Lou Borgelt: A mo­tor­ing life

Old Bike Australasia - - SWASTIKA J.A.P. -

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.

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