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It’s no secret that we here on ViaRETRO all have quite a profound fascination with the various Italian carrozzeria of yesteryear. Truth be told, I believe most classic car enthusiasts do. However, we mustn’t forget that the Italians certainly did not have sole rights on this exquisite automotive artform.

No doubt spurred on by my recent acquisition of a Reliant Scimitar SE6a, I found myself diving into the connection between the Reliant Motor Company and one such British version of a carrozzeria, Ogle Design. This particular designhouse was founded in Hertfordshire by David Ogle back in 1954. In those early days of the company, there were no ties with the automotive industry, and they instead made a living designing various industrial and household products.

The Ogle SX1000 was no doubt one of the most accomplished Mini-based sportscars of its period. With only 69 cars produced, they are quite coveted among enthusiasts and collectors today.

However, only five years after David Ogle established the company, they dived into their first automotive design with a four-seater fibreglass coupé body for the Riley One-Point-Five chassis and drivetrain. It was perhaps slightly awkward looking, but still a brave first attempt. Then came the much more successful Mini-based Ogle SX1000 which the company put into full production themselves in 1961. Sadly, it was behind the wheel of one of his own SX1000’s that David Ogle met his demise as he collided with a lorry in May 1962. Production of the SX1000 was ceased and Tom Karen stepped in as Managing Director and Chief Designer of Ogle Design. This is also where the link with Reliant was established when Tom Karen tweaked David Ogle’s last design, the Ogle Daimler SX250, in order to create the Scimitar GT SE4 coupé in 1964 and thereafter the Scimitar GTE SE5 shooting brake in 1968.

The elegant 1964 Reliant Scimitar GT established a long-lasting link between Ogle Design and the Reliant Motor Company.

Of course all of that is probably common knowledge to many enthusiasts, as it was to me. But then my search unravelled a fastback design which I had never previously come across. The front half of the car was very familiar though, and I’m sure diehard Ford enthusiasts will have come across this odd creation. It’s an intriguing design no doubt!

Apparently, Stirling Moss had approached Ogle Design in the early sixties as he wanted a bespoke fastback for his personal use. He set out some guidelines for what he required which essentially was a four-seater GT-car which struck a balance between performance, comfort and economy. It needed to carry four adults and all their luggage in comfort and decent speed on 500-mile day trips, while still retaining reasonable fuel economy and purchase price. Moss also insisted that it should be based on a proven production car to make servicing simpler. David Ogle initiated the design concept using a Mk1 Ford Cortina 1500GT – all of which was obviously interrupted shortly after with his death in 1962. After the restructure of Ogle Design, Tom Karen took up Moss’ request again. However, by this time Ogle Design had stopped their own production of cars, so once the design was finalised with Moss’ accept, actually the responsibility of converting the sketches into actual metalwork was handed over to Harold Radford Coachbuilders in London.

The finished Ogle Cortina GT was first presented to the public by Stirling Moss himself at the 1963 Earls Court Motor Show. After the show, it was registered “SM 7” and used by personally by Moss for a number of years. Besides the bespoke fastback bodywork, the Radford-built Ogle Cortina GT featured multiple unique features such as:

  • Anodised aluminium grill incorporating built-in spot lights.
  • Opening quarter windows, front and rear.
  • Chromium window frames.
  • Rear screen cleaned by wide sweep wiper controlled from fascia.
  • Increased capacity fuel tank.
  • Webasto sliding roof.
  • Full instrumentation including – speedometer, tachometer, ammeter, fuel gauge, oil pressure gauge, water temperature gauge.
  • Electric winding windows.
  • Heated Triplex rear screen (believed to be the first time Triplex and Ogle worked together – the start of a long relationship).
  • Duralumin steering wheel with padded leather rim.
  • Fully adjustable, fully reclining front seats.
  • Centre console unit with concealed compartment.
  • Individual rear seats with centre console and concealed compartment.
  • Radio with speakers front and rear and automatic aerial.
  • Deep pile carpets front and rear.

For the Earls Court Motor Show, Radford produced a sales brochure and attempted marketing the Ogle Cortina GT for low-volume production. However, only one other example was built.

Amazingly though, both examples are accounted for today! The first car which belonged to Stirling Moss apparently still resides somewhere in London, though in a somewhat derelict state and requiring a full restoration. The second car was discovered in similar condition in the Philippines of all places. It had been parked up in a yard full of tired old classic cars, but was rescued and has since been put through a meticulous restoration to concours condition. Interestingly, this second Ogle Cortina GT even has a Lotus twincam under its bonnet, though it is uncertain whether it was delivered like that from new.

But much as the Ogle Cortina GT is undeniably both rare, interesting and intriguing, the question remains: Is it pretty? Needless to say, beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, but to me at least, the answer is: No! The rear appears heavy-handed, cumbersome and somewhat at odds with the Mk1 Cortina’s crisp styling which is retained forward of the B-pillar. Even so, I love that these two designer Cortina’s were created by Ogle, and even more so that they both still exist. But that’s just me. What say our well-informed ViaRETRO readers?

 

3 Responses

  1. Tony Wawryk

    What an interesting story! Never heard of this car before, and how the one actually owned by the great Stirling Moss can be left languishing in some nondescript garage is baffling to me.
    As for Anders’ question, is it pretty, I have to agree with him – it’s too compromised, something it has in common with a lot of saloon-based coupés compared to coachbuilt cars. The back end looks particularly clumsy. Nevertheless, with only two built, and both surviving, they’re a great piece of motoring history, especially the Moss car.
    The SM7 number plate, incidentally, is now on an Aston Martin Cygnet (or if you prefer, a blinged-up Toyota iQ), which just seems wrong…

    Reply
  2. jakob356

    Great story.
    The way the rear hatch follows the curves of the rear lights, only on a too big distance, is just as bad as the front doors on a Citroën HY van!
    And with a lot of body over the standard small wheels and wheelarches, it looks as “unsporty” as an Opel from the same decade. It is enhanced by the rear side windows sweeping upwards, instead of downwards on the sedan.
    But I love the beautiful italian looking front.

    Reply
  3. Anders Bilidt

    @jakob356, your assessment of how they got the rear wrong on the Ogle Cortina is smack on in my opinion. Amusingly, I also agree with you that the very subtle changes they applied to the front actually worked wonders to what was already a good and clean design. On the whole though, there is no doubt in my mind that the stock two-door Cortina saloon is a much more coherent design. Still, do to the history and rarity, I obviously find the Ogle interesting.

    @tony-wawryk, the reason that SM7 plate is now on a Cygnet, is because Sterling gifted that car to his wife…

    Reply

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