Historic Car Brands
Buckle Motors was founded in 1927, in Sydney, by William ‘Bill’ Buckle Snr. The Sydney Northern Beaches based company is now in its third generation of family ownership.
In 1927, Buckle Motors was the sole Triumph and Talbot dealership for those brands in New South Wales. Buckle had previously been an Amilcar salesman in Melbourne.
The Sydney dealership subsequently acquired the New South Wales franchises for Citroën, Armstrong Siddeley and DeSoto. In 1947, Bill Buckle Snr died causing Bill Buckle the younger to enter the family business.
In 1952, Bill Buckle travelled to England. At the 1953 London Motor Show he discovered fibreglass-bodied sports cars and a plastic sports car body on display. He was impressed with the concept, if not the execution, that he reckoned Australian tradies could better.
After his return to Australia, Buckle persuaded the company’s other directors to allow the development and construction of a unique fibreglass-bodied sports car.
The body was sculpted in plaster and used to make the moulds for production bodywork.
A prototype roadster was ready in mid-1955, built around Ford Zephyr components. Bill Buckle checked out the Holden engine as well, but GMH wouldn’t sell it to him.
The Buckle car featured a box-chassis frame, designed by then unknown mechanic Ron Tauranac, who later became the genius behind Brabham’s Formula 1 cars.
The Buckle had transverse leaf spring front suspension and a leaf-sprung Ford rear axle.
After testing and minor design changes, the finished vehicle was first manufactured in June 1957 as the Buckle 2.5 Litre, in a factory in Punchbowl, New South Wales.
With a weight of only 865kg and a top speed of 160 km/h, the little coupe proved successful in racing and hill-climb events and held many records.
Sixteen of the twenty-plus Buckles built competed in motor sport and Dick Newell’s car took victory in the 1963 New South Wales GT Championship.
A special Buckle (Body#93-883) was raced by Bill Buckle himself in 1960–1961. It featured a lightweight body, a tubular chassis, a Raymond Mays-developed cylinder head and three SU carburetors.
The Buckle 2.5 Litre was a better looking and better performing sports car than anything then coming out of the UK and it had a bigger boot and fuel tank. However, selling a low-volume car against the Big Boys proved difficult.
A different manufacturing opportunity arose when Bill Buckle realised that Australia’s import taxes could be substantially reduced if a rolling chassis was imported and locally bodied, instead of importing a complete vehicle.
Goggomobil sedan – Lothar Spurzem
In 1958 Buckle traveled to Dingolfing, Bavaria to discuss with Hans Glas the manufacture of Goggomobil vehicles in Australia. An agreement was reached in which the chassis, engine and running gear would be imported and the fibreglass bodies would be manufactured in Australia, at the Punchbowl factory.
A few factory-built vehicles, with steel bodywork, were initially imported and fibreglass moulds were taken from them.
1960 Goggomobil Carryall – SV1Ambo
The Buckle Goggomobil sedans were almost identical to their German counterparts, but the exception was Buckle’s fibreglass Goggomobil Transporter equivalent, known as the Carryall. The Australian bodywork was more rounded and better styled, with a side-mounted roller-door for loading. The Carryall shared its chassis with the Dart.
Goggomobil Dart – Stephan Foskett
From 1959 to 1961 Buckle Motors produced around 700 fibreglass-bodied Goggomobil Dart, two-seater sports cars that were based on the Goggomobil Coupe.
The early models had no doors and were powered by a 293cc two-stroke engine. Later models featured small suicide doors, a hardtop and a 400cc engine. Nowadays the Goggomobil Dart remains as an iconic Australian vehicle.
The Goggomobil Dart is mentioned in the 1990s Yellow Pages ad in which Tommy Dysart exclaims the famous line: “G, O, G, G, O… No! No! Not the Dart!”
Historic Vehicles’ Allan Whiting can well remember his first drive in a Dart, when the very attractive girl across the road from his parents’ house bought a Dart and needed some instruction on operating the gearbox. The shift pattern was sideways across the gate, east-west, not north-south.
The demonstration drive was going quite well until Whiting flicked the little car into a tight right hander and it promptly swapped ends without warning: the handling quirks of rearward weight bias and swing-axle rear suspension were revealed to him!
Around 5000 Goggomobil models were produced by Buckle Motors and the company also began to sell Borgward, Goliath, Lloyd-Hartnett, Hillman and Humber vehicles.
In 1961, some of Buckle’s business was purchased by Hong Kong investors and in 1963 Bill Buckle created Bill Buckle Auto Conversions, specialising in left-hand-drive to right-hand-drive conversions of American vehicles.
1966 Morris Mini Cooper S Monaco – Jeremy
In 1966 Buckle produced the Mini Monaco, converted from the standard, Australian-built Mini, with a lower roofline and stylish fast-back rear bodywork. Costing $400, the conversion replaced the original roof with a lower, sleeker, fibreglass lid that also reduced the weight of the vehicle.
This more aerodynamic Mini was 100mm shorter than the standard model. A $200 options package made the interior more luxurious. Around 30 Mini Monacos were converted in 1966-67, with the majority being based on the Mini Cooper S.
From that time, Buckle Motors has concentrated on its car dealerships.
Now well into his 90s, Bill Buckle is a regular visitor at an annual ‘old racers and journos’ lunch held every February in Sydney. Another regular is Australian racing legend, Colin Bond.