THE MINI BUCKLE MONACO – EUROPEAN RACING COMES TO AUSTRALIA.
In the late 1960s, Australia wasn’t exactly a place known for being terribly chic.
While European racing and the swinging 60s were taking hold abroad, Australia was still a little behind in the style stakes.
When John Centrone was a boy growing up the mid-60s, there was one car that caught his eye – the distinctly European-looking Mini Buckle Monaco.
“I would walk past the Monaco that was parked near our house and I would think ‘that’s an odd looking car,” John says.
The car was in fact a bit of an anomaly among Australian Minis – a less boxy version of a Mini Broadspeed, with a fast back and lowered about three inches.
One of the fastest Minis in Australia at the time, the Buckle Monaco was the creation of Bill Buckle, a Sydney car enthusiast and engineer turned dealership owner, who had an eye for modifying cars through the creative use of fibreglass.
“I went to Europe and at the Earl’s Court Motor Show, I saw a sports car with a fibreglass body,” Bill says.
“And I thought, I can make a better looking thing than that.”
Back in Australia, Bill began building a series of sports cars, before he decided to turn his attention to the Mini.
“I’ve always admired the Mini… and I absolutely admire what Alec Issigonis achieved with that little car.
“I took a look at a Mini that had come in [to the factory] for some reason and I thought, that would look good with a fastback roof on it,” he says.
“I was confident enough to make the shape, to take a mould, to make the fiberglass roof, and I knew I could make the top of the car strong enough.”
Bill made around 30 of the Mini Buckle Monacos, each a representation of his own take on 60s style.
These days around three or four still exist – and John Centrone was lucky enough to realise his childhood dream and buy one in the late 1990s.
“There are a lot of copies, people have taken patterns off the roof and tried to make their own,” John says.
“It doesn’t matter where you go it gets a lot of attention because it’s different.
“I would say Minis should have been designed like that in the first place.”
John believes the Mini Buckle Monaco isn’t just a product of the 60s because of its style – it’s also an illustration of the more relaxed laws of the era.
“In the 60s, when the regulations were a little bit more liberal you could modify them and in those days there were a lot more custom cars,” John says.
Meghan Lucas is another owner of one of the few remaining Mini Buckle Moncaos – a treasured possession that she took on after her father, a fellow MINI fanatic, passed away.
“Dad never got to see [its restoration] come to fruition, he put it on hold while working on another car,” she says.
Meghan, a lifelong Mini owner and racer, took on the project and finished the car, restoring it to its former lightweight, incredibly fast glory.
Bill Buckle has seen the car for himself, and given it his personal seal of approval.
But does he think the Mini bearing his name has stood the test of time, style-wise?
“I think it looks pretty bloody good,” he says.
“I wish I’d kept one.”