CityPress - - Trending -

y grand­mother and I were cut from the same cloth. We both were, let’s say, “averse” to hard labour. So while the rest of the fam­ily mem­bers were el­bow-deep in soap suds, wash­ing up the Sun­day lunch pots and pans in her tiny house in Ermelo, Mpumalanga, my grand­mother would whis­per: “Come my dar­ling, let’s do the van­ish­ing trick.”

While the oth­ers huffed and heaved to scrape what re­mained of the Sun­day roast off their plates, the two of us would zoot off in her lit­tle spit­fire, post­box-red Mini and spin the wheels down the main road in Ermelo.

The blood that would one day course through my petrol­head veins must have cer­tainly found its source as I sat wide-eyed be­side my granny push­ing her Mini to the max.

It was from my grand­mother that I first heard the name Sir Alec Is­sigo­nis, the Greek engi­neer and cre­ator of the first-gen­er­a­tion iconic Mini, who was born in Bri­tish-owned Smyrna (to­day part of Tur­key) in 1906.

My granny loved to tell me how Alec had failed his math­e­mat­ics ex­ams three times when he was study­ing en­gi­neer­ing in Lon­don and sub­se­quently called pure math­e­mat­ics “the en­emy of ev­ery cre­ative ge­nius”.

I later read up how he be­gan his ca­reer work­ing for Hum­ber, Austin and Mor­ris Mo­tors and, in 1955, was re­cruited by the Bri­tish Mo­tor Cor­po­ra­tion to de­sign a fam­ily of new mod­els.

When fuel ra­tioning was in­tro­duced dur­ing the Suez Cri­sis, all at­ten­tion went to com­ing up with a small, fuel-ef­fi­cient ve­hi­cle. In Au­gust 1959, the Mor­ris Mini Mi­nor and the Austin Seven were launched and, in 1961, the ve­hi­cle was re­named the Austin Mini. Eight years later, the Mini be­came a stand-alone mar­que in its own right.

Is­sigo­nis’ de­sign was rev­o­lu­tion­ary, with its in­cred­i­bly com­pact di­men­sions, trans­verse en­gine and front-wheel drive lay­out.

It sub­se­quently be­came the best­selling Bri­tish car in history, with a pro­duc­tion run

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.