Sunderland's Nissan plant has had a blast from the past with the return of some of the first cars it ever built.
Thirty enthusiasts, members of the UK’s Bluebird Car Club, enjoyed a VIP visit to the Sunderland plant, meeting the employees who built their cars and viewing the firm's modern manufacturing operations first-hand.
As part of this year’s celebrations marking Nissan’s 30th anniversary in the UK, the club invited members from across the country to go ‘Back to the Future’ and see how car production has changed since their Bluebirds were made.
Bluebirds of all shapes and colours arrived from as far as Cardiff, 310 miles away, to take part in a special tour of Nissan’s record-breaking manufacturing facilities, joined by long-serving staff who shared stories from the vehicle’s years in production in Sunderland.
Matt Welch, who drove his 1988 Bluebird 1.8 GS hatchback from Newark, Nottinghamshire, said: "When I was a kid, everybody’s dad had a Bluebird. I’ve always loved these cars because of their retro shape, and growing up, my dream was to own one.
"A year ago, when I saw this perfectly preserved model on eBay, I went cold. Then I knew, this was the car I’d always wanted.
"I love it, it’s delicious; I get such a kick out of owning it. We have two other Nissans, however, this is our favourite car which we take to shows and special events.
"“Coming to the plant where my favourite car was built was a fantastic opportunity. I’ve been around many factory tours, but Nissan was a special one, as I got to come here in
a car that I love, a car that’s so over-engineered that even after 28 years of being on the road, it’s still as exciting to drive as it was when it was new.”
Ian Marshall, who travelled from Cardiff in his 1989 Bluebird 2.0 Executive, said: "I've owned 11 Nissans over the last 13 years, six of which were Bluebirds. I’ve owned two GS, a ZX Turbo, a Turbo Executive, a GSXI, as well as an example of the 2.0 Executive version which I managed to find eight years ago.
“I’ve had this Bluebird T72 model for eight years; it's a fantastic car and in a world where most cars have a round shape to them, a vehicle like this really stands out. Aside
from its looks, the Bluebird is also incredibly reliable, very well specified.
"Nissan really went to town on the quality of these cars and really proved how well their cars are built. Everything's to a really high standard and still works in this vehicle; the electric
windows, sunroof, everything still works. I’ve also seen models that haven’t been looked after at all and despite that, they just keep running and running.”
Launched in 1986, the Nissan Bluebird 2.0 SGX was the first model to roll off the line at the Sunderland Plant and the factory turned out almost 200,000 before production ceased in 1990.
Nissan’s Vice President for Manufacturing in the UK Kevin Fitzpatrick said: "There are some real classics on the road today which we have built in Sunderland and which our customers have taken to their hearts.
"Bluebird is a great example of this. It was the car that started our journey here in Sunderland and it’s always a pleasure to meet customers who share our passion for
"Visits like this are a great reminder of how far technology has moved on in the 30 years we have been making cars in the UK. We used to marvel at things such as electric
windows and central locking in these cars, and now we’re gearing up for the launch of a Nissan Qashqai equipped with piloted drive technology."