JOHN OGIER - PRIVATEER, PATRIOT
John Lionel Eardley Ogier was Aston Martin's original customer for the 'VEV' brace of DB4GT Zagato cars. He was a pioneering businessman who was one of the immediate-postwar poultry farmers who saw the commercial potential of American-style broiler-chicken production, contributing to what became famous as the Buxted Chicken brand. With modern sensibilities that perhaps does not sit well with many people today, but in the 1950s providing affordable food to the nation was a primary concern.
John Ogier was an ex-military man, a tank section commander who had won the Military Cross for gallantry during the hotly-resisted Allied advance up the Adriatic coast of Italy. He rescued his own commander under fire and persisted in action despite being wounded. Upon recovery he was appointed Aide de Camp to Winston Churchill, no less, and upon his return to civilian life he became a captain of commerce.
His contemporary friends recall him as having been a fascinating man, fiercely intelligent, energetic, loyal, and generous. He was fiercely patriotic in a period when British industry was suffering a real crisis of confidence and one spin-off from his natural patriotism and support for British industry was his enthusiastic backing for Aston Martin.
He had been born in India, but was educated at St Edward's School, Oxford before becoming apprenticed to the Austin Motor Company, where he worked exclusively in the competitions department. He joined the Army when it became obvious war was imminent and he became a Dunkirk evacuee in 1940. He was then posted to The Queen's Own Hussars, of which Winston Churchill was Honorary Colonel, and he served with great distinction in North Africa, fighting at El Alamein, before the Italian campaign. In addition to his MC he would be further mentioned in despatches.
There were evident compensations. During leave at the Cairo Sailing Club he met his future wife, a South African MI6 recruit named Wymond Paull. He was later so successful as Churchill's AdC that the Old Man wanted him to manage his Chartwell Estate - for £250 per annum. John Ogier, however, had higher ambitions...
In early 1946 borrowed £15,000 from his father and a friend to start his Essex-based chicken farming venture. It proved so successful the loans were paid off within two years.
He began club racing with a Jaguar XK120 bought in 1952. Snetterton in Norfolk became his home circuit. He met and admired John Tojeiro and became both a customer and a marque sponsor in the mid-to-late 1950s.
As a driver he was perhaps more bold than truly talented. In October 1957 he lost control of his Tojeiro-Jaguar at the Stapleford hill-climb in Essex, trackside straw bales becoming a launching ramp from which the 'Toj' somersaulted, high in the air, throwing out Ogier and inflicting serious injuries, including a badly broken leg.
He would not compete again as a driver, but his expanding business activities enabled him to acquire a pair of Formula 2 Coopers for 1958, when he entered them under the Essex Racing Stable team title for the young Sir John Whitmore and South African newcomer Tony Maggs. The cars were prepared in the stables of the family home at East Hanningfield, Essex, John and Wymond Ogier raising their four children there.
But in late 1959 David Brown announced he was withdrawing Aston Martin from full-time works racing activity, having just secured the FIA Sports Car World Championship title. John Ogier was dismayed, believing it was essential for Great Britain to have top team involvement in world-class endurance racing. He approached David Brown and John Wyer at Aston Martin, and for 1960-61 his Essex Racing Stable bought two DB4GTs '17 TVX' and '18 TVX') and subsequently Zagatos '1 VEV' and '2 VEV'.
When David Brown decided to revive his Aston Martin works team for 1963, the need for John Ogier's quasi-works operation evaporated. By that time he was living in Kent, and his other interests extended to car styling, backing British designer David Ogle and becoming Chairman of Ogle Design Ltd. The company produced the Ogle 1000 de luxe Mini, followed by the Reliant Scimitar GTE, both being very well received.
During this time, Ogier also headed the 'Movement for True Industrial Democracy', fostering worker participation and profit-sharing in industry while encouraging trades unions to commit to moderation in return.
But tragically, on 15 August 1977, John Ogier - aged 57 – lost his life whilst driving home in his Reliant Scimitar from the Hickstead Equestrian Three-Day Event. His 'Daily Telegraph' obituary reported "...he is mourned not only by his large and devoted family but by his many friends and admirers drawn from a lifetime of varied interests and enthusiasms... John Ogier was not only unfailingly generous with the gift of his own friendship but was uniquely able to use his personality to forge friendship amongst others". Here was a popular perfectionist, with a brimful life forever associated with the great Aston Martin marque.
STEPHEN ARCHER – AN APPRECIATION OF THE MP209 ZAGATO
In the process of researching a book there is usually a golden nugget to be found. During research for the Palawan Zagato book 22 years ago, the emergence of the full 'MP209' Project Zagato story was that exciting nugget. Until then, no one had stopped to really look at the three cars to consider just how special they are under the skin. Certainly the difference in these cars from standard is profound.
"No two Zagatos are the same" goes the refrain but this is only true up to a point. Most of the cars have 'had a life' and had some restoration at various stages leading to individuality increasing with the passing of time. In truth, there are really only three 'standard' designs of DB4GT Zagato. The most obviously distinctive types are the MP209 cars but just how and why are they so distinctive?
In 1961 it was clear to Aston Martin that to take on Ferrari some weight would need to be removed from the standard Zagato. The design team under Ted Cutting set to work on creating a new chassis that ditched the platform design of the DB4GT and instead took its strength from box sections. The engine bay was devoid of any steel panel work and light aluminium paneling featured throughout the car where gaps needed filling such as the bulkheads and floor. Quick lift jacking points were standard.
