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Thread: Bucklers!

  1. #1

    Bucklers!

    Well, there was a suggestion of a Buckler thread, so here goes.
    It is necessary that readers remember that while I owned one “in the day” I did not actively compete, and all of what I submit is second hand.
    I am very much indebted to Kelvin Brown and Bruce Sutcliffe who have been instrumental in perpetuating the appeal of the marque. Without their efforts Bucklers would have faded into oblivion in New Zealand as just “funny old cars which the old guys played with”. In the UK there is an equally prolific researcher Brian Malin and I will be pinching plenty of his stuff (with approval)

    Buckler is actually very specific. It has nothing whatever to do with body styles, although the archetypal NZ Buckler 90 is clad most times with a de Joux fibreglass body. These bodies also appear on a number of other cars which are not Bucklers. In the day it was very desirable to call your Ford 10 special a Buckler, possibly like calling your Falcon GT an HO.

    Buckler was a chassis and front suspension system. It’s pretty much as simple as that. They were one of the first, if not the first, manufacturers of production multi-tube frames for the masses. They were a sort of kit car manufacturer in the 50s, although of course their first chassis were produced in reasonable numbers prior to 1950.

    The name comes from Derek Buckler. His base was in the area around Reading in the UK, indeed many publications refer to "Bucklers of Reading". His vision of producing a sports car began in 1945. He had well established criteria that never changed. It must be universal (be able to be used in all events from mud plug trials through to circuit racing”) cheap, reliable, have excellent road holding, good acceleration and be fuel efficient. Later on he realised as did almost everyone else, that designs needed to be more specialised.

    He was not happy with conventional, for the time, ladder chassis. His background in the aircraft industry led him to what he called “Multi tube frames”. Whilst not a true space frame, they are close. The English produced frames were manufactured from Chrome Moly tube of 1” and 1 5/8”tube, these sizes stayed from the first until the last cars! The use of this tube has contributed to the high survival rate, and professional restorers almost inevitably comment on the high quality of construction

  2. #2
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    Thank you Rhys. As the owner of the recreation of the second NZ Buckler known as the Blue Brick I am pleased that you have started a Buckler thread. Bucklers achieved a lot in this country and with drivers like Phil Kerr, Jim Palmer, Jim Boyd etc spending their early days in Bucklers they have played a big part in NZ racing history. It would be great if anyone who still has some unpublished Buckler photos to place them on here.

  3. #3
    Rhys- I used to know Bruce Sutcliffe in the 80s and early 90s.
    Do you know how his health and whereabouts currently

  4. #4
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    It was amazing how effective Bucklers were. Nigel Russell started at the front in a scratch race with Formula Juniors at Taupo and showed how effective Buckler made a car out of Ford 10 Components. The 1950s Blue Brick has an Elva OHV conversion 1172cc motor but still has a split axle Ford ten front end, three speed gearbox, Ford Ten cable brakes and Ford Ten transverse rear spring. In the end it was passed by the Juniors but put up a good fight against real racing cars. It does the standing quarter in 17.5 seconds and will hit 90 mph at Hampton Downs. Its a lot of fun.

  5. #5
    Here is my column for NZ Classic Car on Merv Mayo:


    Merv Mayo was something of a shooting star on the New Zealand motor racing scene in the mid-late ‘50s – he was there and then he wasn’t, good enough to be a finalist for the inaugural Driver to Europe scheme along with Bruce McLaren and Phil Kerr. Like the man who would become the McLaren team manager, Mayo is in no doubt that the result was a foregone conclusion – “We all knew Bruce would win but it was a privilege to be a finalist”. Mayo and his future wife Win did a lot of “outies” with the slightly younger McLaren and as Win recalls over half a century on “we all became close friends – he even let me drive his Austin Ulster once!”

