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Over 20 historic Austin Champ motor vehicles were driven through St. Modwen’s £1 billion Longbridge regeneration site to celebrate the vehicle’s 60th birthday as well as the Queen’s 60 years on the throne.

Organised by the Austin Champ Owner’s Club (ACOC), the event also paid tribute to the history of the military vehicles and the Longbridge site: Austin Motor Company manufactured nearly 13,000 of the vehicles at the Old East Works at Cofton Hackett in Longbridge East between 1952 and 1956.

St. Modwen, the UK’s leading regeneration specialist, is redeveloping the 55 acre former Old East Works as part of its transformation of the 468 acre Longbridge site, so the day gave Austin Champ enthusiasts who had come from as far away as Australia and Hawaii, an opportunity to take some final photographs of the iconic vehicle in its original birth place.

Andrea Bolton, St. Modwen’s Longbridge Property Manager, said: “Longbridge has a rich motoring heritage with innovative companies like Austin and later MG Rover. We were pleased to host the Austin Champ’s 60th birthday celebrations and celebrate an important part of the history of Longbridge.

“Like the forward-thinking motor companies before us, St. Modwen is taking Longbridge into the future, creating a vibrant new community that includes new homes, offices, a town centre, college, parks and public open spaces along with 10,000 jobs.”

Amongst the enthusiasts was Frank Lees who worked at the East Works between 1955 and 1957 and whose father was in the Austin Police manning the East Works gates.

Phil Plumb, of the ACOC, added “This is the club’s second visit to Longbridge and we are very grateful to St. Modwen for being kind enough to facilitate our visits. The Austin Champs are an important part of British history, and we appreciate the opportunity to celebrate the vehicle’s 60th birthday in its birth place as part of our Jubilee Rally which brings together 116 Champs including armoured, ambulance, anti-tank gun and fire engine models.”

The 52 acre site has been cleared and remediated to make way for St. Modwen and Persimmon Homes to develop 229 homes in the first phase of residential development on Longbridge East which will see a total of up to 725 new dwellings on the site, with future plans for a new 4,500 sq ft community centre.

The 229 dwellings will be delivered by Persimmon Homes and will offer a mix of two, three and four bedroom homes including 36 affordable homes. A children’s play area and park will be created and part of the River Arrow, which has been in culvert since the 1930s, will be opened up.

Next year’s opening of the town centre will bring investment at Longbridge up to £250 million since St. Modwen acquired the site in 2003. This investment has already created 1,160 permanent jobs at Longbridge through the development of the Technology Park, Cofton Centre and the £66 million new Bournville College, which opened in September 2011. The first 113 new homes are already being delivered at Longbridge in partnership with the Government’s Homes and Communities Agency (HCA ) and The Factory, the £5 million youth centre providing a wide range of innovative services to 13 -19 year olds will open this summer.

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  • The ACOC is appealing for people who worked at the Austin factory when the Champ was being built or used the vehicle in military service to get in touch and share anecdotes and historical accounts. Please contact Phil Plumb on 01373 832441