Building Cars at the V&A!

This post was written by Joanna Weddell, Researcher at the University of Brighton. She is currently completing an AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award entitled Disseminating Design, which examines the regional impact of the Circulation Department in the post-war period 1947-77.

If you were inspired by the BBC2 Building Cars Live programme celebrating British design, engineering and manufacturing, then come to the V&A. The programme showed original sketches for the Mini by Sir Alec Issigonis (1906-88). The Museum holds eight sketches by Issigonis available to view by appointment in our Prints & Drawings Study Room at South Kensington.


Sir Alec Issigonis, Design sketch for the Mini, 1956, ballpoint pen and pencil on paper, 25.4 x 33.1cm, E.210-1992, Prints & Drawings Study Room, level E, case MD, shelf 33

Issigonis sketches have featured in several V&A design exhibitions such as Back of the Envelope: first thoughts in design, 1995, Vroom: Automotive Designs at the V&A, 1992, and Drawing: Technique and Purpose, 1981. A much earlier exhibition, Sir Alec Issigonis, Working Drawings, 1972, was toured from South Kensington around the UK to universities and schools of art and design by the V&A Department of Circulation to inspire young designers and engineers. So, for automotive engineering fans, here is the full description of that 1972 exhibition:

‘Sir Alec was, when he retired in 1971, overall Director of Research and Development in the Austin Morris Division of the British Leyland Motor Corporation, and had been Project Engineer for the complete range of Morris cars as early as 1939. His achievements deserve to be looked at, then, over a very wide scale indeed, and his success is best to be seen in the vigour of our whole motor industry. In the popular mind, however, he will without doubt forever be remembered as the creator of two particular models – the Morris Minor (introduced in 1948, and the first British car of which over a million units were to be built in the next twenty years) and the Mini (with well over two million produced since 1959, and the end not even imagined). The drawings in the present exhibition give some picture of his working concerns over a period of some thirty-five years; but the main sequences are related to the Minor and the Mini. They are the sort of drawing that he makes continuously either to help work out a detail in his own mind or to help explain this thinking to his colleagues. Fascinating in themselves as a direct document, the various points at issue have been explained in an accompanying text, and are illustrated by detailed photographs of the parts.

Useful links: Study Room details here: Issigonis sketches here

BBC Building Cars Live

Open University Building Cars Live

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *