Many thanks to Tom Churchill who has recently been in touch and supplied loads of interesting stuff from the USA.
Bob Hanna told me that two Bucklers were sold in British Columbia. You have one currently listed with Rod Mclellan
Read ” A Letter from Canada” from Autosport, Feb. 14, 1958 This article has a picture of the True Special which the caption says is “a Mistral body is mounted on a Buckler Chassis with Skoda IRS and torsion bar IFS”. The picture next to the True Special is The Merrilee Special With a space frame with Morris Minor front end.
( space frame + Morris Minor front end = Buckler XV???)
From Tom Churchill
My understanding from Bob Hanna is that he had 4 or 5 frames. The Autosport special was one, The Canadaire was two. There was the Franco Fiat, which would have been 3 and I thought Tom Churchill’s car was possibly one from Bob. Now the Stephan Burnett car which I sent an ad to you may be one of those frames from Bob as well. I’ve made some inquiries as to the location of that car.
From Mike Nilson Canada Class Historian
This Car was built by Bob Hanna and Jack Wheeler of Auto Sport Equipment Ltd of Cooksville, Ontario Canada in 1954/55.
A Mk XV frame designed to accept Morris Minor parts. fitted with an Alta OHIV conversion and twin SU’s. The body was built by Bill Steadman.
The car was raced very successfully from ’55 to ’57 where in the hands of Bob and Jack she claimed two consecutive Canada Class Championships. She was sold and then had various owners until the 1960’s Including Phil Christiano.
Then it disappeared – until it was rediscovered by the late Dick Baker in 1990. Dick’s sons are continuing the restoration started by their father and Al Pease.
This article appeared in the Canadian Publication ‘Old Autos’ 2004
It is reproduced here with the kind permission of John Wright and Old Autos.
THE AUTOSPORT SPECIAL BUILT BY BOB HANNA AND
RESTORED BY AL PEASE AND THE OTHER AUTOSPORT
by John R. Wright
I wonder if Bob Hanna ever thought he would be reunited with the Canada Class special he built forty-eight years ago? Well on the weekend of June 28th and 29th the VARAC weekend at Mosport, that’s exactly what happened. After a four and a half year long restoration, by former racer Al Pease, the venerable Autosport Special reappeared.
In order to put the story of the car into the context of the Canada Class Special, perhaps a short history lesson of the type of car that a significant number of early racer builders created is apropos.
Back in the early 1950s, members of the Canadian Autosports Club of CASC thought it would be a good idea to take a hand in the facilitation of an entry-level race car. Thus, they reasoned potential Eric Broadleys, Enzo Ferraris and Colin Chapmans would find their niche in race car building. To make a long story shorter, here are the bare bones of the specifications of the class, which was named the Canada Class.
Cost: No more than $2500 could be spent on the car.
Parts: Had to be from production automobiles.
Engine: If an L-head or flathead engine were used as the motive power for the race car, the displacement could be 1500 cc. If the engine had overhead valves, then the displacement could only be 1000 cc. If the builder specified overhead cams, then he or she was limited to 750 cc. The rest of the car was free. It could have an envelope body covering the wheels or torpedo shaped body with cycle fenders. There could be two seats or only one. That was pretty much it.
As a result, there were grids for Canada Class cars only with as many as 35 cars, judging from an old Edenvale program. People were creating a variety of small bore Canada Class Specials using just about any kind of engine which powered the small imports of the day; Renault engines, Austin engines, Morris engines – some with stock heads, some with Alta conversion heads, as well as two stroke DKW engines.
Then the interest in Canada Class Specials seemed to die out. Perhaps the interest died as the result of the advent of Formula Junior race cars. Perhaps another nail was added to the death of the special through the coming of the Formula Vee and Formula Ford classes. With these cars, the owners had to do very little other than maintain the car. He or she did not have to design the car from scratch and then iron out the problems, which inevitably arise in the creation of a homebuilt race car. Whatever the reason, the Canada Class specials, which had thronged grids around Ontario, gradually disappeared.