    Mayo’s father was a motorcycle enthusiast but was adamant young Merv should stick to four wheels - “Dad was having some work done for him by Arthur Harris and noticed he was building a little Buckler and said ‘you should have a look at one of these’”. A talented engineer, Mayo set to work and on occasions would receive assistance from both McLaren and Kerr – “Sometimes Bruce and Phil got their hands dirty but as much as anything it was a case of picking brains and observing what we were doing”. In October 1956, Mayo registered the first Buckler Mk90 to race on New Zealand circuits, powered by a Ford 100E”.

    Mayo threw himself into hillclimbs (both sealed and loose metal) and gymkhanas – “these types of events were great to give you car control but a restively low speed”. Mayo also hit circuits and in no time was turning heads – “I’ll never forget Roly Levis telling me it was the fastest Ford powered sportscar in the country. I loved Levin and won many races there – it was my cup of tea.” For the 1957/58 season Mayo embarked on the South Island circuits traveling with the McLarens – “Ruth and Pop McLaren treated us like family”. Bruce had been confirmed as Driver to Europe on the evening of the Grand Prix in early January but Mayo had a chance to join his mate in an open wheeler.

    “Ron Frost badly damaged his Cooper at Levin and hurt his arm. He’d seen me drive and knew that I could fix a car. He was keen for the car to compete at Wigram the following weekend and asked if I would like to drive it – well of course the answer was ‘yes!’ but to get there I had to get the car rebuilt”.

    So how did it feel after the Buckler? “I said to Ron that it feels real quick but his response initially was ‘well not according to the times’ - eventually he said ‘I know – no windscreen’. Once we fitted a screen, the times improved.” The new combination finished an impressive fifth but Mayo believes it could have been even better – “The car was running low on oil- I was trying to indicate this to the pits but it was obvious they didn’t have any idea what I was trying to make out because when I stopped I had to tell them. I went back out and still finished fifth.”
    At one point Ron Roycroft in the big blue front-engined Ferrari went past and that fired him up – “I thought ‘I can beat that car’ and when Frost saw me drifting it later he said ‘He’s got it!’ and I guess I did”.

    He was back in the Buckler for Teretonga and the Dunedin street race. It was while in the deep-south that sponsorship was offered by BP to race in England. By this time Merv and Win were engaged and the decision was made to stay – “My father had offered me a partnership in the engineering company. Later in the year Win and I got married”. The Buckler was sold to Malcolm Gill, who would later become famous as a Lycoming driver, and the Mayos put the proceeds into a home.

    “Malcolm converted the brakes to hydrolics which it really needed”. Mayo may have stopped racing but the connections didn’t end. Although friendships with McLaren and Denny Hulme endured, it was with Jack Brabham that a special relationship developed – Win: “We had the whole family in the workshop scraping rust off Jack’s car one year”.

    Merv would mechanic for Brabham while Win acted as timekeeper. An exception to the connection with the Antipodeans was 1961 when Merv was asked to fly to Christchurch to work on the works Lotuses of Innes Ireland and Jimmy Clark – “I actually drove one of the racing cars (a full works 2.5-litre Lotus 18-Climax) out to circuit from the middle of town amongst the race traffic.”

    The Mayos have wonderful memories of that special time in the history of New Zealand motor sport – Win: “Merv learnt to never offer to carry Jack’s cabin luggage after picking up the bag once to discover half an engine in there”. The Mayo’s workshop became part of a regular arrangement for the Brabham team until the late 1960s by which time “…they all stopped coming”.

    By then the Mayos had become committed Jehovah’s Witnesses and to many contemporaries it seemed that the interest had evaporated. Nothing could be further from the truth – “I never miss a F1 race on TV”. There was a chance to share a saloon car in a long-distance race at Pukekohe and while there is no doubt Win would have been all for it, for Merv it was a case of all or nothing – it’s just the way he’s made and this single minded approach has seen him heavily involved in the construction of many Kingdom Halls, both here and abroad.

    There is little doubt this single minded approach, along with his engineering skills, would have served Merv Mayo well in racing because as Roly Levis recalls today – “he was a very fast driver”.

