Family duo will bring down curtain on much-loved Mini

~ Birmingham Post, 29/09/2000 ~

Midland-born West End star Michael Ball and his father Tony will take centre stage for a double family celebration when the last Mini rolls off the Longbridge production line.

The singer will be making the trip to Birmingham next Wednesday to take the driving seat of the final Mini produced at the Rover plant - 41 years after his father theatrically launched the much-loved car.

Rover bosses opted for the family affair as the duo have been closely linked to the Mini throughout their lives.

Bromsgrove-born Michael rose to fame in the West End show Aspects of Love and his acclaimed stage performances have included Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera.

He said he was delighted to attend next week's historic occasion at the Birmingham plant, especially as his first-ever car was a Mini and he believed he was conceived in the back of a Mini.

'I am thrilled to be involved with this monumental and historic day. The Mini has featured throughout my life,' he said.

'My dad launched the first Mini and my first ever car was a red Mini called Poppy.

'Rumour has it that I was conceived in the back of one. Just ask my father about his bad back.'

Tony Ball, aged 66, pioneered the art of theatrically promoting a product when he launched the Mini in 1959. He dressed up as a magician and produced the car from a huge top hat at the Longbridge plant, to the amazement of car dealers and motoringjournalists.

After being brought up in the West Country he moved to Birmingham after school to become an engineer at Rover.

'It is going to be a very nostalgic, emotional and historic day for us all,' he said.

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