Land Rover's Lode Lane factory in Solihull, England is iconic and known around the world as the traditional home of Land Rover since 1948. However, not all English-built Land Rovers come out of the ancestral home in the Midlands. Since 2006, Land Rover's smaller transverse engine models have come from Halewood, an old Ford plant on the outskirts of Liverpool.
Liverpool and Merseyside are known to Americans for several things; its long seafaring history, a litany of world-famous bands including The Beatles, and the just-crowned 2019-20 Premier League Champions Liverpool Football Club. But its illustrious history also includes a long history of automaking.
The Halewood plant has a long history before a Land Rover ever rolled off the line there, though. For most of its history, it produced European Ford models, and it became part of Land Rover's property portfolio during their ownership by Ford Motor Company from 2000-2008.
The first car, a Ford Anglia, rolled off the line at Halewood on October 2, 1963. (The Ford Anglia may be familiar to Harry Potter fans as the flying car that had a prominent role in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.) The plant would produce the Anglia through 1967, as well as producing Ford's strong-selling Corsair alongside Ford's Dagenham factory in London.
In 1967, the plant began to assemble the Mk.I Ford Escort, a British bestseller and a rallying icon. It would remain one of the primary Escort factories through the six-generation life of the model, producing most of the 4.1 million vehicles sold in the United Kingdom from 1967 to 2002.
In 2001, the plant became home to Jaguar's X-Type, a handsome compact sedan that suffered some in the marketplace due to its more pedestrian platform based on the mainstream Ford Mondeo. A major project intended to compete with the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class to the tune of 100,000 units a year, at the end of production in 2009, only 350,000 X-Types had been sent out of Halewood in eight years. Nonetheless, the entire factory had been retooled to become a Jaguar facility, shaking off its mainstream Ford roots.
In 2007, Halewood began its history with Land Rover, as the LR2/second-generation Freelander (as it was known in the rest of the world) moved production from Solihull to free up space on the line there. This was the first Land Rover model to be fully produced outside of Lode Lane since 1948, beginning a transition with Land Rover to more truly global manufacturing. In the Land Rover tradition, an off-road test track was also built on-site.
In 2009, production of the X-Type ended, and it was replaced in 2010 by the brand-new Range Rover Evoque, with Jaguar Land Rover receiving a £27 million grant from the British government to retain production at Halewood. The Evoque proved an international major success, and by the end of 2012 the plant was running 24 hours a day across three shifts to meet the demand for the car.
In 2015, production of the Discovery Sport began, replacing the LR2/Freelander 2 under Land Rover's new "Three Product Families" model plan. Sharing a platform with the Evoque, Halewood was again the natural home of production. With the launch of the new second-generation Range Rover Evoque and Discovery Sport for 2020, the two models have stayed in their Merseyside home.
While they are obviously not available during the current COVID-19 pandemic, tours of the Halewood factory are available just as they are of the Solihull plant, perhaps an interesting diversion for the Land Rover enthusiast visiting Liverpool to see the Beatles' Cavern Club or attending a match at Anfield.
Although Halewood does not have the very long Land Rover history that Solihull does, it remains a massively important site in British automaking history, and it has a proud history for a city with a lot to be proud of, from the jukebox to the soccer pitch.
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