Sir Alec Issigonis and synchros…

My old MGB had synchromesh on the upper 3 gears but none on first.  It did have one healthy second gear though, and for most purposes that stood in for first unless you were at a dead stop. Now it seems there was serious reluctance at British Motor Corporation to synchronize first gear at the very top of the company.

picture of Morris Mini
Morris Mini.. 1959 car with non-synchro first gear. Picture by Wikimedia contributor DeFacto

In a 1962 interview with Motor Magazine about the new Mini Minor, Sir Alec Issigonis said, “I don’t like synchromesh on bottom gear. I find that it is difficult to get into gear with it.” Which not only included cars that his company designed, but others in Europe at the time, “I have driven most of the small continental cars which have synchromesh on bottom gear, and found engaging bottom when the car was stationary was almost impossible.”

Well, that may be, but modern cars seem to have synchromesh down, including reverse. But synchromesh transmissions were only ten  years old when Sir Alec made that statement, being introduced on Porsches in 1952. And even then, Sir Alec had to bow to consumer demand with all BMC cars going all-synchro for the forward gears in 1968.

picture of 1967 MGB
1967 MGB

I have driven a 1968 MGB and thought the shifter too far back, but I might already have been emotionally invested in the ’67 car. There were other things that put me off, padded dash and smog controls and such.  But in the end I do have to admit synchro trannys are much more desirable than crash boxes.

picture of MGB interior
Non-synchro shifter for MGB

The MGB above is for sale in Connecticut.

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