1962 Ogle SX1000; photo by Michael Johnson. Click image to enlarge
By Bill Vance
The British are famous for their cottage industry cars built in small quantities by enterprising enthusiasts. They use established hardware which they fit with fibreglass or metal bodies. Some like Lotus and Morgan became famous. Others produced as few as one prototype before disappearing.
One of the most interesting and attractive was the Ogle SX1000, based on British Motor Corporation Mini components. It was the brainchild of David Ogle of David Ogle Ltd. Industrial Design shop in Letchworth, Hertfordshire, north of London. Although consulting designers, not engineers, they produced a few very interesting cars, including the Ogle SX1000.
Ogle started in the car business in 1960 with the 2-plus-2 Ogle 1.5 coupe. It was based on Riley 1.5 driveline and suspension and had a multi-tube frame clothed in a fibreglass body. It was a slow seller and only seven were made.
Far more popular was the Ogle SX1000 coupe that came in 1962 using a BMC Mini platform and driveline. The tiny cross-engine, front drive, two-door Mini sedan introduced by BMC in 1959 would revolutionize automobile configuration and spawn many derivatives. Its four-wheel independent rubber cone type suspension was very compact, and although only 3,048 mm (10 ft) long with a 2,032 mm (80 in.) wheelbase, it carried four passengers and a reasonable amount of luggage.
Ogle began with a customer’s Mini which he stripped and strengthened, lowered the steering column and fitted with a fibreglass coupe body. The company was soon able to make arrangements with BMC to acquire mechanical components without bodies, although BMC stipulated that their relationship was strictly as vendor-customer. Ogle was not to advertise it as an Austin, Morris or Mini.
The Ogle SX1000 came first with the 848 cc BMC overhead valve A-series four but could be fitted with more powerful versions, right up to the 1,275 cc Cooper S which would surely turn it into a little tiger.
It was a tiny car with a wheelbase of 2,032 mm (80 in.). It was 3,353 mm (132 in.) long, 1,925 mm (58 in.) wide and 1,181 mm (46.5 in.) high. In spite of this the Ogle was a very attractive and carried its size well. Its weight of 669 kg (1,475 lb) was a little heavier than the Mini’s 608 (1,340).
Fit and finish were well executed and the interior was nicely appointed with two bucket seats and full instrumentation including a tachometer, all placed in front of the driver. There was a dished wood-rim steering wheel, and instead of the pockets found in the Mini’s doors the space housed a window winding mechanism, a welcome improvement over the Mini’s sliding windows.
Good visibility was provided by a curved one-piece windshield and generous windows including a large rear glass. This rear glass wasn’t hinged and there was no trunk lid so the fully carpeted luggage space behind the seats was accessed by tipping the passenger seat forward.
The interior was a snug fit for the two passengers and Ogle optimistically claimed that passengers could be carried in the back, but as one reviewer said, they would need to be legless.
A good driving range was assured by fuel economy of up to 7 L/100 km (40 mpg) and a 45 litre fuel tank rather than the Mini’s 27. Spirited driving could, of course, degrade economy significantly.
Performance was good for such a small car, no doubt helped by its superior aerodynamics. A according to Canada Track & Traffic magazine (8/’62), the SX1000 with 997 cc engine sprinted to 96 km/h (60 mph) in 13.2 seconds and reached a top speed of 158 km/h (98 mph). The boxy 848 cc Mini took 27.0 seconds to reach 96 km/h (60 mph) and topped out at 121 km/h (75 mph) (Road & Track 3/’60).
David Ogle was killed in a motor accident in an SX1000 in 1962 but his colleagues carried on. From 1962 to ’64 total production of SX1000s reached 66, and a few were imported into Canada, of which CT&T’s tester was one of the first. Its $2,895 price was more than double that of a Mini.
After Ogle stopped building the SX1000 production was taken over by a Norman Fletcher of Walsall, Staffordshire, who revived it as the Fletcher GT, although few were produced.
Ogle made a couple more tries. It designed the V8-powered Ogle SX250 based on the Daimler SP250, but it didn’t reach production. The design was later used as the Reliant Scimitar. It also developed a Ford Cortina-based model but little came of it.
Ogle’s greatest automotive mark by far was the SX1000, although only 66 were built. It was a very attractive little coupe with a sturdy Mini soul, the essence of Britain’s cottage industry.