You can watch your favourite British cars in exotic locations on TV but we recommend seeing them being brought to life on the factory floor
Richard Bremner Autocar
28 December 2018

The arcing sparks of synchronised robot welders, the seismic thump of a multi-tonne press stamping body panels, the orderly bustle of a final assembly line – if you know about cars, you’ll likely be familiar with these processes, even if you haven’t seen them. And if you haven’t witnessed this amazing creative theatre, add it to your list of automotive must-dos. 

There’s plenty of scope in the UK, despite Brexit, where you can see Minis, Jaguars and Land Rovers produced in profusion, by booking yourself onto a guided tour. Not all cars are mass-produced, of course: Aston Martin, Bentley, Lotus and Morgan are among those allowing you to see car construction at a less frenetic pace. 

Sadly, not every UK car plant grants the public access, among them Nissan’s legendarily productive Sunderland plant. But one of the bigger factories allowing you a view is the Mini factory in Oxford, with the reactions of the almost invariably enthusiastic visitors visible on TripAdvisor. If you’re still sceptical, here are a couple of reviews: 

“Watching the robots work was like being in another world. I enjoyed it even though I am not interested in cars!” Or this: “Mind blown by the complexity of the logistics.” And this: “The area with the robots welding the body parts together was utterly captivating. Big, heavy machines that moved like a cross between a human and a snake. The factory is amazingly clean and surprisingly quiet. Such a good experience, I went twice.” 

As a bit of a seasoned car factory visitor, your reporter can confirm all this, and the fact that despite many similarities, car factories never stop being mesmerising – from the huge rolls of sheet steel at the start, to the moment when a car starts for the first time in its life. 

Our Verdict

Rolls Royce Phantom 2018 review hero front

The eighth-gen Rolls Royce Phantom is the second of the company's modern era. Is it still a world-beater?

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

1. Aston Martin 

Gaydon

Models featured: DB11, Vantage, DBS Superleggera 

Tour includes: Visits for two, including a history retrospective with previous models, a full factory tour with explanations from specialists and a tour of the current Aston range including lifestyle products. Refreshments included. Hotel accommodation and transfers optionally available. Three-day ‘At Home with Aston Martin’ tour for two: Day 1 – Gaydon factory tour; Day 2 – Aston Martin Works Newport Pagnell tour of restoration and servicing activities; Day 3 – dynamic driving day at Millbrook Proving Ground with professional tutors. 

Price: Standard tour £350, but free for Aston Martin owners via franchised dealers. Three-day tour £4060, including accommodation at Dormy House hotel in the Cotswolds. 

When: See website for availability 

How long: One or three days 

Where: Gaydon, Warwickshire 

Contact: www.astonmartinartofliving.com/ experience/factory_tour

2. Bentley

Crewe

Models featured: Continental GT, Bentayga, Mulsanne 

Tour includes: Starts with a heritage exhibition and an explanation of the company’s origins, before an extensive assembly line tour and a visit to the woodwork and trim shops. Refreshments included. German spoken on request. Minimum age 14. 

Price: £30 

When: Most days from Monday to Friday, morning or afternoon. 2019 tour dates released early next year. 

How long: Between two and two-and-a-half hours 

Where: Bentley Motors, Pyms Lane, Crewe, Cheshire, CW1 3PL 

Contact: 01270 505851

3. Ginetta

Leeds

Models featured: G40, G55, G58 

Tour includes: Detail tours with groups of 20 during a one-date winter open day, often in collaboration with a PistonHeads’ Sunday Service. Includes engine assembly, engine testing by dynomometer, chassis construction and the carbonfibre moulding process, plus an opportunity to inspect and sit in most of the current range. Refreshments (with charity donation) included. 

Price: Free 

When: Annually, usually over the Christmas/New Year break 

How long: All day 

Where: Ginetta Cars, Helios 47, Isabella Road, Garforth, Leeds, LS25 2DY 

Contact: www.ginetta.com

4. Jaguar

Castle Bromwich

Models featured: Jaguar XJ, XE, XF. Separate ‘Spitfires to Sportscars’ F-Type tour 

Tour includes: A guided tour of the thunderous aluminium press shop, the sophisticated rivet-bond body assembly area, the paint shop and the final assembly line, including vehicle start-up. The bespoke options area is also visited. The F-Type tour includes explanation of the factory’s World War Two Spitfire fighter plane manufacture. 

