Fred Buzza and Swift Cycles

This article is mainly recollections of Fred’s son John Buzza, with some additional detail provided by Allen Buzza. Fred’s Grandson Wes Buzza is keen to find out more about the history of Swift Cycles, please contact the club if you have any recollections to pass on.

My Dad, Alfred William Buzza (Fred to all that knew him), was born on 12th June 1901 in North Perth. His family moved to 2 Mint Street East Victoria Park in about 1902 or 1903. He was the youngest of four with a brother John (Jack) and 2 sisters, Vera and Olivia (Olive).

He attended the state school at Cargill Street Victoria Park and Perth Boys school in Perth. Jack was Killed in action in WW1 on the Western Front.

When Fred left school aged 14 he went into the rag trade and served his apprenticeship as a tailor’s presser. WW1 was in progress and while he was too young to fight he probably worked on military uniforms a lot of the time.

In about 1925 he started a garage business in what is now Rivervale at or near the corner of what is now Enfield Street and Kitchener Avenue. It was called Buzza’s Garage. Fred was hit pretty hard by the great depression of 1929-31and Buzza’s Garage was closed at some point. Ever resourceful Fred worked on stations around Yalgoo in shearing sheds and on farms for a time.

Around 1932 he went into a partnership with Phil someone and they started Sprint Cycles on the corner of Gresham Street in Victoria Park. This partnership dissolved in about 1934 and Fred moved to a shop at 471 Albany Highway; Swift Cycles. Dad used the Buzzalong name for the bicycles and tricycles he manufactured in-house and the Swift name on the bicycle stock he would purchase from the trade.

He married our mother on 10th March 1934, so there may have been a change in the structure of the business at that time. Mumwas a highly qualified nurse, no office wallah, and I think she would have exerted plenty of say in how the business was going to be run from then on. The house they lived in was built in 1928 by Mum’s parents and leftto her and her sister. (Sister Melva lived with them for many years until she married and went to live in Manjimup)

I didn’t come along until 1939,so all I ever knew during my childhood was that Dad had a bike shop and he made bikes. I spent a fair bit of time at the shop with Dad during the war years because Mum was in charge of a first aid post at the Cargill St school and attended there quite a bit. I saw Dad build the bikes from scratch. He used to buy all the components in; various tubing, lugs, rims, spokes, hubs, seats, handle, bars, bells, chains, sprockets, mudguards, ball bearings, brakes, brake rubbers and so on.

He had a forge and brazed the frames together with silver solder. During the war years he went to join up and was “manpowered” because he owned a small business which could be set up if required to manufacture for the war effort. It never came to that, although he was asked to make 2 samples of a small mechanism from a drawing supplied bythe Dept of War. It was top secret and at the time he didn’t know what it was. Years later, he recognised the chap who was from the DoW in the Broken Hill Hotel and was told the samples hemade were a part of a 303 rifle bolt mechanism.

As children, Allen (4 and a half years my junior) and I used to build wheels in front of the kitchen stove while we listened to the radio. We would have been about 6 & 10 by then. Dad was meticulous about the spokes being in the right place. I don’t know if it still the case but there were I think 32 spokes in the front wheel and 40 in the back. We could true the wheels and put the tyres and tubes on when we were quite young too. Dad used to do all his own painting; he had an oven for baking the enamel. He used some decal transfers but all the lining and fancywork he did himself. He had a set of lining brushes.

He also made tricycles to order for disabled and geriatric people. These were tricky as they were specially engineered frames and had to have a split rear axle to enable cornering. I was a test rider o these on more than one occasion. They were tricky to ride too because you didn’t need to try and balance them. They only had a front brake too.

The bikes he made to order were called Buzzalongs. The length of the seat pillar bar and inside leg measurement were critical. Racing bikes were a specialty. He had racing bike riders who used to ride for him in the big races like Beverley to Perth and Northam to Perth. The Northam to Perth came via Red Hill. I can remember going in the car early to Beverley. Mum would pack thermoses and sandwiches. Can’t remember breakfast but we must have had some. I think we went up Great Eastern Highway, branched off at the Lakes and went via York. Idon’t ever remember going via Brookton. It started outside theBeverley Town Hall.

We would then follow the riders down to the finish line in Maylands outside the Peninsular Hotel. As with Northam same thing startedat the town hall came via Toodyay and finished a the MaylandsPeninsular Hotel. They were exciting times.