In my research into Canadian built race cars, I came across many people who assisted me in digging into the past of Canadian road racing, the people and the cars. Foremost among these people was the late Dick Baker, a long time vintage race enthusiast and a motivator of people. I first received the first clue of information in a letter sent me by Dick a number of years ago. At that time, he told me he had located, and purchased, the bits and pieces of the original Autosport Special built by Bob Hanna in 1955, and he told me he had a project underway to recreate the old sports car. Then a few years ago, I received an email from Bob Hanna and he gave me some of the history of the car he built and raced: “There were actually a number of them. The first Canada Class car is now being restored by Dick Baker (author’s note: as mentioned above by Dick Baker, and now the car has been completely restored). It had a Buckler frame, Morris Minor running gear and an Alta overhead valve conversion on Minor flathead engine. The aluminum body was built by Autosport . . .”
“There was also a second Canada Class Special and here are the specifications for that race car: it had a front engine, with a modified Standard 10; close ratio Austin A30 gearbox. The frame and independent rear suspension were built by Bob Hanna. The car had an aluminum body designed by Frank Duda and built at Autosport. The car was completed in 1962 and we had some problems with the transfer case at the rear axle. This was later removed, but by this time it was outclassed by the rear engine Formula Juniors. The car appeared later when the vintage class was started and was owned by Bob Attrell (a Toyota dealer in Brampton). Now the car is owned by Mike McLaughlin of McLaughlin Motorworks, Kingston, Ontario. The car is still original, with the original engine, body, etc. I have some photos taken in McLaughlin’s shop.”
“The third car was called the Autosport Junior. It was also called the Bill MacDonald Special. To create this car we modified a Cooper Formula 3 chassis and fitted a Mitter tuned DKW two stroke engine and gearbox. An aluminum body was designed and built at Autosport. It was a surprisingly fast car. In fact, I am ashamed to say that Bill beat me at Mosport one day when I was driving a Lotus 20. The bare frame is all that exits today and is owned by Phil Lamont. I have photos of this car as well.”
“Finally, there was the Autosport Sports car, a Fiat Special built for Lew Franco who opened the first Porsche dealership in Canada on University Avenue. It had a Buckler frame, and a Fiat 1100 engine and gearbox. The aluminum sports car body was built at Autosport. I don’t know what became of this car.”
Well, here is the story of the restoration or should I say, the recreation of the original Autosport Special. Al Pease undertook the project of the creation of the old Autosport and in the restoration created pretty much a brand new car. He built a new frame as well as a new body in addition to new bits and pieces here and there so the car would be safe to drive at speed. As is usual in the creation of an old car, he ran into a number of problems, culminating in one final problem a few days before he was to leave for the VARAC weekend at Mosport. He started the car and ran it up his driveway only to hear clanking and breaking sounds inside the bellhousing of the Morris engine. He immediately shut off the engine and discovered that something had come adrift inside the bellhousing, and that the clutch was pooched. He didn’t want to disassemble the entire engine and so he repaired the drivetrain problem with the engine in place. Another problem arose as he worked within the tight confines of the engine and chassis. He kept getting his wrists and hands pinched by the various springs and other nasty objects whose only excuse for existing is to bruise and otherwise damage human tissue. Thus, when Al showed up at Mosport, his wrists and hands bore evidence of the veritable mortal struggle he had had with the inanimate objects of the driveline.
Al felt all the pain was worth it to see the look on Bob Hanna’s face. Bob walked around the old car and looked and looked at it. He sat in it and looked at it. He took the engine cover off the Autosport Special and looked at the Alta modified engine. And, he talked to anyone who should come near, and he talked to Al, but he kept on getting interrupted by people who wanted to talk to him and who wanted to ask, “Is that the car?” Finally, Al and Bob trooped off to find a place where they could talk without being interrupted.
