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Alec Issigonis

Alec Issigonis (as he was more commonly known) was one of the most colourful car designers of modern times. He was born in Smyrna, Turkey, in 1906. His father, a naturalised British subject of Greek descent who had married the daughter of a wealthy Bavarian brewer with a branch brewery in Smyrna, ran a marine engineering business with his brother and Alec soon developed a talent for this subject.

At the end of World War I, the British community in Turkey, which had been on the side of Germany in the war, were evacuated by the Royal Navy.

Alec's father died en route in Malta, and the family arrived in England almost penniless in 1922. Alec's mother wanted to send him to art school but he preferred engineering. He completed a three year course at Battersea Polytechnic and by 1928 was working as a draughtsman/salesman in London with an engineering consultant, who was developing a type of semi-automatic transmission.

He frequently visited the Midlands and was offered a job in the Humber Drawing Office at Coventry. During this time he lived at a house in Kenilworth with his mother. After two years he met Robert Boyle, Chief Engineer at Morris, who offered him a job at Cowley, where he developed an independent suspension.

In the early 1940s, Issigonis began to work on the design of the car, which was to become the Morris Minor. The entire design team consisted of Alec and two draughtsmen who interpreted his freehand drawings.

By 1942, he had completed a scale model. He was going through an American phase at the time and the design reflected the Packard Clippers of 1941. The first car ran in 1947 and when Lord Nuffield (William Morris) saw his Morris Minor for the first time he was furious, calling it 'a poached egg'.

The public, however, took to the design because within 11 years, one million Morris Minors had been made. After Morris's 1952 merger with Austin, Issigonis resigned, as he always hated mergers, and went to work for Alvis, but the projected car he was to build was not put into production.

In 1955 Issigonis returned to Austin, now part of the Rover Group, as Technical Director. He went on to design the world famous, Birmingham-made 'Mini'.