You may be thinking that Oxford is all about bikes, bikes and more bikes, but it also has an illustrious history of car manufacturing. In 1912 the car manufacturer William Morris (not to be confused with socialist and wallpaper designing Oxonian of the same name) bought the Oxford Military College and in 1913 had developed the first car there, the ‘Bullnose Morris’. Morris was largely influenced by the American car designer, Henry Ford, who incidentally, once made a car out of soy beans. Luckily, Morris did not follow this particularly trend of Ford’s and in 1959 the MINI began to be manufactured at the plant. In 1994 BMW took over, pumping more money in and making everything flashier.
Continuing on the trend of flashy cars, Ascari, the manufacturer of the 210mph road car (the one that looks like Uma Thurman’s outfit in Kill Bill), is based in Oxfordshire. Even motorcycle manufacturer, Harley Davidson, has its European headquarters here. Flashy cars attract flashy people and Oxford is also home to many personalities in the motor industry such as Jeremy Clarkson and is the birthplace of Jason Plato.
Due to its proximity to the Silverstone race track, Oxfordshire is also home to many Formula One teams. Benetton, Williams, Renault F1, Lotus F1, Marussia F1, Reynard, Prodrive and Arden International are just a few teams to have set up shop in the county over the years. Conveniently, Oxford Brookes has a highly regarded Motorsport Engineering degree programme, which double world champion Fernando Alonso sponsored 12 Spanish students to study for in 2007. Alonso was an Oxford resident while driving for Renault during his championship winning years, and drivers Valtteri Bottas and Jenson Button now have homes in the city too.
Remarkably, pollution in Oxford isn’t as off the charts as you might imagine with all these speedy Gonzales zooming around. The Low Emission Zone was introduced in January 2014 by Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council working in partnership with local transport providers. Oxford was the third city in the UK to introduce a Low Emission Zone. North Oxford was also chosen to be one of the first communities to participate in the E-Car scheme, which launched its first vehicle in Summertown in November 2013. The council is keen to see more electric vehicles replacing petrol and diesel cars in the future.