Don Newell: An ap­pre­ci­a­tion

Old Bike Australasia - - BLOW YOUR OWN -

Find­ing my­self with some time to spare in Bris­bane about four years ago, I de­cided it was time to drop in for the first time on Don Newell. Don had given me sim­ple di­rec­tions over the phone which in­cluded “take the Gate­way High­way”. This sounded like a few min­utes drive but ob­vi­ously Bris­bane has its traf­fic holdups and it turned out to be sim­i­lar to “take the M5 tun­nel” in Syd­ney, with­out the pol­lu­tion but with all the de­lay. When we ar­rived Don had given up on us and was leav­ing a note to let us know when he would be back. This gave us time for lunch while Don took his wife Marie to the doc­tors. Later we were all to­gether and while I have heard lots about Don I ad­mit to be­ing some­what gob­s­macked. I asked Don about his in­tro­duc­tion to the Bul­taco clan and it turns out that he was, back in the ‘50s and ‘60s much more a BSA and Honda devo­tee. Don raced BSAs and worked at the lo­cal

Honda dealer where he was the work­shop me­chanic spe­cial­is­ing in the re­build­ing of the early 4-stroke twin cylin­der mod­els.

He got to try his first Bul­taco about the same time as he found him­self out of a job and with no money, and not even a phone, but was ad­vised to try to run a busi­ness – any busi­ness. Don de­cided his first choice would in­volve the new Bul­taco brand of mo­tor­cy­cles. To this end he wrote to con­vince Sr. Fran­cisco Bulto that this was a se­ri­ous re­quest to be come part of the Bul­taco dy­nasty. The big sur­prise to Don was when none other than John Grace*, works en­gi­neer, called in on Don. Don an­nounced re­gret­fully that al­though he ap­pre­ci­ated the visit he prob­a­bly didn’t qual­ify for a fran­chise, and in any case didn’t Bert Flood al­ready have dibs in Aus­tralia for the brand? No prob­lemo, Bert’s fran­chise was for Vic­to­ria and South Aus­tralia. And what about the money prob­lem? Don was es­sen­tially broke. No prob­lemo, look in the Yel­low Pages, find a fi­nancier, and bor­row the money. John Grace’s next ques­tion at this in­au­gu­ral meet­ing con­vinced Don that this was for real. “How many mod­els do you want to start off with?”

The rest of this story did not pro­ceed as smoothly as the fairy tale start, with another new kid on the block, start­ing off in Or­lando Road, Lambton in New­cas­tle as a back­yard me­chanic – Norm Fraser. Norm was smart and ruth­less – you have to be when in busi­ness, and even­tu­ally swal­lowed up the NSW and Queens­land fran­chises, and Don was out of the pic­ture but still the pro­pri­etor of the busi­ness that his son runs to this day. When Norm Fraser was get­ting out of the Bul­taco busi­ness, the amaz­ing swag of new spare parts was trucked from New­cas­tle to Syd­ney, then Bris­bane and af­ter ne­go­ti­a­tions with Bill McDon­ald, there were many trips with ute and trailer to Don’s place where along with many newly man­u­fac­tured parts they now re­side.

John Im­rie

Sthn. High­lands, NSW See Paul Read’s obit­u­ary to Don Newell in Buzz Box this is­sue.

*John Grace’s real name was Juan Gar­cia. He was a na­tive of Gi­bral­tar and raced, quite suc­cess­fully un­der Grace as he felt it would be eas­ier to gain fame with an English-sound­ing name. He was the first sales man­ager for Bul­taco and in fact came up with the brand name – a com­bi­na­tion of Bulto and ‘Paco’, which was Fran­cisco Bulto’s nick name.

For more in­for­ma­tion con­tact: sales@rari­tee.com

ABOVE In his pre-Bul­taco days, Don Newell chases Tony Ed­wards’ Maico in a scram­ble at Jerry’s Down­fall, Qld. LEFT Don Newell was still com­pet­ing into his late ‘sev­en­ties, Bul­taco mounted of course.

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