The rear suspension had polished components and telescopic dampers from the outset. The front was also made of race prepared components and had an adjustable roll centre in a way that the DB4GT never could. This was a very track focused chassis and was super light. The thinking for racing bodies back in 1962 was that tails should be high to minimize lift and noses long and low to maximize smooth air penetration. Zagato were given the task of making these changes to the standard design. The car featured a longer nose; smaller and lower headlight apertures; a wider and lower front grill with the sidelights mounted inside the grill. They also had prominent, large air scoops to feed the oil cooler and front brake ducts. The rear window was many degrees shallower in angle and the tail was higher and a little longer. Door windows were no longer lifting but were Perspex sliding. The interior was purposeful competition style with some Hardura trim but not much else. The original gearboxes had magnesium casings and they even tried a magnesium block but in the end settled for magnesium castings on the engine, which was enlarged to 3.8-litres. The exact same engine as in DP214.
To underline the intent of Aston Martin the three cars were supplied to decent teams. John Coombs in England, Jean Kerguen in France and John Ogier. The MP209 that went to Ogier was almost certainly destined for his hands from early in 1962 but it took the crash of the first 2 VEV for the transaction to be consummated.
It is hard to overstate how special, exciting and beautiful these three MP209 cars are. A combination of the exotic charm of Zagato's design with the pure racing intent from Aston Martin for these cars bestows upon them a unique status. Having driven 2 VEV and numerous Zagatos and GTs; this car stands out as noticeably light, sharp and of quick response. It feels more akin to DP214 than a standard Zagato. It has that poise and single-minded purpose with minimal compromise. It's a car that encourages the driver to push on a bit because it is designed for pace and distance.
It was designed and built to perform a task and its capability says a lot of the skill of the Aston Martin engineers.
I want one!
Aston Martin author and historian
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This shortcoming persuaded David Brown finally to withdraw from full-time works racing team participation for 1961-62. To fill the gap, he and his legendary racing manager John Wyer encouraged marque-enthusiast John Ogier to campaign one ex-works DBR1 sports-racing car, plus the 1960 'Lightweight' DB4GT Coupes' 17 TVX' and '18 TVX'. And in 1961 these twin DB4GTs were supplemented by a pair of brand-new Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato Coupes – enabling Ogier's Essex Racing Stable to field Feltham's latest and finest on the factory's behalf. Back in 1940 Goodwood - as the Royal Air Force fighter aerodrome it then was - had been right in the forefront of the Battle of Britain. From its grass runways the contemporary best of British engineering had been the Spitfire and Hurricane fighter aircraft defending the democratic way of life. By 1961-62 in those RAC TT races, the best of British engineering was provided here at Goodwood by John Ogier's quasi-works team Aston Martin Zagatos, spearheaded by the 1962 iteration of '2 VEV' in its ultimate, virtual 'Project car' specification, the 'MP 209'. Into Spring, 1962, at the factory's request, Ogier then loaned '2 VEV' to the Belgian Equipe National Belge for Lucien Bianchi to drive in the 15-lap, 211km, Spa Grand Prix. The experienced Belgian was fantastically quick in the car during practice, started from pole and led from the start in the face of massed Ferrari opposition but he then crashed heavily at Les Combes corner, somersaulting over a barrier to fall upside-down into a roadside stone quarry. While he assured his pit crew the damage wasn't too bad and that he thought the car "might be driveable" after the race, it was in fact adjudged a write-off. It had been fully insured and was actually replaced entirely in July 1962 by the factory with the brand-new 'MP209' specification 'Super Lightweight' '2 VEV' now offered here by Bonhams. This replacement car's revised Zagato body shape offered improved aerodynamic performance. Its lightweight chassis was a completely redesigned box-section ladder frame - its suspension featured highly-polished front wishbones, and the engine was a 3.8-litre twin-overhead camshaft straight six-cylinder unit instead of the initial 1960-61 version's 3.7-litre. This engine featured many parts in cast magnesium. Only three such 'MP209' Zagatos would be built by Aston Martin, each one of them no less than an incredible 507lbs lighter than the standard production DB4GT, and 300lbs lighter than the standard Zagato... Most significantly, '2 VEV's new 'MP209' chassis would prove to be prototype-work for what would emerge as the revived Aston Martin works team's Project 214 Coupe design for 1963. Much of Project 214's DNA can be traced to this trio of 1962 'MP209' super-lightweight Zagatos and consequently, John Ogier's 1962 '2 VEV' – as now offered here - was actually a far more advanced car than its 1961 predecessor. Ogier then entered both the old-style '1 VEV' and this very latest MP209 Super Lightweight '2 VEV' in the year's RAC Tourist Trophy race back at Goodwood on August 18, 1962. In fact the Aston Martin was quickly repaired, and on October 21, 1962, in the Paris 1,000Kms at Montlhery, Clark ran fifth in '2 VEV' – featuring deafeningly amongst the leading group before a spin, which lost him six places. He then soared back into second position before handing over to co-driver John Whitmore only for the engine to hole a piston after two more brief laps. He owned '2 VEV' for a little over two years, and campaigned the car regularly in UK club events. He fitted it with 15-inch diameter wheels instead of the original 16-inch in order to use wider tyres. The car proved very reliable, and Cussons achieved a number of wins at Silverstone, Oulton Park, in the AMOC's Wiscombe hill climb and at the 1970 750 MC's Six-Hour Relay Race. In June 1971 he returned '0183/R' to Aston Martin where much work was undertaken, including an engine rebuild before selling the car to prominent Club racer Roger St John Hart. So here we offer an incredibly rare and important motor car that would provide any great collection with a truly enviable figurehead. This is one of only three very special MP209 'Super Lightweight' examples manufactured during this golden era by Britain's most significant GT car manufacturer – and the only quasi-works MP209. We rarely use the investment word, but '2 VEV' has not only been an integral and much loved family member for the past 47 years, but a fine investment too.