Workers gathered together at Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port plant to recreate the picture taken when the very first Vauxhall Viva rolled off the production line 50 years ago.

Among them was retired Keith Tabiner, from Eastham, who was in the picture taken when the plant was just a couple of years old.

Now his three sons work at the plant  and, despite having left his job 13 years ago, Keith said he was proud to be able to return and see the latest Astra next to the historic car he helped to build.

He said: “I want the place to be successful, and the quality of vehicle they are making is why it is successful.

 

“I think General Motors know it’s a very efficient plant, and we’re still going today – and we’re getting the new Astra next year.”

Keith said he had not been able to look around too much during his visit which was part of the celebrations of the Vauxhall Ellesmere Port plant’s 50th anniversary.

But he said: “It seems very efficient. Everyone here works hard, there are no soft jobs and everyone does their bit – but there is also a good social life to go with it.”

The first Vauxhall Viva rolled off the production line on June 1 1964 and cost £527 7s 11d.

It had followed discussion between the government’s Board of Trade and major motor manufacturers  in which financial inducements for the new operations including 40% towards plant and machinery and a 25% grant towards buildings costs were offered for certain locations in UK “Industrial Development Areas”.

Vauxhall, Ford and Standard Triumph elected to base their new facilities in the region, with Ford at Halewood – now used by JLR – and Standard Triumph, later British Leyland at Speke.

Vauxhall took ownership of the Ellesmere Port site on July 25 1961 and the foundation stone for “EA Block” was laid at the end of 1962 by Dr Charles Hill, the MP for Luton and also known as the ‘radio doctor’.

Locally recruited employees started training on  November  12 1962 and production of gearboxes for the Vauxhall Victor model started in January 1963.

The first Astra, Vauxhall’s first front-wheel drive car, was built on  November 1981 16, 1981 and has since become Vauxhall’s best seller and continues in production to this day.

Production of the new model Astra will start in the autumn of 2015..

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