As Jaguar prepares to pull out of Browns Lane, Chief Reporter Paul Dale looks back at an association stretching back more than half a century...
When Jaguar announced a year ago that it was going to cease car production in Coventry, but would retain a presence at Browns Lane for the forseeable future, only the most naive gave the statement any credence at all.
Jaguar's presence on the huge site at Allesley, close to the A45 and on the edge of the Warwickshire green belt, was always hanging by the slenderest of threads.
Ford, Jaguar's parent company, insisted it would retain administrative offices, a wood veneer shop and a heritage centre at Browns Lane long after the last car came off the track.
But such limited uses, employing only 400 people, would require a fraction of the available land at Browns Lane.
Coventry City Council, for one, was not taken in and immediately reiterated its insistence that the site should be retained for industry and should not be used for new housing.
Councillors from all political parties feared instinctively that Ford's real aim was to sell at least part of Browns Lane for luxury four- and fivebedroom housing.
Such an outcome would be made easier by the construction 15 years ago of the Coundon Wedge Road, a highly controversial new highway through the green belt, which Jaguar said it needed to make transportation of engines between Browns Lane and Castle Bromwich easier.
If it didn't get the road, the company said at the time, it would have to quit Coventry.
The road, forced through by the council against public wishes, would now make an excellent entrance to a housing estate.
The disclosure at the end of last week that Jaguar is preparing to abandon Browns Lane, its global headquarters since 1952, immediately raised questions about the future of the site.
Union leaders believe that another manufacturing company may be waiting in the wings to move in.
A spokesman for the Transport and General Workers Union said: "The people of Coventry very rightly have a sense of pride in Jaguar and the Browns Lane plant.
"It will clearly be a big emotional wrench for the city if the plant is closed, but unfortunately it looked on the cards ever since production was moved to Jaguar's Castle Bromwich site.
"Once Jaguar had taken that tough decision, it was always going to be the case that the writing was on the wall." He said: "The good news is that Jaguar is in discussion with a buyer for the whole site."
Bosses at Jaguar, which is part of Ford's Premier Automotive Group, would not confirm plans. But a spokesman did acknowledge that selling Browns Lane was "one of the options" under consideration.
He added: "Discussions are at too early a stage to get into specific details." Last year the company closed most of production at Browns Lane, which resulted in 450 accepted voluntary redundancies and 1,150 jobs being transferred to Castle Bromwich and the Aston Martin plant at Gaydon.
Browns Lane has had a chequered history since it was opened.
It has seen some of the most famous marques in the world pass through its doors and has had various changes of ownership but it always retained its name as the byword for quality.
It has had huge success in the motor racing field with victories in the Le Mans 24-hour endurance race in 1953, 1955, 1956 and 1957 and repeated the trick 30 years later with victory in 1988 and 1990.
Jaguar moved to Foleshill, in Coventry, from Blackpool in 1935.
The company expanded and completed its move to its new home at the former Daimler site in Browns Lane.
Jaguar grew steadily and the introduction of classics like the XK, the Mk II and the legendary E-Type in 1961 cemented its reputation.
Between 1966 and 1968 Jaguar became part of the British Motor Corporation (BMC) and subsequently the British Leyland conglomerate. Despite industrial unrest during these years, it hit record sales of 30,000 cars in 1971, led by the iconic XJ6.
John Egan was appointed as chairman in 1980, at which time Jaguar was hived off from BL and, following flotation on the stock market in 1984, became a private company and sole owners of the Castle Bromwich plant.
Continued success led to the opening of the £55 million research and development centre at Whitley, Coventry, in 1988, where all Jaguars are designed.
In 1990 the company was purchased by the Ford group and sales continued to grow. In 1999 the parent group formed the Premier Automotive Group, which included Aston Martin and Volvo and then later Land Rover.
By 2000, and with sales exceeding 90,000 thanks to the success of the XJ and S-Type, Jaguar took the gamble of taking on the mass market with the launch of the X-Type, built at Ford's Halewood plant.
Despite critical acclaim, sales proved difficult in the American sector and Jaguar were forced to take the momentous decision in September 2004 to end production at Browns Lane in 2005.