  6. #6
    Weekend Warrior PaulieG's Avatar
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    A couple of photos of Dad in his buckler. Restored it in 1990 and raced it hard for the last 20 odd years. Just in the process of giving her a bit of a birthday. (and maybe setting up for a new driver???)
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Oldfart View Post
    ...the archetypal NZ Buckler 90 is clad most times with a de Joux fibreglass body
    ...though they were known at the time as AMW bodies (from Australasian Motor Works)
    The other notable fibreglass body used on Bucklers was the Jarvie, as used on the Merv Mayo car, which is now I believe owned by the abovementioned Kelvin Brown

  8. #8
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  9. #9
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    These are the first 2 cars, re-united for possibly the first time in many years at Roycroft. Note that they proudly wear their Ohakea numbers.
    Oh it's great to see all this!
    In chronological order, ...
    The first cars which came to NZ were the Mark V(I), that is 5 or 6, the only difference being the wheelbase. This pattern is followed later on too, where the longer wheelbase is the number one larger, as we shall see. As these were largely built around the Ford 10 components there are 2 different torque tubes, one 2" longer than the other. (GeeBee you were going to measure yours before your "episode").
    In the photo post #8 those first 2 cars show as numbers 45 and 46. According to the English documents Arthur Harris was appointed as the first international distributor in 1950. I believe these 2 NZ cars to be Mark VI, however ownership papers which I have here show the first cars' chassis number as MkV 1. Only measuring will confirm.
    These cars have the multi tube frames even then. They were quite complex to build. In order to prove the strength and stiffness of the design a model 15" long and weighing 18 ounces was built from welding rods and supported on bricks. Customers were invited to stand on it and try to break it. Nobody succeeded. Sadly it went missing and is still much lamented.
    The bodies for the two NZ cars were done here, number 1, now in the hands of Tony Lowe has integral rear guards and the spare wheel carried horizontally in the tail, almost a rear bumper. The number 2 car, now known as the "Blue Brick" owned by GeeBee has been rebuilt and ironically has a change of body material, but as close to identical as it is possible to be.
    In the UK there were only 2 alloy bodied cars, the rest in GRP or fibreglass as we know it.
    BTW the dark blue MkVI showing it's nose is that of Graham (hope I got that right) Brayshaw, and is a later import. This car has been exceptionally well used, the true "universal" car of Dereks concept. It has a supercharged, water injected Ford 10/100e.
    Next will be the much more complex story of the 90s!
    Last edited by Oldfart; 08-19-2013 at 08:10 PM.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by David McKinney View Post
    ...though they were known at the time as AMW bodies (from Australasian Motor Works)
    The other notable fibreglass body used on Bucklers was the Jarvie, as used on the Merv Mayo car, which is now I believe owned by the abovementioned Kelvin Brown
    Agreed David, but not always AMW as Ferris finally got recognition and used his own name later in the "production". Yes, there were more than one Jarvie too. Kelvin has owned this car a number of times. Also a clubman style body!

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by John McKechnie View Post
    Rhys- I used to know Bruce Sutcliffe in the 80s and early 90s.
    Do you know how his health and whereabouts currently
    Still alive and kicking, in reasonable health and in the St Lukes area.

  12. #12
    Paulie, great to hear the car is getting a birthday. Will it stay like this or revert to a more period state?

  13. #13
    GeeBee has advised me off the forum that despite the fact that the Blue Brick ran for many years sign-written as a Mark 5, it is really a 6, being the longer wheelbase.

  14. #14
    Weekend Warrior PaulieG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Oldfart View Post
    Paulie, great to hear the car is getting a birthday. Will it stay like this or revert to a more period state?
    Hi OF. Despite looking quite modern, the buckler is still running all the old gear, drum brakes etc nothing too flash, hence the reason for the engine rebuild as the current driver tends to push a bit too hard keeping up with some mallocks and mogals and the likes!!!!