On Sunday, Al started up the car, and my, was it noisy! It sounded as if it wanted to compete on the track against the other racers right then and there. However, there were a few details which had to be put right before it could do a demonstration lap let alone a lap in full anger.
We will see more of the Autosport Special in future vintage events no doubt. And in case anyone would like to see the car compete, check off in your calendars right now the end of June 2004. On that date, VARAC, or the Vintage Racing Association of Canada, will host a race meeting featuring Canadian race cars. No doubt that Brad Baker, the current owner of the Autosport Special, will have the car there in racing trim, and who knows? Maybe Bob Hanna will drive the car again as he did at Green Acre, Harewood and Mosport.
© John R. Wright
Date: 01 March 2001 14:56
Ken: Just to bring you up to date. Our MK 15 Buckler, known as the Autosports Special in Canada, is moving along slowly. Our panel beater, Mike Lewis, was off work with some health problems and is just now getting back at the project; however, we hope to have the body finished by the end of April. Right now, the chassis is all complete, other than wiring and plumbing, and the engine has been built up ready to go into the chassis. We have a dummy engine in the car in order to help Mike shape the hood and the carburettor duct. Al Pease [who is doing the restoration] mocked up the shape of the body with 3/16″ rods so Mike would have a good idea of the shape since we have nothing but photos to work from. In April the car will go back to Al for engine installation and chassis finishing and be painted in British racing green with a white stripe a la Canada colours. With any luck, we hope to debut the car at Mosport with the VARAC Vintage Festival on June 30/July 1st.
Tom Churchill has been able to supply this info…
The Ohio Mark X
This buckler was built in England by an Englishman who was planning to emigrate to America. When he did, the Buckler came with him. I believe that he built it with left hand drive. I think Peter Silverthorne might have more information about this. As of the last time that I talked to him (May 1996) the Mark X was owned by Mr. Charles Crawley in Ohio. Charles had installed the front suspension, engine, transmission and rear axle from a Volvo (122?) in the Buckler. When I last talked to him the
Buckler had been sitting for sometime. It has the original Works Taylor body.
Tom Churchill’s MKXV
I have a Buckler Mark XV frame. This frame has been modified in the rear. Instead of the parallel leaf springs of the Morris Minor, my Buckler has a Morris Minor rear axle located by four trailing arms and a Panhard rod and sprung by a transverse leaf spring. Bob Hanna told me that this chassis was standard when Autosport sold it.
I purchased this Buckler from Mr. Keith Wiesinger of Williamsville, New York (a suburb of Buffalo, New York) in December 1985. I brought it home in the spring of 1986. At that time the Buckler was fitted with a flat head Morris Minor engine with an Alta overhead valve conversion. This engine is now with M Fisher of Auckland, New Zealand. Bob Hanna told me that this engine had come from Autosport’s shop Morris Minor which had been wrecked by a mechanic who worked for Autosport.
My Buckler was one of three Mark XV chassis imported into Canada by Autosport. There is no sign that a body was ever fitted to my Buckler. A friend, who’s father raced a Canada Class special, is helping me try and track down more information about my Buckler.
Post my letter on the web. I hope that by doing so people out there who know more than I do will send in better information.
I last talked to Bob Hanna seven years ago. I will try to talk to him this summer.
As far as I know there three Bucklers in Ohio.
1 My Buckler Mark XV
2 Charles Crawley’s Mark X
3 Tom Coy’s Buckler – I have no information on this Buckler except the information on your web site. I would like to contact Tom Coy if I can
I got a nice email from Brian Malin. He sent me some good information.
I have a friend in Canada who has tracked down the friend of his father who had a Buckler back then, Ray Williams. My friend thought that this was probably my Buckler but does not think so now. Ray had not changed the rear suspension.
We will continue to see what we can find out about this Buckler. For now I think this is a fourth Buckler sold by Autosport. Brian Malin told me that Bob Hanna said that Autosport had sold four or five Buckler frames.
