It might come as a surprise to some, but manufacturing was once a bedrock of Maltese industry, especially when you consider the scale of the shipyard in relation to other businesses in the 1960’s and 70’s. But manufacturing also for a time included cars.
The cars, built by Car Assembly Ltd., which today evolved into Mizzi Motors, took the form of knock down kits produced by manufacturers in Europe. Importing assembled cars was often exuberantly taxed, but in knocked down fashion, these costs could be circumvented, allowing the cars to be assembled locally and sold for a much more economical price.
Car Assembly Ltd. began operating out of a 3,000 square meter factory in Marsa in 1963, and the company across the years produced a diverse range of automobiles, including the Alfa Romeo Alfa Sud, the Triumph Herald, the Morris Marina, and perhaps, most iconically, the Austin Mini.
Most of the work involved welding body panels together, although the factory also featured a drying oven to treat the cars after painting and an upholstery section. At it’s peak, the Marsa factory churned out 4 cars a day, at times even exporting the cars to other countries like Greece and Israel.
55% of all cars sold locally were at that time made in Malta. Ultimately, the end of Maltese car production came in 1982, when Dom Mintoff’s government decided to increase the taxes in the import of the components and kits themselves, rendering Car Assembly Ltd.’s economic model unfeasible with the strike of a pen.