The last car built by now-defunct Rover at its Longbridge factory in Birmingham has been acquired by the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust (BMIHT).

The 'frostfire' (metallic red) 75 diesel is the last vehicle listed in the Longbridge build register and is now on public display in the Heritage Motor Centre museum near Gaydon in Warwickshire.

The museum, once part of the Rover group, is now controlled by Ford which acquired it when it bought Land Rover from BMW in 2000, and is next door to Land Rover's R&D facility and test track, and a new Aston Martin facility.

Rover for years traditionally offered BMIHT 'first refusal rights' to the first and last vehicles made in major model runs, so it is fitting that the last car with the Rover badge should end up there.

The collection also includes the first 75 built under BMW ownership - at the Cowley, Oxford, plant that now makes BMW's Mini, in 2000 - and the first MGF built at Longbridge. There are also a number of other milestone cars such as the millionth Austin made in the plant in the 1930s - that car is visible behind the 75 in the picture below.

The green roadster barely discernible behind the Austin is the prototype of a Mini-based front-drive model developed in the 1960s and intended to replace the rear-drive Austin-Healey Sprite/MG Midget twins, but the redesigned model line never went into production. Behind the roadster are a number of prototype updated Minis developed in the 1960s and '70s by the original Mini and Morris Minor creator Alec Issigonis, but these too never reached production.

Some time ago, the trust rationalised its collection and sold some less significant cars off  - the last Maestro hatchback built at Cowley is now owned by the proprietor of a car repair centre near just-auto's Bromsgrove office.

Almost 15 million cars were manufactured in the century since Rover Cars was founded. The company was put into administration last April and car production ceased.

A small group of skilled workers was kept on at the plant over the summer to complete a number of unfinished vehicles, before the company was sold on to the Nanjing Automobile Corporation of China.

Graeme Roberts