British car making centenaries looming

Sports car maker Aston Martin is gearing up to celebrate a century of production later this month.

Meanwhile, another major British motoring industry landmark will be reached later in the year when a hundred years of car manufacturing at Cowley in Oxford is celebrated by the Mini company and its parent firm BMW.

The oldest surviving Aston Martin, an A3 model, is to go on show alongside the company's new Vanquish model when a commemorative plaque is unveiled at the firm's original home in Chelsea to mark the company's centenary on January 15.

Originally called Bamford & Martin by its founders Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford, the company was renamed Aston Martin to recognise Bamford's success at racing their cars at Buckinghamshire's Aston Clinton Hillclimb.

In the summer the luxury car company's factory at Gaydon in Warwickshire is to host a special centenary festival -- running from July 15-21 - with up to 1,000 Aston Martins taking part in an event in London on July 21.

With Aston Martins having featured heavily in many James Bond movies, including the current blockbuster Skyfall, the centenary is also set to include a 007-themed drive around the country to locations used in the films.

Aston Martin competed in the Formula One World Championships in 1959 and 1960 when British racer Roy Salvadori was among its drivers. Alongside American driver Carroll Shelby, Salvadori also helped Aston Martin to first place in the 1959 24 Hours of Le Mans race. Other high-profile figures who have driven for the company at Le Mans include Stirling Moss, Jim Clark and Tiff Needell.

Meanwhile, Mini and BMW will be staging celebrations at the Oxford plant on March 28, exactly 100 years after the first Bullnose Morris Oxford was completed.

A commemorative exhibition is to be staged at the plant with the Mini company asking for former employees or their families to share their memories and photos of 100 years of car-making at Cowley/Oxford, where as many as 26,000 workers were employed during the 1950s and 1960s.

Since seeing the first Bullnose roll off the production line, the factory has made an array of famous models including the original Mini as well as Austins, Wolseleys, Austin Healeys, Rileys and the Rovers. Some two million new-wave Minis have been manufactured at the Oxford plant since the turn of the century.

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