A RALLY car which raced to Mexico nearly 50 years ago returned home to Cowley this morning for the first time since it was built.

The Maxi, one of the first 500 built at the plant in 1969, led a convoy of classics out onto the streets of Oxford, part of an annual pilgrimage to celebrate the opening of Nuffield Place for the summer season. 

Driven by Bron Burrell, who was also behind the wheel all those years ago, the car was making a pit-stop in the city before it attempts to finish the rally it was forced to abort in 1970.

Ms Burrell, from Milford-on-sea, said: "She's not the fastest, or the easiest to drive, but it is all about the history and the memories she creates.

"I'm an old girl now too and I still love to drive her.

"She's the only one still running with two wheels on the roof - in the way she was built.

"To my knowledge, this is the first time she has been back to her birthplace since she left it."

Oxford Mail:

Maxis, made by Austin and then British Leyland at Cowley between 1969 and 1981, turn 50 this year. 

The 5 door hatchback was designed by Mini creator Sir Alec Issigonis and was the first British five-door hatchback to be fitted with a five-speed transmission.

Ms Burrell's car, affectionately known as Puff the Magic Wagon, was picked from a showroom to compete in the rally which marked the start of the football world cup. 

Attempting to travel 16,179 miles across 26 countries in 20 days, the car was left stranded in the Andes in northern Argentina with a broken rotor arm. 

Ms Burrell, and fellow rally driver Tina Kerridge, hitched a lift to finish the rally but the car never made it. 

Next year the two friends, now in their 70s, will attempt to complete the journey through South America. 

The convoy left the Cowley plant at 10.30am, on its way to Nuffield Place, former home of Morris Motors founder William Morris and now a National Trust property.

Oxford Mail:

In what has become an annual tradition, cars built in Cowley make the 16 mile journey and park outside the house as it opens to the public for another year. 

Around 14 cars left beeping their horns and waving flags and joined the ring road, driving at 40mph. 

They were met by enthusiastic crowds at Nuffield Place at 11.15am. 

The event also marked the 60th anniversary of the Mini, which is being celebrated this year. 

Organiser Tanya Field said: "Every year is special but this one is all the more so with the two special anniversaries. 

"We are lucky to have made cars here for so long.

"Of course we are known for the Mini but there are so many other stories. 

"It is lovely to celebrate them all."