Note from Stan…
I have always insisted that the Mark XV chassis had a properly located rear axle on coil/damper units with four trailing links and a Panhard rod, mine did for sure, now we hear of another one the same, I have always believed that the leaf spring layout was on the Mark XV1 chassis, We learn something new about Bucklers every day !
still it’s a puzzle that my old car had “proper rear axle set up” my one was definitely originally built at Bucklers that way and it was all brand new when I got the car
As to Stan’s email The rear suspension on my mark XV seems to have originally been parallel leaf springs. The workmanship of the rear suspension is not up to that of the rest of the frame. The mounts for the front of the springs is still there.
Have found a NEW Buckler (May 1). In Ohio, which means there are now 3 Bucklers in Ohio This is a Mk15 purchased direct via Caversham Road and has never been completed. The current owner has restored to a running chassis and then discovered my website. The car never had a body.
This Car is owned by Tom Coy. I would love to know more !! Tom if you see this please contactme
apologies for the quality of the photo. Any better ones around? email us here
Previous Owners Ralf Zbarsky. Years 19… to …
Bill Spohn Years 19… to 19…
Present owner Rod McLellan Vancouver
Message from Rod McLellan re – Vancouver car
My car is the one Bill Spohn once owned. I don’t know what he has told you about the car, but the info he told me is what I have relayed to you. The car had been sitting in his yard for a rather long period of time, during which it contracted a near fatal case of rust. Luckily it was “found” again last September and has since sat in the shop at my work. I hope very soon to start on the body, which will hopefully look somewhat period, although it may look like a later 50’s or early 60’s car.
Wilson Buckler Special at Westwood circa 1960 SCCBC archives
The following is from Tom Johnson’s recently published book Sport Car Road Racing in Western Canada. We are grateful for permission to use the information. Dr Clair Wilson car was effectively a Buckler Mk15 and is thought to still exist. Buckler’s agents in Western Canada were the Dublin Service company.
Dr. Clair Wilson of Vancouver was an early road racer in British Columbia. His special was MG based with a British Buckler tubular steel chassis and a Mistral fibreglass body. The car raced at Abbotsford and Westwood and other West Coast venues in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Some reports indicate that a 1500cc SOHC FWE Coventry Climax engine may have been installed in this car ultimately. After racing this car for some years, Wilson acquired a Lotus 17 Climax sports racing car.
The December 1957 edition of SCCBC magazine The Pit Pass offers the following description of the car:
(SSCBC = Sports Car Club of British Columbia)
CLAIR (Doc.) WILSON – Buckler MG – Doc has also finished his Buckler which has torsion bar I.F.S. and Skoda independent rear with A 90 11” drums all around. A 1500 cc MG engine with a Laystall head, etc., all clothed in a fibreglass Mistral body from Ed A’Court’s gave Doc a potent 1500cc contender as well. Other reports tell of twin 1½ SU carburettors, careful balancing and other engine work. Wilson apparently had a complete machine shop in his New Westminster home and knew how to use it.
The Canadaire Buckler MKXV
I hadn’t been on your site for a while and was very surprised to see the Canadaire picture. I’m the self appointed historian of Canada Class Car information. I’m working on a site to keep it all. Check out www.mcubed.ca . The Canadaire was raced in that class.
As for the Canadaire, you have the information! Check out the Autosport article Nov 28, 1958. You see the rear end of the car while it’s being built!
I talked to Bob Hanna about the Autosport cars. I gather he built 2 that were owned by Lew Franco. Lew raced the Canadaire car for a season or two. The Canadaire car was listed with an 800cc engine and was not competitive. There is no record of it being raced again past 1959. Lew then had a car with a Fiat engine and was listed as the Franco Fiat. I originally thought this was the same car, but it is not. I have recent pictures of the Canadaire with the original engine.
I have a friend who knows a guy that knows the owner.
The car actually does not look like it travelled much since the early 60’s.