Alexander Engineering in Haddenham

General Chat with an emphasis on BMC Minis & Other iconic cars of the 1960's. Includes information on MK1 Action days.
Oneball
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Re: Alexander Engineering in Haddenham

Post by Oneball »

Not exactly run of the mill stuff on the forecourt.
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Pete
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Re: Alexander Engineering in Haddenham

Post by Pete »

Just sad I couldn’t make a second photo call with 572 BCR on Sunday. Non of this went unnoticed in Haddenham though as it created quite a fuss. Just glad the buildings survive, unlike so many!
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Pete
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Re: Alexander Engineering in Haddenham

Post by Pete »

Michael Christie in a Cooper Jap at Prescott, and the first (?) Alexander Turner on the forecourt
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Pete
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Re: Alexander Engineering in Haddenham

Post by Pete »

I managed to have a look inside the brick building round the back which is now home for a furniture business but could only peer through the rear doors where old met ‘new’. If buildings could talk…

All the business owners will be scratching their heads if they look at their CCTV footage this morning! :lol:
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63monte
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Re: Alexander Engineering in Haddenham

Post by 63monte »

Back to the Future for BCR as we followed Minty’s photo shoot at Alexanders after Kop Hill.
Unfortunately Minty was sick so we could not get the two cars together for the first time since they raced each other 50 years ago.
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63monte
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Re: Alexander Engineering in Haddenham

Post by 63monte »

By coincidence we were followed into the site by a chap who turned out to have been a close friend of Alexander boss Michael Christie who kindly invited me back to his house where I spent a very interesting couple of hours looking through his memorabilia and restoration projects (no Minis though). He then put me in touch with an ex-Alexander and Fred Hillyer mechanic who shared the following images of an Alexander Turner with great shots of the engine bay.
I will be meeting him next week so hopefully more to come.
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Pete
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Re: Alexander Engineering in Haddenham

Post by Pete »

Bet that was interesting! Yes shame about Sunday.

Found this colour shot at Crystal Palace and an article ‘wot I wrote’ over ten years ago now and no doubt has a few errors in it but still….


