Motors new Punchbowl factory being built in the mid 1950s
birth place of the Buckle Coupe and the Goggo
Originally Buckle Motors started selling new Amilcars in
Melbourne around 1924.
Then came to Sydney were they took on the
new car dealerships of Triumph, Talbot, Armstrong Siddley, De Soto
(1934), Citroen (1949), Goliath -Hansa, Borgward, Hillman,
Bill Buckle in 1955 built a Buckle Convertable with a
detachable roof, then in 1957 released the first production Buckle
After this he made the bodies and assembled the German
designed Goggomobil sedan, coupe & van..
His pride and joy
Goggo was the Dart sportscar which he designed and built many of
Next came the Right Hand Drive Conversion company which
converted 100's of American cars LHD to RHD.
And in Bill's spare
time he built up one of Australia's top Toyota Dealership. Bill
Buckle Toyota at Brookvale.
Today (2012) Bill still enjoys his
cars and boats.
Interview with Bill
Buckle, by Athol Yeomans for Wheels Magazine, August,
Local Firm Becomes Worlds
Second Biggest Fibreglass Car Producer
FIBREGLASS - FIVE TIMES
Here is Bill Buckle's own story of how he and his team
got fibreglass cars out the the books and onto the road.
The people responsible, Buckle Motors of Sydney, NSW,
are now, in fact, the largest outfit of its kind in the world,
bar one - Chevrolet's plastic Corvette plant. Other people
produce plastic cars, in ones and twos. Plenty of people say
they intend to, in larger quantities. Somehow, they seem to get
bogged down and they never get into production. But Buckles
have overcome the fantastic troubles and difficulties and have, as
they say about these things, 'arrived'.
Like most successful motoring ventures, the fibreglass
idea started as nothing much more than wishful thinking by the
general manager, W. Lowrie, and Bill Buckle, son of the late William
Buckle, who founded the show in the thirties. The wishful
thinking was for a really good Australian sports car which would
offer genuine, as opposed to theoretical, performance, with a few
practical things like ample luggage accommodation thrown in.
Our firm, Buckle Motors Pty Ltd., are old-established
motor distributors. We have sold Citroen, Armstrong-Siddley and
De Soto cars and trucks in the past, all usccessful and
well-established names. Our fibreglass venture had not even
been thought about, although the idea of a good local sports car had
been discussed on many occasions.
Then I went abroad to learn more about the motor
business, and in 1953 saw what was then a complete novelty - a
plastic body at the London Motor Show. It interested me
straight away because, although I felt we could design and build a
good sports car chassis, the body would be a problem. Hand-made
aluminium bodies would be far too expensive on a series production
basis, and unless it was a series-production car it wouldn't be of
much use commercially. Steel bodies were right out from the
word go because of cost. A set of dies, from which a steel
body is pressed, certainly wouldn't cost less than $500,000
and if the production department were given their head they could
Anyway, fibreglass seemed to be the key to our
dream. I found out all I could about the techniques and came
back to Australia with the intention of persuading the other
directors of the firm to give me the green light. I persuaded
them all right, but there have been times since when I think it
might have been better if they had cut my throat instead.
However, everybody has their problems. Most of 1954 and 1955
went into designing our prototype sports car.
Fortunately, I had driven in races and trials a lot in
Citroens and from my own experiences and those of other drivers, I
knew what was wanted - a closed car with comfort and luggage room,
plus real performance and first-class handling. Like the
production car, the prototype met these demands with Ford
Zephyr mechanical components, a straight-rail chassis, live rear
axle and independent front suspension, plus the all-important
fibreglass body - our first.
We made it by doing some rough sketches on paper, then
building a little model of what our sketches looked like, and from
that building a full-scale plaster of paris model of the car.
You may think it sounds fairly straightforward. So did we,
until we tried. However, after spending several thousand man
hours on the job we knew differently. Firstly, we had to get a
shape which looked pretty right. Then we had to combine that
with an envelope to contain people, luggage, engine and other
mechancical parts. We had to arrange it so that there was room
to get at all the components, and that a mechanic wouldn't have to
take the car to pieces merely to make a simple adjustment - one of
the bugbears of limited-production cars. So we changed and
altered and covered ourselves and the shop liberally with plaster of
The first prototype was produced in the middle of
1955, after our first experience of fibreglass moulding. When the
model was finished, we covered it with release agent, so that the
plastic and fibreglass would not stick to the plaster, then built up
on it our mould, which is a negative impression of the finished car
- like a cake tin used to turn out a cake. The mould is made
of the same materials which go to form the finished body - polyester
resin - which comes in liquid form in tins, and fibreglass, which is
a loose mat-like material formed from thousands of finely-drawn
glass fibres. Glass in this form is immensely strong while
being soft and feathery to the touch.
