Have you ever wondered what contribution your home town has made to this country’s automotive tapestry?
If you grew up in one of the 1920s semis along Browns Lane in Coventry, you’ll know very well that you hail from Jaguar’s home patch.
And if your weekday mornings were soundtracked by buzzy four-cylinder engines being wrung out on the test track just over the way at Hethel, you’ll be well aware that your corner of the country brought us Lotus, as we know it today. For those of us who don’t come from one of Britain’s many famous car towns, though, it’s a question that demands a little digging.
For all but a few of my 31 years, I have lived in Bristol. Twelve of those were spent in a north Bristol suburb just a mile or two from Filton airfield, and it’s in the vicinity of the disused runway that I find myself now, peering at a building materials supplier on some entirely unremarkable industrial estate.
It mightn’t be a famous car town, but Bristol is as well known as anywhere for its engineering past. Much of that reputation can be attributed to just one man, of course, for it was Isambard Kingdom Brunel who built this city’s iconic suspension bridge in Clifton, the Great Western Railway that links the south-west with the capital and also the SS Great Britain, the world’s first iron-hulled, screw-propeller-driven ship, which today sits proudly in a dry dock in Bristol harbour.
Aviation, too, forms a huge part of this town’s history. Filton airfield was first built in 1910 and, over the following decades, a whole industry sprung up around it. The Bristol Aeroplane Company was founded here at around the same time, building several thousand Fighter biplanes during World War I. Much later, the first UK-built Concorde took off from Filton in 1969 and, 34 years after that, the final ever Concorde flight landed at Filton, too.