2nd May 1963

Hillman Imp rolls off production line in Linwood

When Midlands-based Rootes Group opened a car factory in Linwood, Renfrewshire, it got right down to work, with the affordable Hillman Imp soon rolling off the production line. The Renfrewshire plant supplemented sister plants in Coventry, Birmingham, London and Bedfordshire.

Hilman Imp on display at the V&A in Dundee
Hilman Imp on display at the V&A in Dundee

Splendid Scottish factory

The Sphere of 4 May 1963, under the heading “Cars from Scotland”, described the Linwood site as a “splendid Scottish factory” shortly after its official opening by the Duke of Edinburgh. “It has been under construction since May 1961 on a site measuring 278 acres at the village of Linwood, 14 miles from Glasgow. The plant, the most advanced of its kind in the world, has been designed to build 150,000 cars a year and eventually 5500 people will be employed there.” In addition, “by the end of the year, 1800 new homes will have been built at Linwood for Rootes employees and there are plans for four additional schools, two more churches, two shopping centres, cinemas and a new luxury hotel”.

The Imp was small, as its name suggests, and affordable, and designed to compete with the Mini, which had first appeared on British roads in 1959 and become an icon when celebrities were seen driving it.

The Scottish factory was built specifically for the Imp’s production, even though components were being produced in the Midlands and transported by road. Despite this logistical consideration, production continued until 1976, after which other models were produced on site.

Hilman Imp on display at the V&A in Dundee
Hilman Imp on display at the V&A in Dundee

Rootes Group sold

The Rootes Group was bought out by Chrysler, which was itself acquired by Peugeot-Citroen, which took the decision to close the Linwood plant in 1981. The decision was announced on 11 February that year, and scheduled to be actioned in June. The Daily Mirror reported on 12 February that the Peugeot-Citroen board “had before them the awesome figures for 1980 showing a massive loss of £20,000,000. For every car sold last year Peugeot-Citroen, which also owns Talbot, lost £100… mainly due to an appalling downturn in sales.” Moreover, continued the paper, it seemed that the plant had never made a profit during its entire existence.

Job losses

Speaking in the House of Commons on 11 February 1981, Alexander Fletcher, the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, told the House that “apart from the 4,800 jobs which will be lost at Linwood itself, there will be consequences for suppliers. Linwood has, however, been operating at a low level of production for many months and the local sourcing of components is limited.”

A reference to “Linwood no more” is made in The Proclaimers’ song Letter From America.



Other events that occured in May

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