also stopped production of the much loved two-seater sports cars, even though the brand was kept alive by Austin Rover, who stuck the badge on an array of unimpressive saloon cars and hatchbacks. These Metros, Maestros and Montegos may have been sportier than their conventional counterparts, but they were not true MGs and did not attract the devotion of the MGB, which had become the world’s top selling sports car. “The marque has a great deal of affection, but has not been treated particularly well,” said Chris Seaward of the MG Car Club. It has been passed from house to house.”
In 1995, when the MG was owned by BMW, the MGF – a proper sports car in line with the marque’s heritage was launched. It was hugely successful. In 2000 BMW sold the business to the Rover group which stuck the MG badge on some Rovers, as well as continuing to produce sports cars. It was not a happy period with the company going into receivership and production stopping after an ill-fated rescue attempt by the so-called Phoenix Four, which made huge amounts for the businessmen involved but not for the staff on the Longbridge production line.
In April 2005 the MG MG Rover Group went into administration, after which it was bought by NAC China’s oldest carmaker. Production restarted in 2007 in China, and later at Longbridge plant in the UK under the current manufacturer MG Motor. The first all-new model from MG in the UK for 16 years, the MG 6, was officially launched on 26 June 2011.