6 little-known towns where modern cars are born [Vintage posters]

We recently created a set of 6 retro-style graphics, inspired by vintage travel posters, that celebrate the often unheard-of towns where some of the world’s most iconic cars are made. 

Scroll down to see the full set of posters in all their glory, and learn more about the history of each of the factories, and the towns they call home. We’ve also included information on factory tours and links to book where available. 

And if you want any of these images in high-resolution so you can print/frame them yourself, we’ve put them all on Dropbox for you here

Jaguar – Castle Bromwich, England

Population: 11,857

First Jaguar produced: 1977

The factory

One year before the beginning of World War II, construction began on the new Castle Bromwich Aircraft Factory. By June 1945, 12,129 Spitfires had been built there, making it Britain’s most prolific Spitfire factory. During the Battle of Britain, each Spitfire shot down an average of 27 enemy aircraft.

After the war, British Leyland began producing cars here, before Jaguar moved into the historic Castle Bromwich site in the 1970s. In more recent years, there have been concerns that Jaguar Land Rover could end production here and move manufacturing overseas. The picture has looked more positive since, in July 2019, JLR announced plans to build an electric version of the Jaguar XJ saloon at the site.

In September 2019, they also said production will have to stop for a week in the event of a no deal Brexit, because of the nature of the “just-in-time” manufacturing model that underpins the industry.

The poster

In our poster, you can see a sculpture called Sentinel, by Tim Tolkien. The sculpture, which shows three Supermarine Spitfitres leaving vapour trails behind them, stands on a roundabout called Spitfire Island, near the Jaguar plant. Jaguar were the main commercial sponsors, along with two other companies that made parts for the Spitfires produced there in the 1940s.

Castle Bromwich - vintage poster

Jaguar factory tours

You can book a Jaguar factory tour here, from £49.

Lotus – Hethel, England

Population: 446

First Lotus produced: 1966

The factory

Another site with military aviation in its DNA, this Norfolk location was converted from agricultural use into an airfield in 1942, three years into the Second World War, for use by the US Air Force and the RAF.

The site was home to three US bombing groups, with early missions including a famed low-level attack against oil refineries at Ploesti on 1st August 1943, for which 2nd Lieutenant Lloyd Herbert Hughes won a Medal of Honor – although his plane had been hit and was leaking fuel, he continued flying at low altitude and bombed the objective. In the final months of the war, the site was used by RAF Fighter Command.

Lotus moved into a purpose-built factory on the Hethel site in 1966, converting runways into test track, and continue to make cars there today. However, in September 2019, CEO Phil Popham suggested that Lotus will eventually outgrow the site as it aims to increase production volumes.

Currently in development at Hethel is the Lotus Evija – “the first British all-electric hypercar”, with production due to begin in 2020.

The poster

In our poster, you can see a stylised WWII bomber alongside a 1980s Lotus Esprit – a nod to the heritage of the Hethel site, and of Lotus’s iconic place in the history of British design.

Hethel - vintage poster

Lotus factory tours

Factory tours are not currently available at the time of writing due to construction work at the site.

Aston Martin – Gaydon, England

Population: 446

First Aston Martin produced: 2003

The factory

Aston Martin have been based at Gaydon, Warwickshire since 2003 – it’s the company’s first purpose-built facility since starting life in London in 1913, and following 52 years of manufacturing at Newport Pagnell.

As reported in The Verge:

“Though the Gaydon facility opened in 2003, the way they do things in the British Midlands is a bit of a throwback to another era, when hand assembly was a skilled trade mastered by humans over machines. Many of the apprentices are second- and even third-generation skilled tradespeople.”

There’s plenty of cutting-edge tech in use at the site too, but these cars remain truly hand-crafted in an age where robots often do most of the work.

In June 2019, Aston Martin opened a new factory in St Athan, south Wales, with their new SUV – the DBX – set to leave the production line in the first half of 2020. Aston Martin say the DBX has matched cornering speeds of the brand’s Vantage sportscar, while it also outperforms the DBS Superleggera in braking.

The poster

In our Gaydon poster, you can see a snapshot of this small English village. Other than the Aston Martin factory, there’s not really much to see here, but, after a trip to the luxury car manufacturer’s gleaming HQ, visitors can stop for a drink at Gaydon’s only pub – the Malt Shovel – and maybe take a look at the 13th century stone coffin in the St Giles churchyard.

Gaydon - vintage poster

Aston Martin factory tours

You can book an Aston Martin factory tour for two people here for £350.

Bugatti – Molsheim, France

Population: 9,335

First Bugatti produced: 1909

The factory

Bugatti celebrated its 110th anniversary in 2019, and continue to make cars today in Alsace – the small French town where Ettore Bugatti founded the company in 1909.

Their HQ is, literally, a castle.