Price: £49 (children £39) 

When: Twice daily, Monday to Friday 

How long: Three hours

Where The Jaguar Visitor Centre, Chester Road, Castle Vale, Birmingham, B35 7RA 

Contact: www.experience.jaguar.com

5. Jaguar Land Rover

Solihull

Models featured: Jaguar F-Pace, Range Rover Velar 

Tour includes: A guided tour of the ground-thumping aluminium press shop, the advanced rivet-bond body assembly area, the paint shop and the final assembly line, including vehicle start-up. The increasingly busy bespoke options area is also visited. Refreshments included. 

Price: £49 (children £39) 

When: Twice daily, Monday to Friday

How long: Two-and-a-half to three hours 

Where: The Land Rover Visitor Centre, Lode Lane, Solihull, West Midlands, B92 8NW 

Contact: www.experience.jaguar.com

6. Jaguar Land Rover

Wolverhampton

Models featured: Ingenium engines 

Tour includes: A guided tour of the machining hall, where engine blocks are ground, cut and honed, together with machining of cylinder heads and crankshafts. This is followed by the assembly of the engines by robots. The tour also includes an explanation of the factory’s advanced recycling processes, its energy generation methods and rainwater harvesting. Refreshments included. 

Price: £39 (children £30) 

When: Twice daily, Monday to Friday 

How long: Three hours

Where: Jaguar Land Rover Engine Manufacturing Centre, i54 Business Park, Innovations Drive, Coven, Wolverhampton, WV9 5GB 

Contact: www.experience.jaguar.com

7. Land Rover

Solihull; Halewood

Models featured: Discovery, Range Rover Sport, Range Rover (Solihull); Evoque, Discovery Sport (Halewood) 

Tour includes: Guided tour of the aluminium press shop, rivet-bond body assembly area, paint shop and final assembly line, including vehicle start-up. Finishes with the Range Rover Story Exhibition. 

Price: £49 (children £39). Taster tour at Halewood £29 

When: Twice daily, Monday to Friday 

How long: Three hours; one-and-a-half-hour taster tour 

Where: Land Rover, Lode Lane, Solihull, West Midlands, B92 8NW; Halewood Visitor Centre, South Road, Liverpool L24 9PZ 

Contact: www.experience.landrover.com

8. Lotus

Hethel

Models featured: Elise, Exige, Evora, 3-Eleven 

Tour includes: An introduction to Lotus’s history, followed by the engine and subframe preparation areas, the body bonding process, chassis assembly, final assembly and quality check process. There are also visits to the factory shop and Hethel Store. Refreshments provided.

Price: £49 

When: Monday and Wednesday 

How long: Three hours 

Where: See Lotus website for details 

Contact: www.lotuscars.com/factory-tours; 01908 608000

9. Mini

Oxford

Models featured: Mini Hatchback, Convertible, Clubman 

Tour includes: A guided tour of a robot bodyshop that’s one of the most impressive in Europe, and a walk along the extensive and often very colourful final assembly line. A trip to the plant’s small museum and shop, which are housed in part of the original Morris works, is also included. German is spoken on request. 

Price: £19 (concessions £16); guided tour for 15 £220; extended tour for 15 £320 

When: Two or three times daily, Monday to Friday 

How long: Two hours 

Where: Mini Plant Oxford, Eastern By-Pass Road, Oxford, OX4 6NL 

Contact: www.visit-mini.com/visitmini

10. Morgan

Malvern

Models featured: 4/4, Plus 4, Roadster, Plus 8, 3 Wheeler, Aero 

Tour includes: Gravity provides the assembly line movement here, as the factory is built on a hill. Wood, aluminium and leather are a Morgan’s main ingredients, and the tour starts in the aluminium shop that constructs the chassis. You’ll also see (and smell) the wood shop, the tin shop that forms the exterior panels, the trim shop and the final inspection area. 

Price: £22.50 (children £11.50) 

When: Monday, Thursday, Friday mornings 

How long: Two hours

Where: Morgan Motor Company, Spring Lane, Malvern Link, Worcestershire WR14 1AJ 

Contact: www.morgan-motor.co.uk/factorytours; 01684 584580

11. Rolls-Royce

Goodwood

Models featured: Phantom, Cullinan, Wraith, Ghost, Dawn 

Tour includes: The factory building itself is worth the journey. Designed by architect Sir Nicholas Grimshaw, the limestone, glass, cedar and plant-clad building is adjacent to a lake, the grounds hosting more than 120 species of tree. The tour takes in the craftsmanship of the wood shop, the trim shop and the glazed final assembly line known as ‘the glass mile’. 

Price: na

When: There are no regular organised tours, but there are usually a couple of open days that the public can attend. Details of these can be found on Rolls-Royce’s Facebook and Instagram pages. 

How long: Two hours, but they can be longer for those with a particular interest.

