A new organisation has been set up to preserve the rich heritage of Coventry transport manufacturing. Vincent Hammersley, communications director at Warwick Business School, talks about the project
The Made in Coventry Motoring Association (MICMA) claims to be the first global association of its kind and it will be officially launched in July at the Royal Show held at the National Agricultural Centre at Stoneleigh.
The diversity of support for MICMA is already evident as it embraces not just owners of cars – now classics – and made in Coventry but people who developed and worked on engines built in the city and those who worked in the motor industries allied trades or were part of the supply chain.
MICMA is also keen to attract their relatives and friends who may have interesting stories to fill in the manufacturing background.
Research into transport manufacturing in the city has resulted in identifying 89 car makers, 72 motorcycle makers, 240 bicycle builders – one of the earliest was the Zephyr Tricycle Company in 1881 – and 38 engine building firms whose products powered 125 models.
The MICMA website, with its firms listed in categories, has brought responses from people now living in Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the US who say they had never expected to see the company mentioned which they had heard their grand parents talk about or knew their great-great grand parents had worked for in Coventry.
Backing for the organisation has ready come from pop entrepreneur Pete Waterman, the British Racing Drivers Association, Coventry Transport Museum, Mallory Park Motor Racing Circuit and Coventry University School of Automotive Design.
The organisation’s website has attracted interest in MICMA from across the world and not just from people who worked in the automotive manufacturing industry but their relatives keen to see the historic past preserved before it is too late.
The idea for MICMA has been developed over several years by Phil Walters who like so many Coventry engineers is steeped in the motoring heritage of the city.
I am actively engaged in driving the MICMA project forward with other enthusiasts and that’s why I have given my support to Phil.
Mr Walters said: “I have a number of classic cars and in common with many friends and colleagues have found that clubs while doing a great job of maintaining one particular marque do not do a lot to recognise or promote the unique and wide ranging motoring heritage which seems to be disappearing every day.”
“I am determined to create an organisation to celebrate an important part of our history which can also provide resources, advice, support and fellowship to men and women – young and old – in the UK and around the world,” he added.
Although specialised classic car clubs are recognised for their work it is usually left to a handful of enthusiastic members to maintain the activities of the clubs.
I believe no other city in the world has built such a volume and variety of cars and largely based on a supply chain in the city. In addition, the classic car industry in the UK is worth over £3.2 billion a year employing nearly 30,000 people.
The patent for disc brakes, invented by Dunlop and many other developments, were filed in Coventry and these things are either taken for granted or are being forgotten.
It is not just about Austin, Morris, Armstrong Siddeley and other well-known names but a lot of other automotive engineering was taking place in Coventry and we do not want people to forget that. Planes were also built in the city.
There is a fear of the transport heritage being forgotten and lost to future generations because we believe people in the city do not have a voice.
If Coventry was in the US you would see signs saying the city was ‘The Home of the Automotive Industry.’ There is still a huge amount of good and important automotive design going on in Coventry; Coventry University School of Automotive Design is one of the best facilities in the world and Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) headed by Lord Bhattacharyya at The University of Warwick is second to none. Coventry is still a centre of automotive excellence and it is about time the City and those who worked to create its unique position receive the recognition they deserve.
We think we can get 100,000 members worldwide and we want these people to see MICMA as an ongoing association which gives recognition to good design and engineering and pay tribute to those who created this heritage.