Alec Issigonis

Sir Alexander Arnold Constantine Issigonis, CBE, FRS (November 18, 1906–October 2, 1988) was a Greek-British designer of cars, now remembered chiefly for the groundbreaking and influential development of the Mini, launched by the British Motor Corporation (BMC) in 1959.


Alexander Arnold Constantine Issigonis was born into the Greek community of Smyrna (now İzmir) in the Ottoman Empire. His grandfather Demosthenis Issigonis migrated to Smyrna from Paros in the 1830s and through the work he did for the British-built Smyrna-Aydın Railway, in the engineering works that he had established, had managed to acquire British nationality. Demosthenis's son (Alec's father) Constantine Issigonis (Κωνσταντίνος Ισηγόνης), was born, with British nationality, in Smyrna in 1872. Constantine studied in England, and later, passed his love of all things English on to his son. Alec's mother, Hulda Prokopp, could trace her origins back to Württemberg (now part of Germany).

Because Alec and his parents were British subjects, they were evacuated to Malta by British Royal Marines in September 1922, ahead of the Turkish re-possession of Smyrna at the end of the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922). Following the death of his father in 1922, Alec and his mother moved to the UK in 1923. Alec studied engineering at Battersea Polytechnic in London. He failed his mathematics exams three times and subsequently called pure mathematics 'the enemy of every creative genius'. After Battersea Polytechnic, Alec decided to enter the University of London External Programme to complete his university education.

Issigonis went into the motor industry as an engineer and designer working for Humber and competed successfully in motor racing during the 1930s and 1940s. Starting around 1930, he raced a supercharged "Ulster" Austin Seven, later fitting it with a front axle of his own design, leading to employment at Austin. This greatly modified machine was replaced with a radical special completed in 1939, constructed of plywood laminated in aluminium sheeting. The suspension was also of advanced design, with trailing arm front suspension attached to a steel cross-member, and swing axle rear, all with rubber springs made of catapult elastic. This car was remarkably light, weighing 587lb, of which the engine contributed 252lb. By the time the chassis had been completed (hard labour - it was all done by hand, no power tools), Issigonis had moved to Morris, but Austin supplied a "works" specification supercharged side-valve engine. Issigonis usually won, even when entered in the 1100cc class if there was no 750cc category. Most events entered were sprints, but he also raced at circuits.

In 1936, he moved to the Morris Motor Company at Cowley working on an independent front suspension system for the Morris 10. The war prevented this design from going into production but it was later used on the MG Y-type. He worked on various projects for Morris through the war and towards its end started work on an advanced post war car codenamed "Mosquito" that became the Morris Minor, which was produced from 1948 until 1971. In 1952, just as BMC was formed by the merger of Morris and Austin, he moved to Alvis Cars where he designed an advanced saloon with all aluminium V-8 engine, and experimented with interconnected independent suspension systems. This prototype was never manufactured because its cost was beyond Alvis's resources.

At the end of 1955, Issigonis was recruited back into BMC - this time into the Austin plant at Longbridge - by its chairman Sir Leonard Lord, to design a new model family of three cars. The XC (experimental car) code names assigned for the new cars were "XC/9001" - for a large comfortable car, "XC/9002" - for a medium-sized family car, and "XC/9003" - for a small town car. During 1956 Issigonis concentrated on the larger two cars, producing several prototypes for testing.

However, at the end of 1956, following fuel rationing brought about by the Suez Crisis, Issigonis was ordered by Lord to bring the smaller car, "XC/9003", to production as quickly as possible. By early 1957, prototypes were running, and by mid-1957 the project was given an official drawing office project number ("ADO15") so that the thousands of drawings required for production could be produced. In August 1959 the car was launched as the Morris Mini Minor and the Austin Mini Seven or just Austin Mini. In later years, the car would become known simply as the "Mini". Due to time pressures, the interconnected suspension system that Issigonis had planned for the car was replaced by an equally novel, but cruder, rubber cone system designed by Alex Moulton. The Mini went on to become the best selling British car in history with a production run of 5.3 million cars. This ground-breaking design, with its front wheel drive, transverse engine, sump gearbox, 10-inch wheels, and phenomenal space efficiency, was still being manufactured in 2000 and has been the inspiration for almost all small front-wheel drive cars produced since the early 1960s.

In 1961, with the Mini gaining popularity, Issigonis was promoted to Technical Director of BMC. He continued to be responsible for his original "XC" projects. "XC/9002" became "ADO16" and was launched as the Morris 1100 with the Hydrolastic interconnected suspension system in August 1962. "XC/9001" became "ADO17" and was launched, also with the Hydrolastic suspension system, as the Austin 1800 in October 1964.