Where: Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited, The Drive, Westhampnett, Chichester, West Sussex, PO18 0SH 

Contact: Check the Rolls-Royce Facebook (en-gb.facebook.com/RollsRoyceGroup) and Instagram (www.instagram.com/rollsroycecars) pages for news of public tour days.

12. Toyota

Burnaston; Deeside engine plant

Models featured: Auris hatchback and Hybrid, Auris Touring Sports, Avensis 

Tour includes: Starts with rolled coils of sheet steel that are cut and pressed into panels that an army of more than 500 robots manipulates and welds into a body. The assembly line tour will see around 2300 sub-assemblies and components attached to the painted bodyshell to create the car, which comprises around 30,000 individual parts. The quality inspection and testing process will also be shown. Refreshments included. 

Price: Free, but donations of £10-£15 are encouraged for the Toyota Manufacturing UK Charitable Trust and Air Ambulance. 

When: Tuesday and Thursday mornings 

How long: Three hours 

Where: Vehicle plant: Toyota Motor Manufacturing UK, Burnaston, Derby, DE1 9TA (use DE65 6DX for sat-nav); Engine plant: Toyota Motor Manufacturing UK, Deeside Industrial Park, Tenth Avenue, Deeside, CH5 2TW 

Contact: www.toyotauk.com/ community/public-visits; for Deeside engine plant, email joe.collings@toyotauk.com 

13. Vauxhall

Ellesmere Port

Models featured: Astra hatchback, Astra Sports Tourer 

Tour includes: The bodyshop, where robots handle and weld panels to create the two bodystyles, followed by a viewing of the extensive general assembly areas. Refreshments provided. 

Price: Free, but tours are currently only being provided for fleet customers and marketing invitees. That may change, so it’s worth checking. 

When: Once weekly on a Wednesday morning. Extensive walking involved. Minimum age 12. Maximum of 12 guests per tour. 

How long: Two-and-a-half hours, 9.30am-12.00pm 

Where: Gate 10/Reception, Vauxhall Motors Limited, North Road, Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, CH65 1AL 

Contact: ep.communications@vauxhall.co.uk 

Read more

Touring Britain's car industry: three days, 1500 miles and 16 car plants

Inside the BAC factory: how to make a Mono​

Inside the secret morgue at Jaguar Land Rover’s Castle Bromwich plant​

Join the debate

Comments
10

28 December 2018
This article has just spawned hundreds of birthday prezzies. And quite right too.

28 December 2018

Good to see that Toyota offers free tours and only asks for donations to charity whereas the others limit or charge for tours!

FMS

28 December 2018
Deputy wrote:

Good to see that Toyota offers free tours and only asks for donations to charity whereas the others limit or charge for tours!

 

Clearly you could have been the exact inspiration for Scrooge...bah humbug. All of these tours are worth paying for. Why do YOU expect to get something (quite special) for nothing?.

30 December 2018
FMS wrote:

Deputy wrote:

Good to see that Toyota offers free tours and only asks for donations to charity whereas the others limit or charge for tours!

 

Clearly you could have been the exact inspiration for Scrooge...bah humbug. All of these tours are worth paying for. Why do YOU expect to get something (quite special) for nothing?.

You are a first class fucktard.  

28 December 2018

Get in there quick before they all become museum pieces.

28 December 2018

Had no idea such tours were available - excellent story.

It didn't start off excellent tho - 'despite Brexit'? - what's that supposed to infer?  I'll take the bait and reply to the author by saying despite being in the EU, we're no longer able to do a factory tour of Dagenham, or Linwood, or Dunstable, or Brown's lane, or err Vauxhall's at Luton?  Hold on a minute, that's wrong because PSA announced back in April that despite Brexit, they were planning to invest £100m in Luton building the Vivaro van and increase production in 2019.

So let's just ponder over that shall we - Vauxhall pulled production of their cars from Luton before Brexit whilst we were part of the the EU, and PSA announces they are expanding the plant AFTER we'd voted to leave the EU.  Wonder how Mike Hawes and the rest of the remoaners can square that?

28 December 2018

Quite easily, Scottie5. It is only because we had joined the EU that it was viable for Nissan, Honda and Toyota to base their European operations here. In fact it’s not an exaggeration to say that EU membership was instrumental in creating the conditions for reviving car manufacture on this island. 

TBC

29 December 2018

I wonder if TVR will offer factory tours once production is up and running?

29 December 2018

Better still, go with them and make sure they listen to the tour guide's answer on what a Hard Brexit would do for the complex supply chains that support these plants.

29 December 2018

Aston Martin are charging £4K+ for a 3-day tour?

Would they please tell us how many takers there have been in 2018?

And I bet that buyers get the tours for free...

Yeah, right...

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week