By the late 1960’s Alexander Engineering was a name that became synonymous with Minis, engine tuning and the boom of after market bolt on goodies but who’s roots can be traced as far back as 1947 to a small garage in Buckinghamshire set up by owner Michael Alexander Christie. Michael’s interest in racing cars and engineering were well established by the time his garage business came to fruition, hill climbing a variety of single seaters such as Coopers and an1100cc V twin JAP engined Kieft racing car used with much success and was runner up of the RAC Hillclimb Championship on no less than five occasions. Whilst the garage was initially only a side line to his main business in life, that of a partner in the Christie-Tyler chair manufacturer, Christie also made a real success of his investment into ‘Plexeal’ – a laminated foil gasket, with Dick Jensen (of Jensen car fame) which he later sold on very successfully and by the mid 50’s Christie had freed himself of both businesses to concentrate on his motoring passion at Alexander Engineering.
One of the first moves Christie made as a garage proprietor was to acquire a Nuffield MG and Morris franchise which in turn brought the delivery of one of the first Morris Minors. His chief mechanic Tom Rolfe was set the task of tweaking the new car and in doing so chopped ten seconds off its 0-60 time and added ten miles to every gallon. The conversion was so successful that soon visitors to the dealership were soon queuing up for an improved Minor with over 100 conversions having been sold by the end of 1954 .Meanwhile Christie was setting his sights on the next model to improve – the Standard 10, a conversion which would set Alexander on their way to bigger things.
The Standard certainly wasn’t known for it’s handling characteristics but with an anti roll bar and a few engine tweaks an Alexander converted car won the 1954 RAC Rally and was such a successful conversion that the manufacturers would make a precedent and offer the Alexander conversion on new cars, all covered by the manufacturer’s warranty. This was the first time a tuner had worker in association with a manufacturer and in doing so started a tradition that continues to this day.
By the mid 50’s Alexander had started to work their magic on B series engines like the MG Magnette converting hundreds of cars at their Haddneham garage, this lead to tuning kits being sold to MG dealerships across the land and soon Alexander went on to tune Rootes cars through Christie’s new dealership in Aylesbury converting many Hillman Minx cars in the process. The firm were approached by many different motor manufacturers as time went on and even transformed the performance of Reliant cars, with Sabres eventually being ‘Alexanderised’ from new.
By the turn of the decade the A series was now under the bonnet of many BMC’s cars with the Minor, A35 and A40 also achieving great success on the race tracks and becoming big business for tuners such as Speedwell and Alexander. There were several successful attempts through the 60’s to produce a cross flow head for the A series but Alexander can claim to be the first and proved the effectiveness of their alloy seven port design with Geoff Williamson’s all conquering A40 on the race track. By the end of 1959 the Mini had arrived and soon enough it’s potential for improvement by the aftermarket tuner was seized upon. The Mini was raced and rallied from the off in virtually standard trim most notably by the likes of John Whitmore, John Handley , Tony Rutt , John Aley and a certain garage proprietor with a handle bar moustache from Cambridge - Mick Clare. Mick raced his standard 850 car YMJ 681 throughout 1960, gas flowing his own cylinder heads (with the aid of cigar smoke !), modifying brakes etc and it wasn’t long before Alexander’s new cross flow head was tried on his Mini, though this did necessitate the use of an ugly extended bonnet. Winning his first race of 1961 at Snetterton at an average speed of 72 mph and beating Aley into the bargain brought Mick a lot of publicity and an offer of support from Alexander to run under their team banner from then on, Alexander would supply cash and tuning parts whilst Mick with his son Terry continued to prepare the car and race at weekends.
By 1962 business was booming for Alexander with conversions being offered for several car manufacturers and distributors across the nation now selling their products. Clare meanwhile had upgraded to a 997 Cooper with his distinctive ‘MC 58’ number plate on the bonnet and even managed to finish third behind the works Minis at Silverstone in May. By the Spring of the following year Mick had not only kept up with the leading works cars but won his class in his 997 at Snetterton against the stiff opposition of Whitmore, Fenning and Carlisle. 1963 brought the new 1071 S type with which Mick was swiftly equipped and a new team mate in the form of a very quick lady driver Elizabeth Jones. She retired from the British Grand Prix of that year whilst Mick finished an impressive 4th but the tables were turned at the Motor 6 Hour race at a rain soaked Brands Hatch when sharing the 997 car ‘572 BCR’ with Timo Makinen she came runner up in class to Aaltonen whilst Mick sharing with Tony Rutt rolled MC58 into retirement.
In 1964 Mick achieved his dream as a privateer, to beat the works! He beat all three works Cooper cars plus the Downton and Don Moore entries into the bargain at Goodwood in March, quite an achievement. Much to Mick’s chagrin the car was pulled to bits by the scrutineers after the race suspecting foul play but found nothing untoward. Unfortunately his luck and a fine run of results came to an end at Aintree in April when he was very lucky to escape a very big accident, hitting a brick boiler house at 85mph (race tracks were surrounded by such obstacles in those days!) and completely destroying his car. Mick suffered a broken leg , cuts and bruises and after a nine month lay off only sat in a rebuilt ‘MC58’ for one more race, at Brands in 1965 where he was forced to abandon his car due to the shear discomfort of trying to race with a twisted ankle. Liz Jones continued to fly the flag alone for Alexander with some decent finishes in the Surf Blue and white ‘LIZ 1’ in 1964.
By 1965 the Alexander Conversions business was being run from two separate depots in London and Birmingham with their wares being distributed nationwide. Products ranged from engine parts such as cylinder heads, rockers, camshafts, pistons, to inlet manifolds, rev counters, right hand fuel tanks, carbs, ram pipes and even fake knock on wheel trims ! The range was so wide by this point that inevitably the business just became too complex and it was decided to streamline the range down to basic, easy to fit bolt on tuning kits across a wide range of cars. This was marketed as the new ‘Alexpress’ range with a twin Stromberg carburettor kit at it’s heart and sales eventually moved to mail order houses such as Freemans and Littlewoods ! Also in 1965 the racing side of the business were on the look out for a new driver and from a recommendation from the BRDC Tony Lanfranchi was recruited to race the old Liz Jones car now registered EKX 210B. The car was still prepared from the Haddenham garage premises where Bernard Tyrell worked as an apprentice and of the affable Yorkshireman said “Tony was our secret weapon and was on and off the track the most engaging of people”. Bernard, who has kindly supplied some of the photos also remembers chief mechanic Tom Rolfe as a no nonsense straight talker and foreman Fred Hillier as a dedicated workaholic . Mini racer Phil De Banks also worked at Haddenham machining cylinder heads and their collective effort brought home impressive results for Alexander in 1965 , most notably a win at Silverstone in May when Tony pipped Fitzpatrick by a whisker in front of a capacity Grand Prix crowd.
Lanfranchi continued to impress with a second place finish to Rhodes at Snetterton and again at Silverstone at the start of the 1966 season , the new Gp 5 regulations now in place allowing much wilder modification to the cars. The rest of the ’66 season however didn’t live up to expectations with the car being rebuilt after a rear end shunt at Crystal Palace and was never really competitive thereafter.
Alexander products were still selling well though and it was felt that a race programme for 1967 was worthwhile with the arrival of previous guest driver Chris Montague taking over the hot seat as Lanfranchi left for a turbulent new season with an unreliable Frazer Imp. Montague himself spent most of 1967 behind emerging new talent Gordon Spice as he did often in 1968 occassionally up against a very competative John Wales driving a rejuvinated ‘MC58’ for Mick Clare ! With the curtailment of Alexander’s racing aspirations the following year Montague found himself without a seat and wasn’t to return to the RAC British Saloon Car Championship until 1970, this time in his own Weber Carburettor sponsored Cooper S (Montague was their main UK distributor) but in familiar company still slogging it out with Spice in his Gp2 Arden Mini.
As the race car programme wound down at the end of a swinging decade Alexander Engineering carried on building the odd competition engine but no longer supplied cylinder heads and finally decided to close the Haddenham workshop doors for the last time in 1970 as the garage premises was sold off. The production of tuning equipment would continue however with the successful ‘Alexpress’ range until in 1974 when the last tuning kit left the warehouse confining their output strictly to ‘off the shelf’ accessories which they sold right through to the 1990s.
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Last edited by Pete on Wed Sep 20, 2023 11:34 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Pete
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Re: Alexander Engineering in Haddenham

Post by Pete »

Alexander’s stand at an early Racing Car Show, will try to remember which year, and Mick Clare showing the works cars how to do it at Goodwood 1964, also Minty’s first race this.
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rnp68
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Re: Alexander Engineering in Haddenham

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Evening all,

My first post with a bit more info.

My 1955 86" landrover was supplied by Alexander Eng. They may well have been a Rover / Landrover dealer. The original Reg was WPP 948, which is a Buckingham registration. The plate was attached to the original bulkhead and will be refitted soon.

Ray
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mk1
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Re: Alexander Engineering in Haddenham

Post by mk1 »

A very nice early Alexander dealer plate. Glad to hear it's going back on it's original home.

Alexander are one of the most under-rated tuning houses, they were well up there with the likes of Downton & Speedwell, with many great wins & some very talented drivers, despite all this for some reason they are relatively overlooked nowadays.

There is a bit of Alexander info here.

https://mk1-performance-conversions.co. ... er_eng.htm
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