Throwback Monday: Famous Factories

PA-6725131 Welcome to Throwback Monday where we take a look at how things once were, or at least how certain famous cars were once built. This week we’re looking at post-war Britain’s biggest deal of a small car. Everything mini is good right? Whether it’s skirts, or series, or golf, anything mini is usually fun. You can add to that cars, as the Alec Issigonis- designed Austin/Morris Mini proved not just fun but one of Great Britain’s most iconic automobiles. Let’s watch it all come together.The British Motor Company came to be in 1952 from the merger of formerly competing companies, Morris Motors Limited and the Austin Motor Company Limited. Through that partnering, BMC became the steward of a number of marques that included Austin, MG, Riley and Wolseley. At the time of the company’s founding, its holdings accounted for nearly 40 per-cent of Great Britain’s automotive output. The longest lived of the company’s products was the Mini. Sir Alexander Arnold Constantine Issigonis was born in Smyrna Greece in 1906, but settled with his family in Britain—his parents were British Nationals—in 1922 during the Greco-Turkish war. He studied engineering at Battersea Polytechnic in London, but failed the mathematics exams three times. That however, didn’t stop Issigonis from completing his degree, which he obtained from the University of London. Mini-sketchNot just an engineer, Issigonis also enjoyed auto racing, and competed successfully in the 1930s driving a supercharged Austin Seven. That led to his being lured away from Humber to Austin, who were impressed with the suspension Issigonis had designed for his racer. By ’36 he had moved once again, this time to Morris LTD in Cowley. There he focused on suspension design, however WWII put a halt to both design work and production. After the war Issigonis’ work ramped up once again, resulting in the MG-Y sedan and the Morris Minor, the titular predecessor to his ultimate and most wholly realized effort, the Mini. Code named ADO15, the Mini was envisioned by BMC and its head, Sir Leonard Lord as the smallest of three new cars that BMC would offer across its multiple brands. The 1956 Suez Crisis brought about fuel rationing in Britain, and Lord instructed Issigonis to focus on the ADO15, with the intent to bring it to market as quickly as possible. It took another four years for that to be realized but the Mini was certainly worth the wait. Almost completely Issigonis’ vision, the Mini was perhaps the most advanced small car design ever conceived. Eschewing the traditional longitudinal front engine and cart-sprung live axle in back, or even the rear-engine designs of many other European small cars, the Mini featured an amazingly compact drivetrain completely housed under its tiny hood. That allowed for a five passenger—as long as you were all fairly close and compact yourselves—space, as well as room for luggage in the two-box design. That was made possible by several of Issigonis’ clever design decisions, including moving the radiator to the side of the engine and having the fan blow from the inside out, into the low pressure area in the wheel well, rather than pulling air in throw it. Issigonis also situating the Austin A-series engine on top of the four-speed transmission, allowing both to share the same lube. The suspension was equally innovative, featuring a design by Moulton Developments Limited that used rubber cones for the springing medium. Along with tiny 12-inch wheels, that and a short wheelbase carrying limited weight gave an uncompromising ride, but also exceptional handling. The cars debuted in 1959 as the Morris Mini-Minor and Austin Seven and became an immediate success. Initial production took place at Austin’s Longbridge plant and Morris’s Cowley factory. Global demand for the car would eventually see it also being built in Italy, Australia, South Africa and Venezuela over the course of its 40-year life. This two-part video is from the Longbridge plant and shows how the cars came together, which was a mix of new-era mechanization and old school hand-building. This was from the era when the British Motor Industry was still vibrant. That would end about a decade later as competition, labor disputes, and budget cutting decimated the industry. Production of the Mini would continue until the dawn of this century, when it was replaced with a modern, larger, and BMW-engineered replacement. That car, while fun to drive and evocative of its ancestors isn’t nearly as innovative in its execution as the original was upon its debut. [youtube][/youtube] [youtube][/youtube] Images: flashbak

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