To make the mould, a layer of resin was brushed on
over the finised plaster mock-up. While still tacky, a layer
of fibreglass mat is laid on it, with smaller pieces tucked in the
odd corners to cover the job evenly. Another layer of resin
was brushed on, followed by more fibreglass, and this proocedure was
repeated until the mould was thick enough and strong enough.
It was allowed to set hard, which takes only a few hours, and then
the plaster model was removed, in pieces, from inside
it. The plaster does not stick to the fibreglass because of
the covering of release agent.
Although the mould was quite hard, it was left for
several days while the curing process went on. Fibreglass
takes several weeks to attain its full strength, but it can be
worked in just a few hours after manufacture. Nowadays, to
accelerate the curing process, we use a heat-controlled oven where
the temperature is maintained at 150 degrees F.
As we expected, we had a lot of hand finishing work to
do on the mould - touching up where the mould was not quite perfect,
reinforcing it so that it would support the weight of the body
material which would be laid up in it.
From the outside, the mould didn't look much like a
car at all. The smoothly-finished surfaces were on the
inside. The mould itself was divided in several pieces,
so that the body shell could be made in one piece, leaving nothing
to add but the bonnet and doors. In this prototype, and in the
production car which followed, the floor, sides, tail and, in the
later car, the roof, were all in one piece.
After we got the mould right, we laid up the actual
car body inside it, repeating the procedure of alternate layers of
resin and fibreglass. Then, when this has cured, we unbolted
the external mould and laid bare our first fibreglass car.
It was a two-seated open car, similar in appearance to
the present Buckle. As soon as it was completed we began to
work out changes to its styling, but in the meantime we had a
tremendous amount of work to do on the chassis. No major
changes were made, but there was a lot of experimenting to do before
we passed it as satisfactory.
The chassis frame itself is made up of two
longitudinal members, 5 in. x 2 in. fully boxed and swept up over
the rear axle. The cross members number six in all, three
tubular and three square sections. The front suspension
is by a transverse leaf spring at the bottom and wishbones at the
top. As a safety measure the second leaf is wrapped around the
rubber-bushed lower swivel pin support, in case the main leaf
fails. In transverse leaf suspensions this allows the wheel to
Lever-action shock absorbers are fitted, primarily
because they fitted easily into the suspension layout, but also
because they enabled us to experiment with the valve settings
inside. The spring rate finally settled on was harder than
touring car springs, but not as hard, for instance, as the older
type of sports car such as the TC.
Rear suspension is by an ordinary live axle and leaf
springs. These are inclined towards the front of the car to
promote understeer. The engine and gearbox are
proprietary Ford Zephyr components, as is the back axle, brakes and
All up, the finished car weighs 17 cwt. with oil,
spare wheel and tools and a minimum amount of petrol in the
tank. Braking area is the same as the Ford Zephyr at 147 sq.
in. The brakes have always given excellent results.
Power is pretty well what the customer wants.
The standard Zephyr engine develops 86 b.h.p. on 7.8 to 1 (at
4,200 r.p.m.) Cars we have delivered fitted with the Raymond
Mays six-port heads and two carburettors develop 127 b.h.p. and with
overdrive fitted the car in this form will reach 120 miles an
hour. My own car obtained 128 m.p.h. The price of the
head adds 1,000 pounds to the price of 1800 pounds.
In competition the car has done well, the most recent
run being that of Clive Kane who, at his first ever hill climb was
within half a second of Geoghegan's best time in his Holden, which I
think everybody will admit is probably the fastest one there is.
But to get back to fibreglass ..... and its problems
and advantages. When we built the prototype we were able to
assess both sides of the story, and there is no doubt that it is a
very good material for car work. It is about half the weight,
strength for strength and size for size, as steel. Two men can
carry a Buckle body. Unlike steel, fibreglass does not
crumple, but bounces back into position. In fact, one of our
gimmicks was to pound the car with a tyre-setting hammer to show its
properties. If the blow is too severe for the material - as in
a bad crash - the fibreglass breaks, but will not lose its
shape. Repairs are made by patching the cracks with resin and
glassfibre. It is also a sound-deadening material, which saves
on insulation and reduces drumming.
The disadvantages are nil from the user's point of
view, but they give the manufacturer some headaches. We had
all sorts of difficulties learning the best way to get the best
finish. Early on we found that the pattern of fibreglass
showed through to the surface, and we also had trouble with little
air bubles marring the finish. Both these have been
By this time we felt confident enough to make up a
production car. Alterations to the styling were done by
modifying the original plaster mould, and a coupe top was
added. Our first production car was ready in June, 1957, and
they have been produced steadily ever since.
BUCKLE MOTORS NEW CAR
from 1924 to now
Sales Pty Ltd.
Buckle Motors Trading Company Pty Ltd.
Bill Buckle Toyota.
Buckle, Citroen, Armstrong Siddley, De
Soto cars & trucks, Goliath-Hansa, Goggomobil,
Hartlet, Borgward, Triumph, Talbot, Hillman, Humber, Toyota, Audi,
Here is some of the old
advertising from car magazines and newspapers