Mini tribute to the man who drew the Mini
John Sheppard (24 February 1922 - 29 March 2015)

A special parade of Mini and Mini related vehicles joined together on the streets of Stourbridge on Friday 17 April for the funeral of John Sheppard, the last surviving member of the original Mini design team, who sadly passed away aged 93, on 29 March.

The man who loved to draw started work in the drawing office of BSA at the age of 16. From there he moved on to draw aircraft parts, then cars, joining Alvis in 1945. In 1952 Alec Issigonis joined Alvis and John was recruited into his design team. When Issigonis left Alvis to re-join BMC in December 1955 he lost no time in recruiting John Sheppard to join him as draughtsman. It was John who drew the beautiful curves of the Mini as we know it, interpreting the scribbled drawings Issigonis made on scraps of paper. John continued to work with Issigonis on and off for the rest of Issigonis' working years, and the pair were close friends until Sir Alec's death. John retired in 1982. He continued to take an active interest in the Mini, taking part in the milestone events in its history.

The special collection of cars represented examples of John's work, from the mighty Mini, launched in 1959, the Mini Estate, the Mini Moke, launched to the public in 1964 after undergoing extensive military trials, and two examples of prototypes of the Austin Ant, which John nicknamed "Alec's New Toy", aimed at the market between the Moke and the Land Rover, which sadly never entered production. The 1969 9X, Alec Issigonis small hatchback which he intended as the Mini's successor but which again never entered production, owed its development mainly to John, who single-handedly interpreted Sir Alec's vision.

Vehicles taking part in the funeral tribute:

At John Sheppard's house
Heritage Motor Museum, Gaydon: 1969 Blue 9X prototype

Parade (front to back):
Keith Woodfield: 1959 Clipper Blue Morris Mini Minor
Tanya and Jason Field: 1960 Speedwell Blue Austin Seven
Paul Orton: 1965 Almond Green Austin Mini Countryman
Chris Waldram: 1965 Austin Mini Moke
Chris Tallents: 1968 Green Austin Ant
Trevor Ripley: 1968 White Austin Ant
Suzanne and Chris Johns: 1970 Red and White Australian 1275 Morris Cooper S
Kay Drury: 2000 Platinum Silver Rover Mini S Works

Thanks to the 1959 Mini Register, The Mini Traveller and Countryman Register, the Mini Moke Club, the Heritage Motor Museum at Gaydon, and Mini friends for helping to assemble a great selection of tribute cars.

Words and photos: Kay Drury

Kay is News Editor for MiniWorld Magazine (www.miniworld.co.uk). She knew John for several years and interviewed him in depth for MiniWorld in the March and April 2012 issues.  John was a true gentleman and a lovely man, I am proud to have had the opportunity to get to know him and call him a friend. I know he would have loved seeing all the cars today, and to have known that Gaydon loaned us the 9X to park on his drive! RIP John.
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