1st Morris Minor Built
Although Sir Alec Issigonis is perhaps better known for his design of the Mini, he was more proud of his earlier creation, the Morris Minor.
Issigonis, of Greek descent, was born in 1906 in Smyrna, but his grandfather had gained British citizenship because of his service to a railway project and so Alec was born British.
After the family was forced to flee Turkey in 1922 Alec and his mother settled in London . Alec studied at Battersea Polytechnic, famously failing his mathematics exams three times. He indulged in some motor racing in the 1930s, and moved into the motor industry, first with Humber, then in 1936 with Morris .
During World War II he worked on various military projects for Morris, but he also began work on a project code-named Mosquito (after the fighter-bomber of the same name), whose aim was to make a small and cheap two-seater car when peace returned. In 1942 he supervised the production of the first scale model. Three years later a full size version, still static, was made, its form not too far removed from the later production version.
The chief engineer at Morris, A.V. Oak, treated Issigonis as his protégé, giving him remarkable freedom to design the vehicle from the ground up, rather than having to work within a restrictive committee structure.
The Morris Minor was shown to the world at the first post-war Motor Show, on 20 September 1948 at Earl’s Court . Even Lord Nuffield , owner of the company, loathed it at first sight, calling it a “poached egg”. When it went on sale on October 12 1948 reviews were mixed, and it was not an overnight success.
The Moggy, however, was relatively spacious and comfortable, and had been given beautifully engineered steering and suspension by Issigonis that made driving it easy. With a price that made it attainable for the working man the car worked its way into the national affection.
The car was developed over the years, and many different versions were sold: the Morris Traveller, a shooting brake of sorts; commercial vehicles including pick-ups and vans; and a convertible.
By the time it went out of production in 1971 some 1.6 million of the jelly-mould cars had been sold, and there are still plenty on the road, lovingly cared for by enthusiasts
More famous dates here
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