Issue #106 of AMC magazine celebrates the latest Chevrolet Camaro’s launch locally by highlighting the first generation cars sold by GM-H dealers. Half a century before HSV launched its ‘remanufactured’ right-hand drive Camaro, a small number of Holden dealers imported, converted and sold General Motors’ original ponycar. The new issue tells the story of these largely unknown cars in our ‘History Repeats’ issue via a surviving first-gen Camaro – a white machine Patterson Motors sold new and which, incredibly, is still in the hands of its first owner.
“The Americans know it as ‘The Hugger’.” That was how Bill Patterson Motors introduced the Chev Camaro to potential buyers in its print advert in 1967. The sporty new American coupe wasn’t a part of GM-H’s model range (of course, Holden at that time was gearing up for the release of a V8-powered sporty coupe of its own, in the HK Monaro), but if you hankered for a ‘Hugger’, you could get one from a handful of Holden dealers such as Bill Patterson – and, remarkably, only a matter of months after the Camaro first went on sale in the USA.
The owner of our white feature car saw Pattersons’ advertisements in a 1967 magazine article where an example was tested and promptly visited the Melbourne dealership and ordered his car. Four months later he picked it up – and has owned it ever since.
But GM-H dealers weren’t the only Aussie businesses converting Camaros and other American cars from LHD to RHD in the 1960s. Among those others who got a piece of the conversion action was a prominent pair of racing identities based in Sydney’s wealthy beachside locales, albeit on opposite sides of the city and doing their own thing.
One of the bigger converters in Sydney was Bill Buckle. He had the requisite expertise and business acumen to undertake such work – even though he found himself in the conversion business as much by accident as design.
“I bought myself a Corvette Stingray, a new car, and did the conversion myself at home,” Buckle, now in his early nineties, explained to AMC for this story. “It took about a week. It was a relatively easy conversion. There were much harder ones after that!”
The conversion business just flowed on from there. A right-hand drive Corvette Stingray wouldn’t have been easy to miss in Sydney in the early ’60s; almost as soon as it was on the road Buckle started getting enquiries from people who’d seen it and wanted a right-hook Corvette of their own.
“Then the message just got around, I guess. It just never stopped from there.”
Bill Buckle Auto Conversions in Brookvale on Sydney’s northern beaches opened for business in 1963. Under Buckle’s astute direction, it quickly developed into a busy and lucrative operation.
At its peak, Bill Buckle Auto Conversions was completing up to four conversions a week, with a staff of around a dozen.
Meanwhile on Sydney’s south side, at Taren Point in the Sutherland Shire, Ray Morris was also doing a roaring trade in right-hand drive conversions. Ray, father or future Bathurst winner and Australian Touring Car Champion Bob Morris, was an old friend of Buckle’s from way back. They didn’t see themselves in serious competition with one another, but then demand for converted American cars was so strong that there was more than enough work around to keep all the Sydney conversion businesses rolling along nicely.
Our Camaros in Australia issue is an opportune time to look back at some of the more legendary Camaros to have graced our tracks over the years. Thus, issue #106 names the Top 10 Camaros in Australian motorsport over the last five decades. Our top choice is examined in more detail, as there is no more revered Chevrolet Camaro in Australia than Bob Jane’s awesome 1969 427ci ZL-1. AMC outlines why this ballistic bowtie beast is the most legendary of all Camaros down under.
While our new issue is heavily themed around Camaros, there is plenty of other content. This edition’s Muscle Man profile is Peter Brock’s 1975 Bathurst winning co-driver Brian Sampson. The Melbournian combined successful business and motor racing lives for an extraordinary 60 years. Sampson has racked up countless other victories in a career he wants to resume, at age 83.
Then there’s a feature on Brad Jones’ Cooper Tools Commodore VL that will soon be a museum piece. This car played a important part in both BJR’s and the Thunderdome’s racing history.
For Ford fans, we delve into the history of a roaring Group C ‘Fordie’ whose racing life was largely spent as a fill-in or stop-gap measure for a succession of greats. It’s a Falcon hardtop with a unique story that’s flavoured by a recurring theme.
We can’t say the Falcon hardtop now presented as the #32 Bryan Byrt Falcon XC in Heritage Touring Cars had a particularly successful racing career. In fact, it proved to be something of a flop in the late 1970s.
Yet, don’t hold that against it. Because when we sat down and rummaged through the period magazines, old videos and history files, it soon became apparent that this car has quite the tale to tell.
It’s a coupe that passed through the hands of several race teams, often used as a short-term option or substitute; a car called off the bench when a race team’s main weapon was indisposed.
All that and a whole lot more in issue #106 of Australian Muscle Car magazine.