Automotive history

Rare photos capture the final days of MG’s Abingdon factory

by Jon Burgess
7 April 2022 2 min read
Rare photos capture the final days of MG’s Abingdon factory
After the end: John’s B roadster and BGT V8 at Gate 3, Abingdon on 26 October 1980. The earlier car was ordered from University Motors, London, on the day the MG BGT V8 was announced on 15 August 1973 Photos: Courtesy John Dupont

24 October 1980 was a dark day in MG history: It was the day the storied ‘Pavlova’ works in Abingdon, Oxfordshire was shuttered, killing off the marque.

MG, then producers of the MGB and BGT, wasn’t reorganised into British Leyland’s Specialist Cars Division, which protected the likes of Land Rover, Jaguar and Triumph from money-saving programmes. Initiatives like these made the conglomerate over £30 million.

To the chagrin of sports car enthusiasts worldwide, the writing had been on the wall since 10 September 1979, and Midget production had ended that year as activities were wound down. MG was losing money on every Midget built, and BL’s corporate pockets were too shallow for the constant modifications needed to keep up with emissions standards.

The MGB soldiered on until the bitter end; late plans to convert the car to use the new O-Series engine came to nothing. The last MGB, a white roadster, left the line on 22 October 1980. The works themselves stood until 1997, when they were demolished. Today you’ll find houses in its place.

Arch MG enthusiast, John Dupont, of London, whose love of the marque began 55 years ago when he bought a new 1275 Midget, toured Abingdon two weeks before the shutters came down for good, taking his then-new MGB roadster back to its birthplace. He kept the images in his private collection until this year, when he had the means to scan the 35mm transparencies.

1980 MG Abingdon factory

“I’m honoured that so many people want them,” John said, whose photos have been downloaded by more than 200 people via Facebook.

42 years later, he decided to share his 26 previously unpublished shots, rights free, on the MG Factory Abingdon remembered Facebook page – before extending the invitation to enthusiasts worldwide. John’s images are now available, and can be saved via this WeTransfer link.

1980 MG Abingdon factory
Keeping up with safety legislation was vital for the likes of the MGB, which was signed off in the late Fifties and released in 1962. This rubber-bumper car was stored at the factory after crash testing

On 12 October 1980, John’s then-new B roadster posed with the last batch of B and BGT shells ever to arrive at Abingdon from Pressed Steel Fisher (now MINI Plant Swindon) – an event that can never be repeated.

John’s tour that day took in the works – where we see Bs and BGTs in various stages of calm, orderly assembly, inside and out. A second visit, on 26 October 1980, shows his ‘B and ‘BGT V8 outside the now-closed factory gates. Cine footage from the time shows the ex-leather works emptied of cars.

“It’s been over 40 years, and the factory needs to be remembered,” John said.

Read more

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Buying Guide: MGB Roadster and GT (1962-1980)
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  • Bryan Cole says:

    Thank you for all the images from MG Abingdon assembly plant, I worked there for a few years in the 1960`s and 70`s . I will add them to my MG file

  • Paul Jelinek says:

    Out of curiosity while I was searching to access the VIN number to get some info on my 77 MG Midget, I came across your website and found the history of the plant very interesting. I’ve had my car since the early 80’s when I bought it in California and never knew about Abingdon and the plant where MG’s were manufactured in volume. After 5 years of sitting, it’s presently getting some work done. New paint job is next and I can’t wait to drive it again. Thanks so much!! (Paul)

  • Michael says:

    I’m so glad I stumbled across this! I had a 1974 1/2 rubber bumper B when I was in high school in the early 80s. Have never forgotten it.
    I recently purchased a ‘73 chrome bumper B and am tinkering with it and hope to be driving it soon!
    Really enjoyed seeing the factory from whence these beauties came.

  • Collin says:

    I have a 1981 MGB GT (yes you read that right, 1981, even though the factory closed in 1980!).
    After the factory in Abingdon CLOSED down in 1980, all the remaining MGB GT parts were shipped to British Leyland in South Africa as CKD (Completely Knocked Down), where only 200 was ever built from imported CKD kits.

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