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Australia Day honour for Bill Buckle

Buckle up: Bill Buckle driving a 1959 Buckle Coupe that he designed and built – one of only 24 ever made. He is pictured here at the 2013 Concours d’Elegance Prestige Oblige in Sydney.

Veteran car designer, dealer Bill Buckle receives OAM in 2014 Australia Day Honours

General News logo30 Jan 2014

By TERRY MARTIN

LEGENDARY Australian car industry identity Bill Buckle was this week awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for service to the motor vehicle industry as a designer and retailer.

The founder and proprietor of the multi-franchise Bill Buckle Autos in Sydney, Mr Buckle’s influence has been felt across various sectors of the industry, including sales, design and research and development, especially in the use of composite materials and fibreglass in the construction of vehicles.

He designed and built the fibreglass-bodied Buckle Coupe in 1955 – only 24 of which were produced – and also manufactured and assembled other fibreglass-bodied vehicles from imported mechanical parts, including the celebrated Goggomobil Dart, a two-seater roadster that was also designed by Mr Buckle.

Under the Auto Sun and Air division of the company set up in 1971, Mr Buckle also penned the glass ‘Sportsroof’ that was licenced and patented in several markets overseas and for which he received an Australian Design Award in 1977.

Although Bill Buckle Autos was formed in 1961, Buckle Motors was founded by his father, Bill (WG) Buckle, in William Street, Sydney, starting with Triumph and Talbot franchises and subsequently taking on Armstrong Siddeley, DeSoto (part of Chrysler Corporation) and, in 1949, Citroen.

Just as his father was a keen motor racing driver, Mr Buckle (WF) was heavily involved in motorsport during the 1950s in Australia and the UK – picking up manufacturing experience along the way by working at the Citroen factory in England – and in 1954 began work on the lightweight, fibreglass-bodied Buckle Coupe using Ford Zephyr components.

According to the company, the Buckle Coupe went on to hold every hill-climb and lap record for the GT class at circuits along the east coast of Australia, including those at Bathurst, Orange, Catalina Park, Sandown and Lowood.

In 1958, Mr Buckle travelled to Dingolfing in Bavaria and convinced Hans Glas that he could produce fibreglass bodies for Goggomobil cars, and obtained the rights for Australia. About 5000 cars were subsequently assembled in various body styles including the Dart, which Mr Buckle designed himself.

During this time, the company also distributed Borgward, Goliath, Lloyd Hartnett, Hillman and Humber vehicles. It was then bought by Hong Kong interests in 1961, leading Mr Buckle to establish Bill Buckle Autos trading in used cars on Parramatta Road.

Before long, the company established a right-hand-drive conversion division in Brookvale, on Sydney’s northern beaches, and until about 1967 converted and sold a range of American cars including Buicks, Cadillacs, Lincolns, Mustangs, Thunderbirds, Corvettes, Firebirds and Camaros.

During that period, the company took on the Toyota franchise in 1964 – a move that made Mr Buckle one of the first dealers of Japanese cars in Australia, selling the Tiara, Crown and 700, with sales volume of between five or 10 vehicles a month.

By 1975 that had grown to about 150 a month, with the dealership expanding its facilities in Brookvale as the Japanese brand’s popularity increased.

Over the years, the Bill Buckle Group has added other franchises – Subaru (1994), Volkswagen (2004) and Jaguar and Land Rover (2013). The company was acquired by AP Eagers in 2008.

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