  15. #15
    Where to next?
    For this country the obvious answer is the "90". This designation came from the fact that it was primarily designed to compete in the 1172 formula in the UK, and that with a prepared to the rules sidevalve 1172cc Ford 10, or later 100e they were capable of a genuine 90mph. Their real place in the chassis numbers thus goes astray.
    There were a number of these sold in NZ, the exact number is a little unsubstantiated but close to 14. Some of these were English chassis, but as supply chains did not always fit with customer demands the company of Buckler NZ was able to negotiate with Buckler in Reading and build NZ chassis too. They fabricated a jig to build on which was a fore-runner of the common car restorers "spit".
    It is very simple to distinguish an NZ chassis from an English one. Right alongside where your hips are, the NZ car has a mitre joint, whereas the English top tube is continuous from the extreme front to the back and is curved at the same point. There is no "waisting" of the tubes as all bends were done sandpacked and then bent. The welding in both cases is superb. Of the 14 (?) almost all are known. Some current owners would prefer to remain "in the shade".
    Paulie G, can you please PM me?
    Most of the NZ cars were originally Ford 10 (or 100e) powered, most have now acquired the Elva overhead inlet valve conversion, or in some cases Climax.
    The 90 retained the centre pivot swing axle front suspension, with transverse leaf spring and lever arm shocks. At the rear there was also a transverse spring, but telescopics show on the drawings from the first concept (as does the Mark 6). In most cases the torque tube of the parent vehicle was retained, as were the cable brakes and massive drums off the Prefect?anglia range. Wheels were most commonly 13" on the front and 15" or 16" on the rear. Rear wheels were commonly changed for circuits or hillclimbs, as a very quick effective ratio change. Front brakes acquired cooling scoops and venting very quickly, partially as a result of the 13" wheels shrouding the drums.
    Many of the NZ cars quickly receive various changes, and frequently from meeting to meeting to stay ahead of the opposition. An example was the Rick Harris car, which was an ex works lightweight chassis, passed through many hands and gained Woodhead Munroe coilovers on the rear, open driveshaft and various forms of motors. This remained a car of note, until I got it in 1970! At that point it vanished from the race scene until its' beautiful restoration by Mark Garmey. Noted owners of this car include Barry Brown, John Cottle, Preston and John Money. It features in many photos on TRS.
    The car recently advertised on Trade Me as the ex Judd car is indeed that. It has had very few owners. It initially ran with a Ford 8, and features in many result pages. Again a superb restoration.
    The Merv Mayo car which Dave Mc mentions as a Jarvey bodied car has passed through many hands from almost one end of the country to the other, and Kelvin Brown has owned it a number of times. I sincerely hope he gets it finished again one day.
    There were also a few "approved" copies, again as demand exceeded supply. One of these, while not an exact copy was built by Denis Lindesay and eventually wound up in the hands of Dewar Thomas who inverted it at Paritutu and it was eventually written off. Scott Wiseman who later had the fabled E type was an owner of the Mayo car, and turned it over at Levin. It very soon afterwards appeared with a D type headrest fairing, no doubt with a bit of steelwork concealed inside.
    The Billington Elfo which appears in the NZ archives was another "approved copy" which has now progressed to become a DD2 version and appears from time to time in the hands of Roger Greaney (need to confirm that first name!) More sometime.
    Please add any photos before I start downloading the contributions so far.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by PaulieG View Post
    Hi OF. Despite looking quite modern, the buckler is still running all the old gear, drum brakes etc nothing too flash, hence the reason for the engine rebuild as the current driver tends to push a bit too hard keeping up with some mallocks and mogals and the likes!!!!
    Still has "wrong" wheels and tyres

  17. #17
    These were taken at a HRSCC Sprint at Span Farm in Glendene.

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  18. #18
    Weekend Warrior PaulieG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Oldfart View Post
    Still has "wrong" wheels and tyres
    It had steel wheels and skinny tyres, but after a couple of broken axles had to do something so mini lites and hankooks it was..... and maybe a bit of vanity in there too

  19. #19
    Have you seen this before OF? As you can see it's from a very early edition of Motorman.

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  20. #20
    I think this came from a Motorman magazine as well.

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