On this day in history….18th November 1906

On this day in history : 18th November 1906 – The birth in Smyrna of Sir Alec Issigonis – who came to Britain in 1922 and after starting work in the motor industry went on to design the Morris Minor and the Mini….

Alec Issigonis photographed at Austin, Longbridge standing next to the very first Mini (left) and a new 1965 Mini (right) – Photo credit : Birmingham Museums Trust CC BY-SA 4.0

Sir Alec was the son of a Greek merchant, who had become a British citizen whilst studying engineering in Britain in 1897…. The family had moved to London during the war between Greece and Turkey…. Alec himself was to study engineering and then joined Morris Motors at Cowley in 1936…. He was also to successfully compete in motor racing….

In 1948 he designed the Morris Minor, which during its production between 1948 – 1971 became the first British car to sell more than a million….

1949 Morris Minor – Image credit : Riley CC BY 2.0
Morris Minor II Series – Image credit : Arpingstone – Public domain
Morris Minor interior – Image credit : The Car Spy CC BY 2.0

Morris and Austin merged in 1952 to form the British Motor Corporation – and at this point Alec went to work briefly for Alvis Cars…. He returned to BMC in 1955, this time working at the Austin plant, in Longbridge…. Then in 1959 he was asked to design an economical, around town, small car in response to the Suez energy crisis and fuel rationing – it was also aimed at rivalling the popularity of Volkswagen’s Beetle…. Alec’s resulting design was the Mini….

The first 1959 Morris Mini-Minor – Image credit DeFacto own work – CC BY SA 2.5
1959 Mini interior – Image credit : De Facto – own work CC BY-SA 2.5

Launched as the Morris Mini Minor and Austin Seven the little car soon became known as the Austin Mini – and later just as the Mini…. It was to go on to become Britain’s best ever selling car, 5.3 million were produced in its lifetime…. Alec received his knighthood in 1969…. He officially retired in 1971 but carried on with his work from home until shortly before his death on the 2nd of October 1988….

Production of the Mini ended on the 4th of October 2000 and ownership of the Mini name passed to BMW…. The last ever British Mini, a red Cooper Sport, was presented to the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust….

The last Mini produced, October 2000 – Image credit : Vauxford – own work CC BY-SA 4.0