Home is where the heart is RIGHT? I feel most at home with my family, friends and my MINI. But this time it was my JCW turn to go home from where my order left the dealer’s desk and was transmitted in a series of 0 and 1 through the MINI network to plant Oxford.
Two months later she was born to take me on my MINI adventures far and wide. It has been over 2 years on I still love her like the day I first picked up her. 2013 was year for celebration for MINI & Plant Oxford as it marked 100 years of car making at plant Oxford and the MINI brand celebrating 50 years of the Cooper S and 250,000 Countryman left the factory.
The MINI brands has taken leaps and bounds since his it rebirth in 2001 when BMW release the R50 to the world. That famous badge and brand power drew in old and new consumers to the brand for nostalgia and the infamous go karting handling. Now in 2013 the brand has expanded with the hatchback not being the only variant with the Clubman, Clubvan, Convertible, Coupe, Roadster, Countryman and Paceman.
There is a lot more choice when you buy your MINI with over a million combinations of parts and accessories no real MINI is truly alike which is big difference from 1959 when only 3 colours were only available Clipper Blue, Cherry Red and Old English White for the first 3 years of production.
Lets bring the lime night back on to me I am always been firm believer that you should always give back to the world. I have saying ‘The way you treat people is the way you feel inside’ and I have searched long and hard to find a charity to work to make a real difference to people’s lives.
I came across the Action for children charity as I was applying for graduate roles. I put my name forward to volunteer for an event called Byte Night which is a sponsored sleep out to raise money and to remind yourselves what millions of homeless people feel every night. The big IT companies employees and high-ranking board member were there for the sleep in with over £1 million being raised that day with events across the UK. After learning more about the Action for children from Kim I will be organising a MINI event in Birmingham which will be my own take on the London job which will happen in April.
Details will follow soon…
Modding bug isn’t too far away too far away from me and I finally picked up the carbon fibre boot handle for my JCW to finish the carbon touches to the outside of my JCW. Installation took 5 minutes as it was just a few torx screws. Too match my shiney new carbon fibre goodies I clayed and waxed the JCW ahead its homecoming to the Factory. Time to bring out the SNOWFOAMMMMM It being ENGLAND it rained on the day : / But on the journey there I spotted a camouflaged Land Rover. He tried to get away from me taking piccies but I was having now of that!! POOOOOWWWWAAAAAAAA!!!!! The closer I got to Oxford the more MINIs I began to see on the motorway and normal roads. As soon as I went to turn right into the plant I spotted the Surrey New MINI (SNM) convoy at the lights and so I slowed down for all of us to roll in together
There was an addition to the SNM family as Vickie had trade in her JCW Clubman for another new JCW Clubman to her spec NOM NOM
She went for the Reef Blue paint previously a exclusive paint to the Hampton edition and then specd the Harmon Kardon system, Chilli and Media pack with championship leather with red door and dash trims.
It is a REAL STUNNER with the colour coded arches in the Reef Blue paint and its been given awesome name of ‘Squidward’
I was filled with excitement as it has been a long time coming for me to do the factory tour as I had watched the National Geographic channel Mega factories documentary on the production of the MINI Coupe & Roadster.
I wanted to see in person how machines and people put all the millions of parts and billions combinations of options together day in day out. It was made clear from the outset that MINI was proud of the factory that plant Oxford had been producing cars for 100 years given the number of banners and logo plastered everywhere. I gave my autograph at the desk to sign in and grabbed the MINI black overalls for the factory tour and placed all my belongs into a locker, as no cameras or phones would be allowed into the factory. Do not worry! Where I was allowed to take photos I did. First up was the MINI museum which housed all the R56 onwards concepts and other models produced at the Plant Oxford. It was the breath of models and manufactures that stunned me and how tastes, culture and customer demands have shaped the automotive industry over the years. It funny how what once was an option extra is now standard in alot of cars. This hall of fame of how the MINI brand has evolved over the years is amazing from the marketing, advertising, production and worldwide success has brought millions of consumers in to buy that infamous badge. The factory hasn’t just produced car as during the world war parts for machinery and even planes were made. Me being me I decided to take on the robot for a dance off to see who could the best robot dance moves. Sadly robo arm is retired, Pssshhh Excuses. The SNM crew were all called up and bundled into a van to which would take us into the MINI factory to see how this four-wheel pocket rocket was made.
We were honoured to have Ian Cummings as our factory tour guide for the day. You may not know who is he but he has worked at the plant for sometime so he has seen different cars and models begin and leave the plant under his leadership.
The factory is separated into 3 sections:
Body in white – This is where the panels and exterior shape is formed
Paint – This where every individual car receives it colour
Assembly – This is the final stage where all the components come together
Once the welds are complete a random check is done by a specialist auditor to ensure the body weld are correct.
