John Lionel Eardley Ogier goes under the radar these days but deserves recognition for his huge contribution to motorsport and the automotive industry in general. One thing is certain despite his importance, information is hard to come by but John Ogier sure was a fascinating man, with an amazing story.

He was born in India on October 23, 1921, but was educated at St Edward’s School, Oxford. He joined the Army in 1938 when it became obvious that war with Germany was imminent and was posted to the Queen’s Own Hussars, a regiment with Sir Winston Churchill as honorary Colonel-in-Chief.

He was evacuated from Dunkirk and served with distinction throughout the rest of the war rising to the rank of captain and serving as a tank section commander. He fought gallantly in North Africa at El Alamein … and he won the Military Cross for gallantry during fierce fighting in Italy. It’s said that he rescued his commanding officer while under heavy fire despite being wounded himself. He was further mentioned several times in dispatches. Clearly a very brave man.

When he recovered from his injuries, he was appointed personal assistant to Sir Winston Churchill, whom he clearly impressed as when hostilities were over, he offered him the job of running his Chartwell Estate in Kent for £250 a year (about £7700, today) although Ogier was an ambitious man and had business plans of his own.

Ogier settled in East Hanningfield, Essex (Rough Hill Farm, to be exact) where he became a poultry farmer, starting his business with a £15,000 loan from his father in 1946 (a massive amount of money back then and equivalent to about £315,755, today!). The term chicken farmer doesn’t really convey the scale of his operation.

He was one of the first to grasp the American ‘broiler’ chicken farming method which followed the ‘intensive farming’ method. Sure, it’s frowned upon these days but back in the fifties, it enabled the man in the street to eat chicken which until then was considered a luxury item. So successful was Ogier’s business that he paid his father back his money within two years!

He later became a director of Buxted Chickens, founded in 1957 in the village of the same name in East Sussex by ex-Battle of Britain pilot, Antony Fisher. Ogier was a partner in the business with Fisher and a chap called Guy Reed. For many years Buxted was a very well-known brand in the UK selling chicken in tins in jelly on the shelves and in the chillers and freezers of supermarkets up and down the land. At its height, Buxted Chickens were probably processing getting on for 25 million birds a year. By 1964 it was said to have been worth £7m (about £99m, today allowing for inflation) and processing 500,000 chickens per week!

Ogier was very interested in motorsport and in 1952 he bought and began racing a Jaguar XK120, while he was good friends with John Tojeiro, first as a customer and then becoming a partner in the operation. He hung up his own crash helmet having endured a very badly broken leg at the Stapleford hillclimb in Essex in October 1957. The straw bales lining the track acted as a launch pad for the Tojeiro-Jaguar which barrel-rolled several times, ejecting Ogier while doing so. He was lucky to survive that one onlooker said.

Tojeiro told Motor Sport magazine about Ogier in 1985: “John always told me that there was more money if it was needed, but I never liked to ask him for it!”

Another good friend was renowned landscape artist Cavendish Morton and although pleased with the way Tojeiro models handled and performed he felt that the bodies needed to be more stylish. Therefore, he engaged the services of landscape artist Morton whose watercolour paintings of various Tojeiros became the factory blueprints for the styling department!

When David Murray was starting Ecurie Ecosse he was helped by Ogier who lent him his own Tojeiro-Jaguar to race. Ogier became an entrant in 1960 founding the Essex Racing Stable team. A funny name maybe, but not when you consider that the team was based in a stable building attached to his house, which is where he and his wife, Wymond raised their four children. He’d met his South African-born wife at the Cairo Yacht Club while on leave at the end of the war, incidentally.

He bought a secondhand Cooper T45 and a T51 for Formula Two (driven by Sir John Whitmore and Tony Maggs) and was regarded as a semi-works aka ‘quasi’ Aston Martin’s David Brown withdrew his team from motorsport after securing the FIA World Sports Car Championship in 1959. Ogier thought it was the right thing to do to pick up the mantle and he soon bought the very famous ‘1 VEV’ and ‘2 VEV’ Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagatos, a pair of DB4 GTs (standard Aston models) and a DBR1 (an old works car from 1957).

‘1 VEV’ and ‘2 VEV’ have gone on to be regarded as incredibly rare and important cars not just to Aston Martin but to motorsport in general. Indeed, when it was sold by Bonhams at their Goodwood auction in 2018 ‘2 VEV’ became one of the most valuable British cars ever sold at auction. The hammer came down at £10.1m! Of the nineteen, DB4 GT Zagatos built it is one of only three built to the ultra-lightweight ‘DP209’ specification.

The duo were the contemporaries of cars such as the Ferrari 250GT SWB and Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta and have gone on to enjoy massive success in historic motorsport.

A lineup of cars like that called for some top drivers and Ogier didn’t compromise there, either. Names such as Roy Salvadori, Jim Clark, Bruce McLaren and Lucien Bianchi all raced for Essex Racing Stable at various times. Having said that the only race the team won was in a 1961 British GP support race.

‘2 VEV’ was involved in what could well be the most expensive circuit crash ever, with the smash at Goodwood in 1962 also accounting for a 250 SWB and a 250 GTO. The team packed up that same year, mainly due to David Brown reviving his Aston Martin works team thus negating the need for Ogier’s squad. All was not lost, however, as other things were requiring Ogier’s attention.

His friend David Ogle was tragically killed in a road accident and Sir John became chairman at David Ogle Associates (changing the name to Ogle Design) where he steadied the ship and worked closely with managing director, Tom Karen.

Another friend and Essex neighbour, Sir John Whitmore also came on board as a director. This coincided with an important period in Ogle’s history and would see the launch of the Raleigh Chopper, iconic Ogle SX1000 and Reliant Scimitar not to mention the Bond Bug.

Helena Rubenstein managing director, Boris Forter had commissioned David Ogle to design a car for him, which was based on Daimler Dart … and it was John Ogier who saw the project through to completion. The car was known as the Ogle SX250 (‘SX’ stood for ‘Essex’, incidentally). Forter was very pleased and ordered another for his girlfriend! That car would form the basis of the Reliant Scimitar GT, of course.

Ogier has been described as a fascinating man, a true patriot and a serial entrepreneur while he was also known for his philanthropy and for being a champion of British industry.

When running his poultry businesses, he led the ‘Movement for True Industrial Democracy’ which encouraged employee profit-sharing and also encouraged trade unions to be more moderate.

Sadly, Ogier’s story ended on August 15, 1977, when he was driving home (he and Wymond had moved to the Sevenoaks area of Kent in 1975) from the Hickstead three-day Show Jumping Derby Meeting and was tragically killed in a road accident in his Reliant Scimitar – he was just 56 years old.

His ‘Daily Telegraph’ obituary probably summed him up beautifully thus: “… 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.”