Car production at Cowley in Oxford began in 1913, and by the middle of the 1930s the plant was producing well over 100,000 vehicles a year.
In 1934, shortly after the Morris factory had undergone a £250,000 refresh of the production facilities, Autocar’s Maurice Sampson paid a visit.
Sampson wrote that the site was “staggering, not only in its immensity, but in its detailed, organised simplicity.
“For quite a number of years I have been a fairly frequent visitor to Cowley and I thought I knew the layout pretty well. But when I went there the other day I was completely lost. Everything was changed, everything new.
“Enormous sums of money have been expended on equipment that is designed to render the flow of production of cars of widely differing types not only as smooth as possible but also to the end that the cars are as perfect as possible”.
Cowley’s streamlined production line was modelled on that pioneered by Henry Ford, and our man toured the line where “Morris Eights, Tens, Cowleys and Oxfords were taking shape. The Isis and Twenty-Fives have a shop to themselves.
“Every item going into the complex structure called a car is given the minimum length of journey to its appointed place on the chassis,” wrote Sampson. “Not only is time saved, but men do not have to expend energy in walking about after a component.”
Sampson also highlighted the vast automotive supply chain that had sprouted across the Midlands. “Cowley is over 90% an assembly, as opposed to a manufacturing, plant,” he continued. “With the exception of a certain amount of coachwork, nothing is made there. From Coventry come engines, castings, coachwork; from Birmingham come gears, tyres, wheels and electrical equipment.