With horns sounding and flags aloft they arrived like a troop of cavalry, albeit with metallic paint.

Red MG ZTs, blue ZRs, black Rover 45s, a stream of Rover cars of all models, colours and sizes streamed past Q Gate at Longbridge and sounded their defiance.

Like weary soldiers at the end of a long siege, workers came out to meet the cavalcade of cars they had once made.

Applause broke out as some walked from the gates to embrace the drivers of the convoy as if they were some relief column which could banish the dark clouds hanging over MG Rover's future.

About 200 cars from all over the country had gathered about an hour earlier at the Hopwood Services on the M42 to begin the ride on Rover.

The drivers, MG and Rover enthusiasts, planned their drive as a show of support for the beleaguered car maker and its staff.

Organiser Beverley Miles had driven from Braintree in Essex to fly the flag for Rover, but was by no means the one with the longest journey.

Other members of the cavalcade had taken days off work and 'sickies' to be present, with one even travelling over night from Northern Ireland.

Ms Miles said: "I have come here because I own an MG car, I am passionate about the marque.

"It is about British people driving British cars made by British workers."

Ms Miles, who organised the cavalcade via the internet, said she had no idea how many cars were in the procession.

She said: "We are here to make as much noise as we can and show we support the workers. We are here to give people a lift, and show them that we care.

"As I came up here at the head of the procession I was all choked up. I couldn't believe the support we've got."

The cavalcade brought the sombre surroundings of Longbridge to life, as workers milled around after being told to go home until further notice.

Earlier about 5,000 staff had arrived at a mass meeting in the West Car Park of Longbridge for the latest news only to be told to go home.

Some stayed, with about 200 cars needed to be finished and despatched to their new owners, but the vast majority soon disappeared to their homes and loved ones.

The mood darkened when thoughts turned to the Phoenix Four, the directors who rode to the rescue of the company in 2000 and who have made fortunes since.

Carl Stanley, a logistics worker, said: "New models mean new business and there has been no new models.

"All that has been added have been some new styling and black back bumpers in ailing models and that horrible Tata car from India."

Mr Stanley added: "The directors have set themselves up. It's said they were businessmen who were taking a risk.

"But they only put £60,000, which I could have done if I remortgaged my house. Even if the Chinese were to come back, the name of Rover is so devalued."

Dennis Tuller, aged 52, a paint rectifier, said the factory now resembled a ghost town with the vast majority of the 6,000 workforce absent.

He said: "It is so quiet and empty there at the moment. It is like a ghost town in there.

"People are despondent, but they are also angry. There are all these people going around with the flags of St George in

"If only they bought British we would not be in this position."

Simon Wilson, who has worked in the finishing lines for 17 years, thought the chances of the company staying open were very slim.

"We have resigned ourselves to the fact that it is going to close," he said. "It would be a modern miracle if this place gets saved."

Steve King, aged 39, who works on the assembly line, said: "We thought things were picking up. We had full production for three months and we were told the deal with the Chinese was almost done.

"Engineers were going out to China. Now we are stuck in limbo.

"We are being told the chances of survival are very very slim, but how many lives can a company have?"