The Issigonis Trophy and the Sturmey Award will be given out at an event next week
On 18 May, Autocar will announce the winners of its three annual awards designed to honour the highest-achieving individuals in the automotive sphere, and to recognize the industry’s finest contemporary vehicles.
Two of the awards are for people; the third goes to the car or cars that have achieved a five-star Autocar road test verdict during the past year.
The Issigonis Trophy, our premier individual award, invokes the name of the legendary Sir Alec Issigonis. The designer changed the car world forever with his amazingly compact 1959 Morris Mini, whose revolutionary 'east-west' engine layout led to an automotive revolution.
The Trophy will go to the individual who has contributed most to the health, excellence and world competitiveness of the European motor industry.
The Sturmey Award is named after Henry Sturmey, the founding editor of Autocar in 1895 who became one of the country’s leading automotive pioneers. He was a vociferous agitator in the overthrow of the Red Flag Act which, until 1896, required automobiles to be preceded by a man on foot, carrying a red flag.
The demise of that law gave free rein to a burgeoning British motor industry. This is an editor’s award which goes to an individual, a product or a process of special merit.
Finally, to mark the fact that Autocar’s road testing is far more thorough than any competitor's, manufacturers whose cars achieve the magazine's five-star road test verdict will receive a trophy commemorating the fact at our annual awards gathering. Last year, we celebrated the Jaguar XFR, Ferrari 458, Morgan 3 Wheeler, BMW 3 Series, Toyota GT86, Porsche Cayman, Mercedes-Benz S-Class and McLaren P1.
Full details, with winner interviews, will be published online immediately after the announcement, and in Autocar’s issue of May 20.
Sir Alec Issigonis
Most famous for the immortal Morris Mini, the best-selling British car in history whose 'east-west' engine made it amazingly light, compact and space efficient, Sir Alec Issigonis was a notably resourceful and free-thinking designer from his earliest days who influenced many parts of the British car business.
Born of Greek-German parents, Issigonis came to the UK as a refugee in 1923. He studied engineering in London from the age of 16, joined Humber in his early 20s and first came to notice racing Austin Seven specials.
Later, he built the bespoke (and almost unbeatable) single-seat Lightweight Special. It weighed just 587lb, 40% of which was the weight of the engine and gearbox.
Issigonis participated in many diverse British car projects before the Mini, his better known including the huge-selling, and long-lived, Morris Minor (born the Mosquito with an opposed twin-cylinder engine in the nose) and a stillborn Alvis luxury saloon, planned with an aluminium V8 engine. The Mini led to other revolutionary cars: the 1100, the 1800 'Landcrab' and the Maxi among them.
Issigonis, frequently called a genius, is remembered as a hard taskmaster (drawing room staff referred to him as Arragonis or Issigonyet) but his clarity of thinking created Britain’s best-selling car, and changed car design forever.
Autocar’s founding editor, Henry Sturmey, was a Weymouth schoolmaster interested mostly in the emerging sport of cycling when, on a train journey, he chanced to meet Coventry-based publisher William Iliffe. Iliffe helped him turn his hobby into a publication called Cycling and Sturmey moved to Coventry to edit the magazine, which was an instant success.
One Friday afternoon in 1885, there was a clattering in the street outside, caused by one of the new-fangled motor carriages that were starting to be seen on the streets. Iliffe asked Sturmey if he believed such machines would catch on. Following a positive answer, Iliffe commissioned him to produce a magazine - the following day!
Within a year The Autocar was selling 35,000 copies a week. It became a stern critic of the Red Flag Act and helped have the misguided legislation repealed in 1896. Sturmey also became a shareholder in Daimler, Britain’s first car manufacturer, and was guilty at times of 'talking up' the company’s fortunes.
However, he soon fell out with fellow directors by writing about a fatal car accident involving a Daimler engineer, and in 1900 had to withdraw from the editorship altogether when seriously injured in another accident. By then, the magazine’s culture and weekly cadence were well established, and they continue healthily today.
Get the latest car news, reviews and galleries from Autocar direct to your inbox every week. Enter your email address below: