A consortium headed by company troubleshooter David James and including 30 Midland-based managers is ready to go it alone with a bid for MG Rover.
It appeared yesterday that Mr James, the man who rescued the Millennium Dome, had dropped out of the bidding for Rover after a possible deal with Chinese car group SAIC collapsed at the weekend.
But sources close to the consortium said Mr James was willing to stick with it.
The consortium, called Project Kimber after Cecil Kimber the celebrated director of MG in the 1930s, is the only British group contesting ownership of the remaining MG Rover assets with SAIC and another Chinese carmaker, Nanjing.
The original intention was to create a new MG company to produce cars at Longbridge while selling off the remainder of the group to SAIC in order to give the Chinese a foothold in the global car market.
To do this, they needed an agreement that SAIC would immediately buy the Power-train engine-making division from them and would commit itself to purchasing the remainder of the Rover assets a year later.
That would have given the consortium the chance to borrow working capital against the Rover assets to get the new MG up and running.
But over the weekend it became apparent SAIC was unwilling to give the required commitments, said Mr James.
SAIC?s decision has left an #80 million hole in Kimber?s finances but a source close to the g r o u p said it would mount its own bid. Its members have expertise in production planning, design, engineering, manufacture, sales and marketing and PR.
The aim is to employ up to 2,000 former Longbridge workers making a three-strong model range of MGs within five years. In addition, it would look to produce other niche models for major car makers under contract assembly deals.
The source insisted: ?We will go in with a bid of our own and we will talk to whoever in the world might take the surplus assets off us. We are in discussion with several companies around the world. Several have shown ongoing interest in the assets.?
Meanwhile the president of SAIC, Chen Hong, is expected in the UK this week for talks with former Ford of Europe boss Martin Leach who is heading another bid to revive production at Longbridge.
Nanjing, which is being advised by British engineering consultant Ove Arup and whose bid is backed by Nick Stephenson, a director of MG Rover parent company Phoenix Venture Holdings, denied claims it would ?lift and shift? Rover?s equipment to China and leave ?next to nothing?.
The plan foresees 1,000-2,000 UK-based designers, engineers and production line workers making sports and upmarket cars, and finishing small and medium cars imported from China.
Administrators PricewaterhouseCoopers would not comment yesterday.
Meanwhile, Birmingham City Council is drawing up fresh planning guidance in an attempt to create as many new manufacturing jobs as possible at Longbridge.
Clive Dutton, the council?s strategic director of economic development, said he would issue a ?statement of intent? setting out the local authority?s wishes to see most of the former MG Rover site retained for the manufacturing sector.
The new guidance will act as a steer to landowners St Modwen and Advantage West Midlands and is intended to address concerns among people in the south-west of the city that parts of Longbridge could be sold off for retail development or warehousing.
Most of the land falls into the A38 Central Technology Belt, zoned by AWM for science-based industries.
Council leader Mike Whitby (Con Harborne), who issued a plea for manufacturing on the site, raised the issue with the Prime Minister when he met Mr Blair last month. ?I have made our intentions clear at the highest level,? he said.