Car of 1959 Sputnik
Around this time, a tiny bright orange car was often to be glimpsed on the roads around Longbridge, usually at night and invariably travelling at phenomenal speeds, often with a tall, scholarly chap behind the wheel. The driver’s name was Alec Issigonis and the car was nicknamed ‘Sputnik’, a nod to its globular shape which echoed that of the various bits of Russian space hardware that had been orbiting the Earth since 1957.
Following his triumph with the Morris Minor, designer Issigonis had been spurred to come up with a more intelligent alternative to the bubblecars that were all the rage during the 1956 Suez crisis and resulting fuel shortages. As details of the ‘Sputnik’ leaked, even those in the know had their doubts. The tiny 10in wheels were crazy (the Minor’s 13in rims had been bad enough) and were getting through tyres every 2000 miles. The rear brakes kept locking because there was so little weight at the back. And it looked odd.
Three months after our main photo was taken, the ‘Sputnik’ was launched as the Morris Mini-Minor and Austin Se7en. Time for all those doubting ‘experts’ to think again.