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Austin's office now to be preserved.

Byline: By John Revill Manufacturing Editor

The office where the founder of MG Rover plotted the early days of the car company has been saved to inspire future generations.

Nanjing Automobile, the Chinese firm which bought the company in July for pounds 53 million, has pledged to make Lord Austin's office the centrepiece of its redevelopment of Longbridge.

The office is to be preserved exactly how it has been for more than 100 years after Phoenix directors showed the office to senior Nanjing executives and explained its importance to Britain's motoring past.

There were fears that when Nanjing acquired the site following the collapse of MG Rover the office may be lost.

It is currently in the Longbridge exhibition and conference centre, having been painstakingly rebuilt when it was moved from its previous site in the South Works in2003. Phoenix director Nick Stephenson, who has been acting as an unpaid adviser to Nanjing, said Austin enthusiasts need have no fears about the future of the historic office.

He said: "Nanjing is well aware of the importance of the Austin marque to the UK's motoring heritage. Indeed they may well resurrect it themselves for the small cars they plan to build.

"They understand the significance of Lord Austin's office and I am totally confident it is in safe hands.

Herbert, later Lord Austin, moved into the office shortly after he founded the Austin Motor Company and based it at Longbridge in 1905.

It remained his personal office throughout his working life, and he used it until his death in 1941.

Mr Stephenson said: "The office has been preserved ever since, despite extensive demolitions and site alterations which have involved the office being moved and re-constructed three times over subsequent years."

As well as original furniture, panelling and pictures, the office includes souvenirs from Austin's motorsport past, as well as the famous half-crown which Lord Austin is reputed to have tossed in 1921 to decide if the company should go to the wall or fight for its survival.

Tony Osborne, chairman of both the Austin Ex Apprentices Association and the Austin Federation, said: "The ideal is that all this industrial heritage remains at Longbridge in some way"It is important to remember what has happened. For nearly 100 years there was car manufacture at Longbridge and it may well start again.

"If you say the name Austin to the younger generations, they tend to think of the Allegro, but it was also attached to some great cars from the past.

"It seems that we are going to see the Austin name carried on abroad and we are pleased a great name is being perpetuated.

"Lord Austin's office has been carefully preserved and protected by a succession of Austin ex-apprentices in senior and middle management positions at Longbridge from 1941 to 2005."

A source close to Nanjing said: "Nanjing are committed to preserving Lord Austin's office on the site.

"They know the importance of Lord Austin to the site, and hope that his memorable office will serve as a source of inspiration for the future

CAPTION(S):

The Austin Room where a signed photograph of Henry Ford has pride of place; Lord Austin
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Sep 30, 2005
Words:530
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