If are doesn’t meet this checks it scrapped and recycled to begin the process again but a lucky few are given a chance again as they are turned into track cars for the MINI Challenge series.
The body shell continues it life in the body of white assembly line where the bonnet, boot and doors are added.
Each are car is inspected by human using their hands to find any blemishes and to address them if need be. If each major faults are found this information is relayed back to see what caused it and to stop it from occurring again.
After passing inspection the body is continued on a conveyor belt to the paint section. The MINI body which has a chemical bath and a rinse shower to ensure each MINI is dirt free of anything especially including oil and dust before it receives it colour.
An Human inspection is done again to see if they are as clean as possible before the coat dip (primer). Next up is the sealing process where every hole and joint is made water tight by hand (Fun Fact – Every week 4 tonnes of sealant is used).
The sealing continues with the undercarriage is seal with a plastic coating to protect the body of stone, road grime and salt.
The body is then cooled for one hour then dusted by ostrich feather which is strangely still the best way to attract dirt, dust and oil. Now the paint can be applied which is done by both human and robots to ensure every corner of body shell/panels gets painted.
A final clear coat is applied to protect the paint and to give that gloss finish.
Off to the oven the for the MINI to make sure the paint is dried then inspection begins to find any imperfections. If any problems are found they buffered out and once there aren’t any a final buff and wax is done.
Now beings the final production stage at the assembly plant which has 5 major stations with a workforce which is spilt into 2 crews which fix on around 2,000 parts to each MINI.
Each worker has a specific role to complete in a 68 second deadline and 850 individual MINIs leave the factory every day!
Now the wiring harness of car is fitted which is 1 and half km long and runs from the boot to the engine bay.
Once the wiring has been fitted the dash-board and interior panels are installed, elsewhere whilst this is going the engine is simultaneously being built every minute. Once the engine is complete the engine is loaded on to pre assembled front suspension frame.
The marriage of the body and engine can now begin where robots and human install the engine together. Now all the other major components such as the seats, rear suspension, exhaust and wheels are added on.
The doors come back to the car to be reinstalled and last few touches are now the final touches and badges are applied give the MINI is identity.
All the fluids are added to drive the newly born MINI off the line to be tested to find any squeak or rattles before its put on to trailer to sent to the customer.
Now that I have gone through the process of how your MINI was made its time to let you guys and girls know how it felt to be there and extra surprise for me to see the F56 in production in both 3 door and 5 door variant.
It was a shock to see them there and were told not to look?? So I leaned against the guard rail to see the interior, the finish and to see what options were fitted on to the models.
They were a few Coopers and Cooper S in that Volcanic Orange and Deep Blue which were probably be press and demonstrator cars leave the factory to go around the globe. I am still not sold on those rear lights and lower bumper intakes on the S as they bigger than my head & ego combined. However everything else is on point with increased plushness in the cabin, more toys and options to be had.
Will I buy a F56? Yes but It’s another few years before I take the plunge again on purchasing another JCW as this powerhouse is coming in 2015 and it will be at least 2017 before I put my hard-earned cash down again for one. I will be requesting a custom paint for mine…
Some might moan about the increased sizes but I welcome the longer wheelbase as that extra few inches in the Clubman makes the car handle better on handling and ride comfort front. I fell in love with the Clubman when I had a fully loaded JCW Clubman from MINI UK when I was having a nightmare with mine.
Anyway back to the factory floor, tucked away in the corner were a few camouflaged MINIs which were the 5 door variant Hatch and what is the forthcoming Clubman. Another thing that caught my eye was the lack of the JCW models being made on the production line as I only saw 2 JCW being made which both were going abroad given the different front plate mount.
The tour was finished by Ian Cummings leading us back into the Van to head back to the Museum to gather our belongs. After this we lined up all our MINIs across the 100 years anniversary banner outside the Museum for piccies : D
But where ever I go the press isn’t far behind with their cameras and tape recorders…
But seriously the local paper had come down to take photos of the SNM clubs but sadly the finish article was the total opposite to what we expect.
But sad news was later heard as the R56 Hatch had officially stopped production marking an end of era and but the beginning of another…
After leaving the factory behind I had this sense of pride that manufacturing still occurs in the UK and MINI brand is very much still deep rooted in every generation in the UK. Its one of the reasons why the Fast Five had British flags attached to their aerials with pride at MINI UNITED. No matter where we have gone the red, white and blue flag is our home and those famous 3 colours were donned on the Minis in the Italian Job, which arguable the greatest car film ever!
The R56 will always be the greatest car ever to me given the personal and emotional connection I have my MINI as its more than a piece of metal but an extra of my personality.It has taken me on a journey of a life of lifetime and introduced me to people who I would have never met whilst put a smile on my face.
Thank you R56
Next Blog Post: Is MINI the new Porsche??
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