Written by Kerryn Caulfield, Executive Director, Composites Australia Inc.
Only 3.0m long and 1.3m wide, it weighed 345kg. It was powered by a rear-mounted twin-cylinder two-stroke motor available in both 300cc and 400cc variants. It featured no doors and a small luggage compartment built into the nose.
Packed with character, the Dart was a local version of the Goggomobil microcar which was a product of Hans Glas GmbH of Dingolfing, in Bavaria, Germany. Recognising the market potential for cost effective mini cars, Sydney sports car specialist Bill Buckle of Buckle Motors Pty Ltd, became the Australian distributor of the unique compact car.
Import taxes imposed by Australia could be reduced by importing just the chassis, engine and running gear, so Buckle commissioned a local engineer and race car designer to design a body with an elegant twist on the Bavarian model that could be fabricated in fibreglass. The windscreen was a rear window from the Renault Dauphine.
A marketing promise was that fibreglass could be affordably repaired with ease with an inexpensive do-it-yourself kit.
The Australian “Modern Motor” magazine in its December 1958 road test concluded “A combination of several factors gives the Goggo its amazing manoeuvrability in local traffic – its tiny size, tight turning circle afforded by small wheels and more direct steering ratio, snappy gearbox and nippy acceleration”.
Sadly, the popularity of the Goggomobil declined with the launch of the Morris Mini Minor in 1959 that quickly dominated market share of the small car market.
Around 700 Goggomobil Darts were produced in Australia up to the time that production ceased in September 1961.
Fame came a second time for the Goggomobil in the 1990s by the Yellow Pages television commercial featuring a car enthusiast looking for parts for his Goggomobil. “I’ve got a problem with my Goggomobil,” he laments down the phone in a thick Scottish accent.” G, O, G, G, O… No! No! Not the dart!”…a line that is still recited today.
Surviving Goggomobils are highly collectable and in the care of collectors and museums. There is even one in Australia’s own Powerhouse Museum’s rarely seen collection.