His road racing activities was mainly sponsorship, although he did some road racing himself. I remember Lionel Felstead and Phil Kidd as two of the riders but I’m sure there were others.

Another scheme he had going was where you bought a book of 10 tickets and sold them for a pound each. That gave you 10 pounds to buy a new bike with. The people you sold the ticket to all came and got a book of tickets and so it went on. It would be illegal now as it is classed as a Ponzi Scheme. Back in those days it sold a lot of bikes.

In 1952 Dad sold the shop to Hi-way Cycles, owned by Les Andrews, whose brother had Swansea Cycles on the corner of Teddington Road and Albany Highway. Hi-way was a motor bike business as well. He had small bikes like BSA Triumph and Nortonbut I don’t think he had any Harleys or Indians.

The bike business was tough in those days. Starting from Hampshire Street in East Victoria Park there was Balmoral cycles, Sprint, Swift, Malvern Star, Swansea - I may have forgotten a couple.

Fred Buzza passed away at the age of 74.

WA Bicycle Number Plates

Bicycle registration is a bit of a hot button dog whistling topic these days. It’s been tried and dropped in WA in the past, but the relics of the experiment live on in a few club members’ collections. If they’re still hanging off a bike they could help establish the bike’s age or origin.

Perth to Sydney - 1933 Record Tandem Ride

There was no made road across the Nullarbor and at one stage they spent two days wheeling their cycle through heavy sand. Another section was pitted with camel tracks; sometimes the country was overgrown with brush and near the Madura Pass the jagged edge of limestone had been exposed by strong winds.

V.E.W. Components

Giovanni “Jack" Bazzano was born in Morano sul Po, about 50 km east of Turin in northern Italy. He arrived in Australia with his family including boys Charles (3 at the time) and Leo in about 1925. 

By 1934 he was in partnership with W.L. Morgan in the Velox Cycle Works at 356 Parramatta Road, Petersham. The partnership was dissolved in June 1934, with Morgan retaining the premises and the name Velox Cycle Works. Jack Bazzano moved to 6 Holmwood Street, Newtown, a big Victorian house. In 1934-1935 he set up a factory in sheds adjacent to the house which he named the Velox Engineering Works. Charlie, along with Leo became tradesmen producing VEW branded alloy bicycle components, including hubs that are reputed to be some of the earliest one-piece aluminium hubs in the world.

Jack competed in the 1934 Goulburn Sydney race (as an amateur for the Newtown club) and his sons Leo and Charles were prominent amateur cyclists. Charlie rode for Marrickville and swept the field for the 1945 NSW State Championship, when he was compared to the great Dunc Gray and he went on to win the NSW sprint title seven times. He competed in the 1948 Olympics and scored a fourth place in the sprint. He was beaten in the semi-finals by Reg Harris, who won a silver medal. He also represented Australia in the 1950 Empire Games (now called the Commonwealth Games) as a sprint cyclist finishing fifth in the sprint title with fellow team-mates Russell Mockridge and Sid Patterson taking the gold and silver medals. 

During the second world war, Velox was provided with a priority on aluminium that was higher than some munitions manufacturers so that they could make hubs whenever there was a shortage of them in the bicycle industry.

Velox never made hubs in anything other than aluminium, so even the most humble go-to-work austerity finished roadster bike could sport an all alloy one-piece hub that the most expensive British or European bikes could only dream of at the time.

V.E.W. made four different headstems and five grades of hubs; Roadster, Light, Continental, Special Continental and Zenith. The Roadster was a low flange model, the  Zenith, Continental and Special Continental were high or wide flange models with the Light model available in three flange sizes.

V.E.W. hubs were a mid level option on Malvern Star Five Star models from around 1951 with Harden Bacon Slicers as the premium offering.

An advertisement appearing in Sydney’s “Il Giornale Italiano” in December 1930 indicates V.E.W. also made handlebars and there have been rumours of seat posts as well. To date there is no evidence that either were ever produced 

Velox Engineering Works moved to Blakehurst, probably about 1946. They continued production of bicycle components until at least 1957. As the post war bike boom wound down during the 50's Velox diversified into the manufacture of letterboxes and mag wheels for boat trailers. Production of both lines continues to this day; Velox Engineering Works is still in business near Sutherland, south of Sydney.