SE Centre/V8 Register tour of BMH factory Witney, Oxford Thursday 14th April 2016
By Ian Ailes, Fairmile Natter
Despite an accident on the M25 and massive road works on the Oxford ring road a total of nine members from South East Centre and V8 Register got to the factory just in time for a 1.15pm start. Our tour started with coffee, biscuits and an introductory talk by Martin Davies, Sales manager at BMH, the makers of MG bodyshells. Unlike many tours these days, We were invited to take pictures and have a good look around. If you have ever done bodywork to you own MG, the chance to look at every single panel in the warehouse and every weld on a new bodyshell is quite an eye opener. Eye protection was provided and we really did need it. Some of the spot welders were very lively despite coming to the end of a run of Roadster and GT bodyshells. Dodging the fork lift truck was interesting. You cannot hear it moving in the noise of the factory.
Their premises extend to some 50,000 sq ft with nearly 26,000 sq ft of production space. The panels are pressed off site by specialist pressing companies from the original tooling. We were shown their archive library, stock rooms, production floors and warehousing. Stock taking is a constant task whilst they try to maintain at least 6-months parts supply all the time. Main assembly is on the ground floor whilst the first floor is used for panel assembly and fettling including MGB wings and Mini sub-frames. One of the original 1959 jigs has recently been renovated at considerable expense. We were given a masterclass on finishing a Mini boot lid from minor panel beating to linishing.
One thing I did not know is they now retail bodyshells directly to customers and do special orders although not many people have taken this up. In fact I don’t think we saw two identical bodyshells. A lot of time was spent working out what they were. Personally, I found it easier to read the order docket on the dashboard.
They also own Tex and lovingly hand-assemble these products in-house. One lady gave up her tea break to show us how the wipers are put together. The staff really enjoyed our visit. They were very knowledgeable about their products, proud to show off their skills and appreciated the enthusiasm we showed for what they were doing.
Our tour finished about 3.45pm in the despatch hall with shells being loaded for the likes of Germany and elsewhere. They don’t know how far their products go because that is for the retailer. Finally we were given the chance to ask even more questions back in the conference room.
BHM do not charge for the tours but asked us to make a donation to charity. Our whip round produced £90 for Macmillan Nurses which we will gift-aid.
Here are some pictures of our tour.
Ian Isles MGCC SE Centre Fairmile Natter Leader