Sir Alexander Arnold Constantine Issigonis, CBE, FRS, RDI (Alec Issigonis) was born on 18 November 1906 in Smyrna in Greece (now Izmir, Turkey) and would become world-renowned for designing the Mini and Morris Minor for BMC.
His motor industry career at Humber, and during his time there, he competed in motor racing – notably designing his own lightweight version of a supercharged Ulster Austin Seven with his own front axle.
This led to a job at Austin, but in 1936, he moved to Morris at Cowley, where he worked on the Morris 10. Towards the end of WW2, he began work on the Mosquito project, which ended up being launched in 1948 as the Morris Minor.
The Alvis adventure
In 1952, the year BMC was formed, he moved to Alvis where he designed an advanced saloon, and experimented with interconnected independent suspension systems. This prototype never saw the light of day – more’s the pity.
At the end of 1955, Issigonis moved to BMC to head up the development of the corporation’s new family of cars. In 1956, the focus was shifted towards a new economy car – and from here, the Mini was born in 1959.
In 1961, he became Technical and oversaw the launch of the 1100, 1800 and Maxi – all hugely advanced machines, with front-wheel drive, in-sump gearboxes, and interconnected suspension.
Retirement in 1971
After these cars, and the formation of British Leyland in 1968, Issigonis was sidelined by a new influx of engineers led by Triumph’s Harry Webster. Issigonis would work on the 9X programme, which included a replacement Mini and a new and innovative gearless transmission system.
He was retired from British Leyland in 1971, memorably being given a Meccano kit for his leaving present. He remained on the BL books as a consultant until 1988, shortly before his death.
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