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Alec Issigonis, who had been working for Alvis, had been recruited back to BMC in 1955 with a brief from Lord to design a range of technically advanced family cars in the same innovative spirit as his earlier Morris Minor to complement BMC's existing conventional models. Issigonis had set out design projects for three cars – large and small family cars and a very small economy car. His initial work was on the largest car, designated XC9001, with the smallest car, XC9003, having the lowest priority despite it being Issigonis' greatest personal interest. With Lord's dictum to produce a bubble car competitor and his revised design requirements being laid down in October 1956, work on XC9001 stopped and XC9003 became the priority. The team that designed the Mini was remarkably small: as well as Issigonis, there was Jack Daniels (who had worked with him on the Morris Minor), Chris Kingham (who had been with him at Alvis), two engineering students and four draughtsmen. Together, by July 1957, they had designed and built the original XC9003 prototype, which was affectionately named "The Orange Box" because of its colour. Leonard Lord approved the car for production on 19 July and XC9003 became project ADO15.

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