Smart Alec or smart Alex?

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The Mini is with us again, recalling the sensation when, as the work of that determined and amusing Alec Issigonis, the original Mini was introduced in 1959. An astonishingly unusual car with its transverse engine, front-wheel drive, engine and gearbox sharing the same oil, the Moulton rubber suspension, the quite spacious interior considering the 6ft 8in wheelbase, and its special 10in Dunlop tyres. I remember coming away from the press launch thinking what a task it was going to be to describe properly this remarkable new small car.

I used an early example for a year, even driving it to a no-result in a race at Goodwood for these new-concept `minibrics’, and I remember how the Mini Coopers could defeat larger cars in saloon races.

Surprisingly, when the RAC awarded the Dewar Trophy to the BMC in respect of the brilliant little car, coupled with the name of its talented designer, it got the Christian name of Issigonis incorrect, quoting instead that of Moulton and, even more incredibly, the BMC advertising department did likewise.

I am no poet, although when I am depressed I read John Betjeman (he does mention motor cars in his poems, including Bugatti). But these errors prompted me to inflict the following verse on Motor Sport’s readers in 1960, which may prevent a similar mix-up if the Mini’s return prompts journalists to recall its history.

Issigonis, Christian name of Alec,
weaned a mini-motor with springs non-metallic.
What he did was to use Moulton rubber,
gently aided by a snubber.

Alas, here comes a complication; you
might think perhaps that Issigonis’
accomplice should be addressed as Alex.

But no, the Mighty, BM Corporation,
in adverts in the daily Press,
fails to mention Moulton,
but calls Issigonis Alex, nonetheless.

We were confused,your Editor
undone, by this indifference
between Alec, Alex.

Is Issigonis Alex, Moulton Alec,
perhaps? But no, Motor Sport’s
correct;

The car comes from the moulton
brain of Alec, but rests on the
rubbers developed by Alex.

Chorus

You refer to Alec when of Dewar
you speak.

It’s Alex who makes the springs that
cannot squeak

It’s Alec who designed the twins*
— credit where credit’s due.
It’s Alex who makes their ride Moulton
contrary-wise is just ballyhoo.

*There was an Austin 7 version of the Mini as well as the Morris one.