Issigonis (nicknamed [ "The Greek god"] by his contemporaries) was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1967 and was awarded a knighthood in 1969. Whilst he is most famous for his creation of the Mini, he was most proud of his participation in the design of the Morris Minor. He considered it to be a vehicle that combined many of the luxuries and conveniences of a good motor car with a price suitable for the working classes - in contrast to the Mini which was a spartan mode of conveyance with everything cut to the bone.

Sir Alec officially retired from the motor industry in 1971, although he continued working until shortly before his death. He died in 1988 at his house in Edgbaston, Birmingham, [cite news | title=Père de l'Austin "Mini" Alec Issigonis est mort | author=Lamotte, Claude | publisher=Le Monde | date=1988-10-06 | language=French | url=,13-0,37-621978,0.html | accessdate=2007-03-05] and was cremated at the Lodge Hill Crematorium in nearby Selly Oak.

On 2006-10-15 a rally was held at the Heritage Motor Centre in Gaydon, England, to celebrate the centenary of Sir Alec's birth. [cite web | title=Issigonis Centenary Celebration | publisher=Heritage Motor Centre | url=]

ome of his cars

:"See also
* 1948 Morris Minor
* 1959 Mini
* 1962 BMC ADO16
* 1964 BMC ADO17
* 1969 Austin Maxi



*cite book | author=Gillian Bardsley | title=Issigonis: The Official Biography | publisher=Icon Books | year=2005 | id=ISBN 1-84046-687-1
*cite book | author=Wood, Jonathan | title=Alec Issigonis: The Man Who Made the Mini | publisher=Breedon Books Publishing | year=2005 | id=ISBN 1-85983-449-3
*cite book | author=Nahum, Andrew | title=Alec Issigonis (Modern European Designers Series) | publisher=Hyperion Books | year=1988 | id=ISBN 0-85072-172-5
*cite book | author=Bolster, John | title=Specials | publisher=GT Foulis & Co | year=1949

External links

* [ Alec Issigonis Automotive Designer (1906–1988)] from the Design Museum in London
* [ Portraits of Alec Issigonis] from the National Portrait Gallery (London)

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Alec Issigonis — [Alec Issigonis] (1906–88) a British car ↑designer, born in Turkey. His two most successful designs were the Morris Minor (1948) and the Mini (1959). He was made a ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • Alec Issigonis — Sir Alec Issigonis, eigentlich Alexander Arnold Constantine Issigonis (* 18. November 1906 in der damals zum Osmanischen Reich gehörigen und vorwiegend griechisch geprägten Stadt Smyrna, heute İzmir, Türkei; † 2. Oktober 1988 in Longbridge) war… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Alec Issigonis — Sir Alec Issigonis, originalmente Alexander Arnold Constantine Issigonis (18 de noviembre de 1906 en Smyrna (actual Izmir, Turquía) 2 de octubre de 1988 en Longbridge) fue un ingeniero británico de orígenes griegos. Trabajó como desarrollador de… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Alec Issigonis — Morris Mini Minor Sir Alexandre Arnold Constantine Issigonis, dit Alec Issigonis, (18 novembre 1906 – 2 octobre 1988) était un ingénieur grec, né à Smyrne (Izmir) en Turquie. Biographie …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Alec Issigonis — ➡ Issigonis * * * …   Universalium

  • Alec Issigonis — n. (1906 1988) Turkish born English designer of cars who is remembered mainly for the development and design of the Mini in 1959 …   English contemporary dictionary

  • Issigonis — Sir Alec Issigonis, eigentlich Alexander Arnold Constantine Issigonis (* 18. November 1906 in Smyrna,heute Izmir,Türkei; † 2. Oktober 1988 in Longbridge) war ein britischer Ingenieur griechischer Herkunft. Berühmt wurde er als Entwickler der… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Issigonis, Sir Alexander Arnold Constantine (Alec) — SUBJECT AREA: Automotive engineering, Land transport [br] b. 18 November 1906 Smyrna (now Izmir), Turkey d. 2 October 1988 Birmingham, England [br] British automobile designer whose work included the Morris Minor and the Mini series. [br] His… …   Biographical history of technology

  • Issigonis, Sir Alec — ▪ British automobile designer in full  Sir Alexander Arnold Constantine Issigonis   born Nov. 18, 1906, Smyrna [now İzmir], Tur. died Oct. 2, 1988, Birmingham, Eng.       British automobile designer who created the best selling, economical Mini… …   Universalium

  • Issigonis, Sir Alec —  (1906–1988) Turkish born British car designer …   Bryson’s dictionary for writers and editors

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