SIR ALEC ISSIGONIS was without doubt, one of Britain’s finest engineers (let’s not get into debate here about how ‘British’ he actually was – because you can be ‘British’ without having actually been born here) – and with a portfolio which included the Mini, 1100 and Morris Minor, only a fool would argue with this assertion. In fact, the only question is whether he is the greatest of them all.
There was a time when he was not part of the BMC>Rover Empire. After Len Lord (later Lord Lambury) took over the running of the merged combines of Morris and Austin (BMC), Issigonis moved out, fearing Lord’s intentions. He moved to Alvis, where he took on a project to design that company’s new flagship car. Having been impressed with Alex Moulton’s rubber suspension system, Alec pressed for the use of this system on his new car. And very promising it was, too.
However, in 1956, and in the middle of this car’s development, financial problems blighted Alvis, and shook Alec’s confidence in the company. At the same time Len Lord made an approach to him, inviting him back Cowley to work for BMC on special projects. Alec took up the invitation, and was soon back in the fold, and built up a team around him, which would eventually lead to the creation of the brilliant Mini, 1100, 1800 and Maxi front wheel drive family of cars.
Issigonis moved to Alvis, where he took on
a project to design that company’s new
flagship car. Having been impressed with
Alex Moulton’s rubber suspension system,
Alec pressed for the use of this system
on his new car. Very promising it was.
Possessing an amazingly fertile mind, Alec had turned around BMC’s product line, producing a range of cars featuring front wheel drive, disc brakes, rack and pinion steering, and rubber-based interconnected suspension. Only Volkswagen’s turn around from producing air-cooled Beetles to the front wheel drive Golf-based range has been has been as similarly radical.
All this does beg the question: what did he do at Alvis?
So keen was Alvis to expunge all evidence of the existance of Issigonis’ work, that it ensured all of his drawings were destroyed. Everything was scattered to the four winds, and even the prototype car he had completed was driven to the scrapyard. It seems, the work has been lost forever…
However, there is no such thing as ‘forever’ in this world – so there must be some remains of this project somewhere…
We would certainly like to find anything of this – because the car would be an interesting reminder of what Issigonis would have liked to build outside of the family car world. It goes without saying if you know anything of this project – or anyone involved with it, we would love to hear from you.
Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...
Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.