Vale Bill Buckle OAM 1926-2023
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Vale Bill Buckle OAM 1926-2023

By Shannons - 12 May 2023

The Shannons Club was saddened to hear of the recent passing of prominent Australian motor industry identity Bill Buckle, who among many career highlights was creator of the much-loved Goggomobil Dart that is a Shannons Insurance icon. He was 96.

Buckle created the tiny and irresistibly charming sports car in 1959, after securing Australian distribution rights for the German-made Goggomobil brand of microcars and vans.

To ensure affordable pricing, he combined the Bavarian marque’s imported chassis and drivetrain components with locally-made fiberglass bodies. Buckle had previously perfected this manufacturing process during low-volume production of his sporty and widely-acclaimed 2.5 Coupe based on Ford Zephyr mechanicals.

Australian Goggomobil production commenced with fiberglass copies of the marque’s sedans, coupes and commercial vans, but sales shifted up a gear when Buckle launched the Dart featuring an attractive fiberglass body that he personally designed.

(Photo: Fairfax Archives)

Less than three metres in length and powered by a tiny but willing twin-cylinder two-stroke engine mounted behind the cosy two-seater cockpit, the Dart was affordably priced, had good build quality and was pure fun to drive.

Buckle’s small production line struggled to meet demand. Even so, with total production of around 5,000 Goggomobils, of which more than 700 were Darts, his burgeoning car-manufacturing venture fell victim to the arrival of BMC’s innovative Mini and an economic recession in the early 1960s.

In the 1990s, Goggomobil enjoyed an unexpected revival when Scottish-born actor Tommy Dysart (who sadly passed in 2022) appeared in a hit TV commercial in which he phoned numerous workshops seeking a repair for his Goggomobil “not the Dart” sedan.

In the new millennium, Dysart’s Goggo-loving persona and the Dart were adopted by Shannons Insurance and have since become hallmarks of the brand and an enduring legacy of Buckle’s unique creation.

(Photo: Fairfax Archives)

However, bringing Goggomobil to Australia was only one of many career achievements. He followed in his father’s footsteps in becoming a very successful multi-franchise car dealer, after establishing Bill Buckle Autos in 1961 and showing considerable foresight by soon securing a franchise for a then little-known Japanese marque called Toyota.

He established another thriving business in the 1960s called Bill Buckle Auto Conversions specialising in quality RHD conversions of prestige US Ford and GM imports. He also invented a fastback body conversion for the Mini (Mini Monaco) and expanded into sunroof and air-conditioning installations including creation of an award-winning sportsroof design.

Buckle was also a talented racing driver, enjoying great success in his 2.5 Coupe and competing five times in the Bathurst 500 in which he scored best results of one second and two third placings in class. He was also prominent in the world of yachting and awarded an OAM in 2014. To Bill’s family and many friends, the Shannons Club extends its sincere condolences.

He achieved so much and his legacy, particularly the Goggomobil Dart, will live on.