The engineer saved by Nissan after ‘the end of his world’

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At the age of 28 Alf Bell was determined he would be one of the first recruits through the door at Nissan.

Trained maintenance engineer Alf had lost his previous job months earlier.

Alf Bell

Alf Bell


"I got my redundancy, I thought that was the end of the world. Then Nissan came along.


"Four of us went to Aberdeen to try to find work on the oil rigs. There were jobs being offered but they were not the kind of jobs we wanted.


"When we first heard there were three sites in the country, we were keeping our fingers crossed that it was going to come here. When the news came out that Nissan were to build at Sunderland, it was all systems go.


"I had this single thought. I thought : ‘That is my future.’

The first model to roll off Nissan's Sunderland line, the Bluebird, with the latest, the Infiniti Q30

The first model to roll off Nissan's Sunderland line, the Bluebird, with the latest, the Infiniti Q30


"I was just adamant I was going to be here."

Related article: The father and son team dedicated to Nissan in Sunderland


Alf and his fellow new starters were aware of how much was resting on their shoulders.


"I was one of the original 32 manufacturing staff – they were the people to build the cars," he said.


"The first 32 of us were all from engineering backgrounds and absolutely determined we were going to make this thing work. The effort from day one was 110 per cent.


The 58-year-old dad-of-one is still amazed by how much the plant has changed over the last three decades.


"It is unbelievable. It was just a big empty building, there was nothing there.


"We used to go searching for materials and bring tools in from home.


"Then we started building the first cars. I remember going home to telling my mother that we had built three cars in one day and I was absolutely shattered. Now we can build 450 a shift.


“Through the commitment and enthusiasm of the people who were here, we made it work. We got to a point where we said ‘This is not going to fail.’


"I remember being here from seven in the morning to 11 at night, just making things, unpaid. We just wanted to make it work.


"I started as manufacturing staff and had gone up to team leader in six months, then supervisor in another five months."


For the past decade, Alf has passed on the benefits of his experience to the next generation of employees as part of the plant’s training team.


He is as passionate about the plant today as he was 30 years ago: “It has given me a great life, great experiences, I’ve made 100s of great friends and still really enjoy working here.


"I just think the company has given so much opportunity to so many people."