Sir Alec Issigonis is best known as the creator
of one of the most famous cars in British
motoring history, the BMC Mini
Born on the 18th of November 1906, in Smyrna, Turkey (now known as Izmir) Alexander Arnold Constantine Issigonis was son of a Greek marine engineer who emigrated to the UK in 1922 as a result of the conflict between Greece and Turkey. He soon settled into living in the Britain, and after studying engineering at Battersea Polytechnic he started work in 1928 as a draughtsman for a small London firm who were developing an automatic clutch system for motor cars. The companies ideas aroused the interest of the Humber Company, and in 1934 Issigonis moved to Coventry to start working for them
Two years later , after a chance meeting with Robert Boyle, Chief Engineer at Morris, he joined Morris Motors in 1936 as a suspension designer. Some of his first work for the company involved the design of the suspension systems on the famous Morris Minor, which was highly praised, and he soon worked his way up to the heady heights of Project Engineer.
When Austin merged with Morris in 1952, internal squabbles between workers of the two former competitors irritated Issigonis to the point at which he moved to Alvis and designed a V8 sports sedan. When Alvis decided not to make the car in 1955, he went back to Morris-Austin, now known as the British Motor Company
In 1956 Sir Alec was working with BMC on a new development of front wheel drive cars, when the Suez crisis erupted causing petrol rationing. Demand for small economical cars suddenly soared only to be met by imports, and Issigonis was instucted to do something to 'keep the British end up' - the result was the launch of the Mini in 1959.
The entire car was almost single-handedly developed by Issigonis, who was famous for his loathing of teamworking, a concept of which he is quoted as saying "A Camel is a Horse designed by committee'. The original design of the Mini was decided over a tea-break and scribbled down on a page from the Daily Telegraph.
Issigonis was appointed Technical Director of BMC in 1961 and Director of Research and Development of British Leyland Austin Morris Limited in 1969. When he retired in 1971 he was retained by the Company as 'Advanced Design Consultant' to work on future products
In 1964 he was made CBE and in 1966 was awarded the Leverhulme Gold Medal of the Royal Society, of which he was made a Fellow in 1967. He received his knighthood in 1969 and was also the recipient of honorary degrees from a number of universities.
Sir Alec Issigonis passed away on the 2nd October 1988