As reported on Topgear.com:

“Chateau Saint-Jean, in Molsheim, the birthplace of Bugatti, is hard to rival. The stunning building is flanked by two coach houses: Remise Nord is home to the historical collection and Bugatti’s team of “flying doctors”; Remise Sud contains the Bugatti library upstairs while downstairs there’s a large video wall on which prospective owners pore over and finalise every detail of their Chiron.

“Opposite Remise Sud stands the Orangery (lovingly restored in 2009 in honour of Ettore) and beyond that to the south lies the modern Atelier building.”

The modern, steel Atelier building is where the cars are assembled, and is designed so it appears to float. In the words of Bugatti themselves, “it looks more like an artist’s studio than a car factory.”

The poster

In the top half of our poster, you can see one of Molsheim’s three original medieval gateways – the Ports des Forgerons – alongside the town hall. Below, you can see Chateau Saint-Jean – the Bugatti ancestral family home, alongside another example of local Renaissance architecture, with an iconic Bugatti Type 57 car in the foreground.

Molsheim - vintage poster

Bugatti factory tours

Unfortunately, you can’t visit the Bugatti factory (unless you’ve got around $3 million you’re looking to spend with them). They recommend that enthusiasts head to the Automobile Museum in Mulhouse, France to see the biggest Bugatti collection around.

Bentley – Crewe, England

Population: 71,722

First Bentley produced: 1946

The factory

The Cheshire site where Bentley have been based for over 70 years began life in 1938 as a ‘shadow factory’, producing Rolls-Royce aero-engines including the Merlins used in Spitfires and Lancaster bombers, as war with Germany loomed. 

As reported in the Crewe Chronicle:

“On the afternoon of Sunday, December 29, 1940, a German Junkers 88 released two bombs over the Rolls-Royce factory, causing 17 deaths.

It was the worst loss of life in wartime Crewe, and hundreds more people were injured in the attack. In the words of local historian Peter Ollerhead, “Everybody, unless they were injured, and there was quite a few injured, everybody was back at work the next day.

The first car produced at the site, in 1946, was the Bentley Mark VI – a standard steel saloon with a top speed of around 100mph. In 2002, the site stopped producing Rolls-Royce-badged cars, and the Bentley Continental GT (top speed: 204mph) was introduced the following year – the first Bentley-only project since the brands merged in 1931.

In October 2019, Bentley announced that its Crewe factory has been certified carbon-neutral by the Carbon Trust – a first for a luxury car manufacturer. The first fully-electric Bentley is expected to launch in 2025

The poster 

Our Bentley poster pays tribute to the thing Crewe is arguably most famous for today – its train station. The station is historic in its own right – it opened in 1837, and, within 30 years, transformed Crewe from a village of less than 70 people into a town of around 40,000

As reported in The Guardian:

“Crewe was one of the world’s greatest railway workshops. A hotbed of craft and invention, it built robust, elegant locomotives named after classical heroes, 12-wheeled dining cars painted in a “plum and spilt milk” livery, and first-class rails that sped expresses northwards from Euston and south from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Liverpool and Manchester – all of them pausing for water, tea and buns at Crewe.”

Indeed, it was this culture that ultimately attracted the likes of Rolls-Royce and Bentley to the town. 

Today, over 3 million passengers travel through Crewe railway station every year. 

Crewe - vintage poster

Bentley factory tours

You can find out more about tours of the Bentley factory here. Tours cost £30 per person, and last around 2 hours. 

Audi – Ingolstadt, Germany 

Population: 133,638

First Audi produced: 1965

The factory

OK, with a population of over 130,000, Ingolstadt can consider itself the least obscure town on our list. Nevertheless, if you’re not a major Audi enthusiast or general Germanophile, you may well not know much about this Bavarian town. 

The Audi factory began life as a spare parts depot for the company then known as Auto Union in 1945. The first Audi-badged car left the assembly line 20 years later, and today more than 500,000 cars are produced there every year – the entire production process for the Audi Q2, A3, A4 and A5 happens in Ingolstadt. With 44,000 people working at the site, Audi is the region’s biggest employer. 

As well as the factory itself, Ingolstadt is home to the ‘Audi Forum’ complex, which includes a museum, restaurants, and even an arthouse cinema. 

The poster

In our poster, you can see Ingolstadt’s New Castle – one of Bavaria’s most important Gothic secular buildings of the 15th Century. Today, it’s home to the Bavarian Army Museum. If you’re wondering why it’s called the New Castle if it’s been there for so long, there’s also a neighbouring ‘Old Castle’ – a medieval fortress from the 13th Century. 

Ingolstadt - vintage posters

Audi factory tours

The standard production tour costs just 7 euros per person – find out more about Audi factory tours here

Want any of these images in high-resolution so you can print/frame them yourself? We’ve put them all on Dropbox for you here

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