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. . . Bill Buys takes a light-hearted look at a sometimes crazy world of motoring and other forms of transport, nationally, internationally, and here in North East Victoria and the Southern Riverina

You've never heard of a Burton!

Burton sports car
Motoring writer Bill Buys
Words/photos: Bill Buys

BILL Buys, one of Australia's longest-serving motoring writers, has been at his craft for more than five decades. Although motoring has always been in his DNA, he was also night crime reporter, foreign page editor an later chief reporter of the Rand Daily Mail. He has been shot at twice, attacked by a rhinoceros, and had several chilling experiences in aircraft. His experience includes stints in traffic law enforcement, motor racing and rallying, and writing for a variety of local and international publications. He has covered countless events, ranging from world motor shows and Formula 1 Grands prix, to Targa tarmac and round-the-houses meetings. A motoring tragic, he has owned more than 90 cars. Somewhat of a nostalgic, he has a special interest in classic cars.

ZUTPHEN has a heck of a history.


The town, about 90 minutes east of Amsterdam, dates to the 11th century and despite many sieges and WWII bombings through the years, it remains one of the best-preserved medieval centres of northwestern Europe. 


It’s also the home of the Burton, a delightful little sports car that most people in the Southern Hemisphere have never heard of.


Despite its English name, the Burton is a Dutch-Franco product, classically styled and produced in The Netherlands, using French Citroen 2CV mechanicals.


What makes it extra special is that of the about 1400 on the road, there are no two exactly alike.


Car enthusiast brothers Dimitri and Iwan Göbel spent many hours studying pictures of Bugattis, Delahayes, Morgans, Jaguars and other classics of the1930s to create their idea of perfection in a comparatively low cost, low maintenance car for the 2000s.


The first was built in early 2000 and by year-end there were orders for 98 more.


Now there are more than 1400 Burtons, and counting, on the roads in Europe.


You can buy a one new, or, if you’re adventurous, build your own. And if you choose the latter and, despite following the construction manual run into any kind of trouble, you simply call the makers.


‘We're here for every Burton builder,’ their website says.


‘For the enthusiast who sets off on his own but sometimes gets stuck on a small question, or for the daredevil who has set off on this adventure without much building experience, you can always come to us for advice. 


‘Our experienced team is always available by e-mail or telephone. Or, of course, you are always welcome in Zutphen.’ 


More than just producers of the 2CV-powered beauty, Burton’s separate spares entity has also become one of the world’s largest suppliers of parts for 2CVs, Dyanes, Amis and other two-cylinder Citroëns.


Nearly four million 2CVs were built from 1948 to 1990 to become one of the few cars in history to continue a single generation in production for over four decades.


Apart from France, the air-cooled front-drive motor icons were also assembled in Portugal, Belgium, Spain, Yugoslavia, Chile, Uruguay, Argentina and the UK and today there are thriving 2CV clubs in most parts of the world, Australia included.


Despite developing only 22kW, the lightweight (480kg in Burton form) car ran well and returned astounding fuel economy of around 4.7litres/100km.


Why the car was named Burton is quite a story.


The brothers decided the name had to be easy to pronounce in different languages; it had to sound English because the car had an ‘English look’ and it had to be a name not used by any other car maker.


They started with about 20 names and ended up with a nightmare of about 450 until they found one that met their requirements: Burton.


Iwan later said he’d have preferred a name more in common with The Netherlands, because they found some buyers and interested people in general, thought the Burton was an English import.


Buyers can make their car just the way they want it.


Some start with a rusty Citroen 2CV, others with a kit of remanufactured and new parts, or you can get the makers to build one for you.


As for colour, well, you can have fun with the 216 hues available, even get each body part in a different shade. Or a two-tone Burton with the body and mudguards in a different colour?


Or different mudguard design? Classic, or outboard cycle type?


For buyers who require them, there are re-manufactured suspension, engine and transmissions and the all-important chassis - which is 60 per cent of the car - can be had in a choice of three finishes: galvanised cationic, with or without rust protection, or galvanised.


You can also choose from three types of wheels, three different fuel caps and a vast array of interior finishes and dashboard instrumentation, soft or hardtop (the latter with Mercedes-style gullwing doors), even Michelin or Maxxis tyres.


The company’s Zutphen premises has a few used cars for sale, with prices ranging from €12,000 to €34.500 ($19,500 to $56,000 in Australian folding money.)


Or you can start your Burton journey from as little as €4699 (AU$7700) and DIY.


Every Burton starts off as a blank canvas.


There are resellers in the Netherlands, Denmark, the UK, US, Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland.


Then there’s the unrelated Burton Automotive Group in Port Stephens, Australia, a couple of hours north of Sydney.


They’re agents for Toyota and Haval, but with that name they’d be naturals for the sporty special from Zutphen.

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