Drawing, Nota Fang automobile, paper, designed and made by Chris Buckingham, Nota Engineering, Parramatta, New South Wales, Australia, 1971-1973
This cutaway drawing is of the Australian-designed and built sports racing car the Nota Type IV 'Fang'. It was drawn by the car's designer and builder, Chris Buckingham, in the early 1970s. Nota Fang sports cars were manufactured by a small, Sydney-based automobile manufacturer, Nota Engineering, of 40 Smith Street, Parramatta. This firm is probably the oldest specialist manufacturer of sports cars in Australia, with 105 production Nota Fangs being built between 1971 and 1975. Over the last five decades Nota Engineering have produced a wide variety of low-budget specials, sports, and racing cars but the Nota Fang was their most popular road car and largest production model.
The Nota Fang was designed and manufactured in an attempt to fill a niche market for inexpensive sports racing cars at a time when the traditional roadsters such as MGB and Austin Healey were increasing in cost and luxury. The aim was to produce a sports car capable of both road and competitive track work which offered racetrack performance and style for a bargain price. In 1971 it sold for $2000, not much more than a 1969 Datsun 1200, but with very little luggage space and few creature comforts. The Nota Fang's design and technological significance lies in the radical positioning of a Mini Cooper 'S' transverse-mounted engine in the rear. This gave the car a power-to-weight ratio similar to a Ferrari or a Phase III GT Ford Falcon.
The car is also representative of local sports car production by small workshop manufacturers in the Clubman class (production engines in light frames). These were typified at the time by makers such as Canstel in NSW and Elfin in South Australia. Of the 30 serious Australian sports car manufacturers, the Nota is considered by some to have been the most successful, with victories not only on the track but also hill climbs and rallies.
This drawing of a Nota Fang sports car is also an interesting example of the designer's skill, decades before the advent of computer aided graphics. It is part of the production story of this locally-produced sports car. The drawing also provides valuable interpretation for the full-size prototype Nota Type IV 'Fang' sports racing car, RT (Road/Track) Series, chassis No. 224/71, purchased by the Museum in 1990.
Assistant Curator, Science, Technology & Industry
The Sydney firm of Nota Engineering was established by a former aircraft engineer, Guy Buckingham, who began building racing car specials in England in 1952. The curious company name was inspired by the inability of Guy's infant son, Chris, to pronounce 'motor'.
In 1964 Nota Engineering began making their first purpose-built road car in the form of a sleek roadster, called the Nota Sapphire. It was the first car body designed for the firm by Guy's son, Chris, then a teenager, who went on to produce most of the subsequent Nota bodies.
As well as producing racing cars during the 1960s, Guy Buckingham's contribution to Australian motor sport was considerable. He was largely responsible for laying out Oran Park Raceway, spoke on racing car design in a weekly television show called the "Westinghouse World of Sport" and introduced low-cost motor sport in Australia with the Formula Vee. In 1970 Guy returned to England and passed the running of the company over to his son, Chris, who had learnt much from his father and was well equipped to take charge of the company.
In 1971 Chris Buckingham built a prototype Nota Type IV which he named the 'Fang'. In the 1960s the term 'fang' meaning, 'to drive a car at high speed', was in common use amongst young Australian men, being derived from the famous racing car driver, Juan Fangio. Printed references to the name date back to 1969, as used by the Australian playwright Alexander Buzo, "Let's hop in the B and fang up to the beach".
Chris' body styling for the Nota Fang was minimalist. The car had no doors, a bare minimum of instrumentation and little room for the two occupants. More time was spent in search of optimum aerodynamics at the University of NSW's Fluid Box test facility than trying to produce a particularly aesthetically pleasing design. Nevertheless, the result was certainly eye catching and appealing. The cockpit of the Fang, a steel under tray and polished alloy sides, was constructed in a similar way to an old open wheeler while the fibreglass panels were designed to be lifted off like a racing car. The unusual front suspension was mounted on a single, wide-based wishbone and four-wheel independent suspension provided excellent handling. Its distinctive appearance was achieved with the then-radical transverse mid-mounted engine set behind the driver but in front of the rear wheels. This gave the car good weight distribution (60 rear/40 front) making it predictable and safe to handle. At this time the only other sports cars to use this configuration were the expensive 246 Dino Ferrari and the Lamborghini Miura. The engine could be easily removed by undoing five bolts, jacking up the back of the car and wheeling it out from underneath.
The Nota Fang came in three basic models, the SL (Sports/Luxury), TS (Track/Sports) and the RT (Road/Track). Initially BMC Mini Cooper S engines were fitted followed by the larger BMC 1300cc Clubman. All were modified from the standard and fitted with SU carburettors. These more powerful versions gave a competitive edge in their respective racing classes as well as providing a more potent road car. Options included a canvas hood and tonneau and GT console panel.
Between 1971 and 1975 a total of 105 Nota Fang sports cars were manufactured by Nota Engineering, the firm's largest production run. The car was an immediate success and the company was forced to move from its Parramatta premises to a new, larger, factory in the western Sydney suburb of Blacktown. Sales were made not only in Australia but New Zealand, England, South Africa and Papua New Guinea. Because of its cheeky styling the car appealed in the early 1970s to professionals due to its appearance rather than its undoubtable sporting ability.
Information provided by Chris Buckingham
Information provided by Steve Normoyle
Davis, Tony. "Aussie Cars", Marque Publishing Co, Sydney, 1987, p.124
Davis, Pedr. 'Australia's Own Sports Car', in "Modern Motor", Vo.36, No.4, September 1989, pp.84-87.
Heseltine, Richard. 'A Notable Guy', in "Classic & Sports Car", March 1998, pp.98-101.
Normoyle, Steve. 'The Nota Notebooks', in "Sports Driver".
O'Reagen, Gerry. 'Hey Big Nota', in "Australia's Sports & Classic Cars", June/August 1996, pp.62-64.
Sewell, Tony. 'Notable Aussie', in "Sports & Classic Cars Australia", Vo.2, No.2, October 87-March 88.