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The Always Amazing MINI

  • Visits

No doubt the late Sir Alec Issigonis would be both surprised and then absolutely delighted to see how the successor to his iconic small car is being assembled today. We, the coach load of Molesiders on our April visit to Oxford, most certainly were, 

All of us share a soft spot for the little vehicle that Issigonis designed more than 60 years ago, it seemed as we gathered enthusiastically around the museum display at the start of our visit to the Cowley assembly plant. 

Here was the familiar Austin and Morris body shape of the 60s alongside the dramatic transformations introduced more recently by BMW which has invested heavily in Britain helping to ensure that the Mini brand continues to shine brightly on roads all over the world. 

When we moved on to be escorted to see the technology involved in building the new Minis of today I am sure most of us were ready to be amazed. But what we were shown next was truly breathtaking.

Respecting our hosts’ instruction that we lock our cameras safely away before our detailed tour of the assembly area, this report has to rely on stock, promotional photography in an attempt to share the impact of the scene we were allowed to see for ourselves

An army of 1,200 robots is synchronised to pickup components and perform often fiddly, complex individual assembly tasks before passing on their work to the next cell in the process which ends with each vehicle’s carcass, they call them bodies in white, ready to be transferred to the paint shop.

 We learnt that developing the intricate sequence driving the robotic arms in their cells has involved breaking the assembly process down to tasks that can be completed in Tecks; precisely timed periods of 67 seconds.  And this is not based on the speed at which the line can work physically but on the simple truth that somewhere in the world a new Mini is sold – and has to be restocked – every 67 seconds.

There’s much more to learn about all this on BMW’s dedicated website

Our thanks to our hosts at the Mini Visitor Centre for their introduction to some spectacular engineering. Thanks to the Moleside Events team coordinator Paul Walker and to Steve Rouse who put the whole programme together including a very welcome lunch at Cote in Oxford which rounded off our exciting visit to the city.

Thanks as well to Margaret Arnott and John Brice for their help with the photographs. 

Click on TAGS for reports of other recent Moleside club Visits.