Watt Bros

Watt Bros was founded in 1923 when John Stevenson Watt, a master blacksmith and carriage builder, relocated from Upper Coomera in the Gold Coast hinterland to Woolloongabba in east Brisbane with his three sons: John (Jack) Alexander Watt, Michael James (Jim) Watt and Eric Sheriff (Sheriff) Watt. They initially operated out of premises in Stanley Street (opposite the post office) before shifting around the corner to Wellington Road near Logan Road, from 1938.

The first bus was built in February 1928 for the Taringa Bus Service in Brisbane – and from this initial vehicle, the Watt Bros went onto manufacture over 500 buses and coaches before sale to Custom Coaches. The Watt Bros not only specialised in the construction of buses – but also other automotive bodies such as trucks, ambulances, hearses and even a tow truck.

The Watt Bros were renowned for their quality wooden-framed buses that lasted decades. The bulk of these were manufactured for operators throughout Queensland and northern New South Wales.

Highlights of their body building tenure include the construction of:

  • Queensland’s first streamlined bus in August 1935.
  • Queensland’s first streamlined pantechnicon in February 1938.
  • Queensland’s first streamlined tow truck in March 1939.

In 1955, Watt Bros formed an association with Cycle Components Manufacturing Company (later renamed Custom Coaches) in New South Wales to supply steel sub-assemblies for their body framework, with steel-frame construction gradually and successfully replacing the timber-frame units for which they were renowned.

Later the brothers decided to retire and sell the business as a going concern to Custom Coaches, effective 1 July 1973. The last Watt Bros bus was built for Ritchies Bus Service of Taree in May that year. However, this was short lived after the floods of January 1974 badly damaged the factory – resulting in Custom Coaches closing their Queensland division.

After receiving multiple requests from loyal Watt Bros customers, Sheriff’s son Barrie Watt started repairing and selling buses in his own right from April 1974. He continues the immense Watt Bros legacy at Woolloongabba today – now proudly celebrating almost 100 years in business.

Queensland’s first forward-control bus was built on Reo 2LM chassis in August 1935 for John Joseph O’Connell’s Swann Road Bus Service who ran to the western suburbs of Brisbane.
Watt Bros were awarded the contract for the construction of the first new buses for the Hornibrook Highway Bus Service. The first vehicle was delivered in October 1935 to coincide with the opening of the Hornibrook Bridge and inauguration of the bus service. A total of four Reo 2LM buses were delivered between October 1935 and January 1936.
Robinson’s Black & White Tourist Service, operating at Mullumbimby in northern New South Wales, received this new Ford V8 with Watt Bros body during November 1936.
This side-loader body was constructed on D-model International chassis for Frederick George Hopkins’ Yaamba Road Bus Service in Rockhampton during March 1939.
In February 1943, Charles Henry Haberman’s Virginia Bus Service on the north side of Brisbane, received this normal-control Ford V8 seating 33-passengers.
In August 1944, the Watt Bros produced this stylish forward-control body on White WA18 chassis for Toowoomba proprietor, John Francis McCafferty.
Using only photos, Jim Watt designed this one-of-a-kind ‘Supercoach’ for Arthur Russell Penfold’s Greyhound Coaches in May 1947 on Ford V8 chassis which was converted to forward-control.
The first of the popular ‘Clipper’ styled buses, inspired by pictures of Flxible Clipper coaches in American magazines, was completed on 5 October 1949 for Daniels’ Motors who operated an interstate service from Kyogle-Lismore-Brisbane.
In May 1950, the Watt Bros built Queensland’s first coach with underfloor luggage bins for Greyhound Coaches.
Sunnybank Bus Service, who operated a feeder service to the Moorooka Tram Terminus, took delivery of this forward-control Austin on 1 December 1953.
Rex Law’s Redline Coaches was a staunch Watt Bros customer in the early years of their operation, with this Leyland Tiger Cub completed on 20 September 1957.
This 1963 Commer was one of thirteen Watt Bros buses built for the Howatson family’s Mt Gravatt Bus Service over a 35 year period.
Built new for Skennars Coaches in June 1966 was this 41-passenger body on White chassis. It was the last of nine Watt Bros bodies purchased by Clarrie Skennar.
Pictured in front of the last bus built prior to the Custom Coaches takeover in July 1973, is from left to right: Jim Watt, Jack Watt, Barrie Watt, Sheriff Watt and Roy Suitor.
The Watt Bros factory at 5 Wellington Road, East Brisbane after sale to Custom Coaches in July 1973.