The redevelopment of Longbridge – former home of Austin and current site of MG Motor UK – continues.
Classics World recently learned that MG’s senior and administrative staff recently vacated the ‘Kremlin’, the offices once used as Austin headquarters. Officially known as the Administration block or Austin International Headquarters, it quickly earned the ‘Kremlin’ nickname from lower ranking staff.
Built during Austin’s rapid post war expansion in the Fifties, the ‘Kremlin’ housed the senior management on the top floor with garages on the ground floor. Built to take management’s personal cars, it was also where Austin (and later British Motor Corporation, British Leyland, Rover Group and MG Rover) prototypes went to be evaluated.
By 1961, a covered walkway connected Austin’s new Design Office to the ‘Kremlin’ and a styling studio where clay models were created could be found at the back. Many styling concepts and prototypes were photographed within its walls.
Lacking the bold frontage of Austin’s two Car Assembly Buildings (CABs), the Kremlin was privy to a great deal of sensitive company information. Its bland frontage meant it was left out of many site photos as Longbridge changed over the years.
The building accrued many historical artefacts in the intervening decades, including sketches and artist’s drawings. MG’s decision to move in 2016 meant that its corridors and offices were emptied. All of its contents went directly into skips without involving the British Motor Museum or owners’ clubs. “That’s the most upsetting thing, really,” said Autobritannia’s Michael Humble. Run as an online repository of British car, truck and train histories, Michael kept close ties with Longbridge staff past and present.
“By the time anyone knew, it was too late,” he continued. “Nothing from the offices could be saved. What happens to the ‘Kremlin’ now is anyone’s guess. Longbridge site owners St Modwen told MG Motor UK that they didn’t want it back.”
Staff and office equipment has been moved from the Kremlin into CAB 1, the factory lines responsible in Austin’s day for many of its export models. MG chairman William Wang, also stationed in the Kremlin, goes about his duties from MG’s Sales Centre.
Car building came to a halt inside CAB 1 in 2005 with the demise of MG Rover – and was mothballed until the late Noughties when construction of ‘completely knocked down’ (CKD) TF sports cars restarted. Under the wing of then- new owners SAIC Motor, 2011 saw the start of MG6 final assembly; five years later, the model was discontinued in the UK.
Longbridge saw some development earlier this year as an engineering and design hub for SAIC Motor. The firm continues to take on apprentices and new cars are tested for emissions on site. CAB 1 no longer acts as the final stage for MG assembly, though – the MG3 hatchback and GS off roader arrive fully assembled from SAIC’s factory in Pukou, China. Other right hand drive markets receive MGs from a huge plant in Thailand. The last MG3 rolled out of Longbridge CAB1 on Tuesday, July 5.