Lou Borgelt: A motoring life
Louis Archibald Bogelt is synonymous with the South Australian motor and motorcycle trade, having held the importing and distribution rights for several high profile brands, notably Velocette in a very long career. ‘Lou’ as he was always called, was born in Adelaide in 1893 and spent his early years on his father’s farm at Woorak near Nhill, Victoria. In 1899 the family moved to West Marden and Lou attended East Adelaide State School, but left at age 14 to start work as a messenger boy at the New York Import Company, travelling to work on the horse-drawn tramcars. From there he took up a position as a cycle builder and repairer with the Wyatt Motoria Emporium in Adelaide, earning the sum of seven shilling and sixpence (75 cents) per week.
“I learned this trade very quickly and soon was able to build my own motor cycle and sidecar with components from the U.K. I also built a 4-wheel cycle car with a JAP 8hp v-twin engine – it was belt-driven from one rear wheel. In 1915 when business was bad generally, I left the Wyatt Motoria. My wage was £2/15/- a week (by law). I bought a 4-gallon tin of petrol from (owner of Wyatt’s) Mr Garrood and a quantity of cycle and motor cycle components from J.N. Taylor & Co., and set off and started business at 141 Magill Road Maylands. I was 22 years of age then.
“In 1922 with the late Ben Otto I made a visit to the U.K. by ship where we visited the annual Motor Cycle Show at Hammersmith. I was given the sole distributorship for New Imperial motorcycles for South Australia and the Northern Territory. We spent six weeks on the Continent, visiting various factories…and returned home via USA, Canada and New Zealand in the same week as my first shipment of motor cycles arrived at Port Adelaide. I became the Velocette distributor for South Australia in 1926.”
Borgelt broke a leg while racing a sidecar outfit at Gawler in 1924, and this injury made him decide to branch out into the automotive business, as well as continuing with motor cycles. He gained the Overland distributorship for SA – a direct competitor to Chevrolet and Ford, and later gained the Morris franchise. During WW2 he sold new and used motorcycles to the Australian Defence Department, and resumed with Morris once supplies became available again post-war.
In 1956, after 41 years in the motor business at the same address, he retired and sold the business to two former employees, Dick Castle and Max Shrowder, and occupied his time fund raising to build a nursing home for the aged in Glynde. He died in 1981.