Monday, October 7, 2013

Another Project: 1956 Schwinn

I have been turning over the Bike Shed collection a bit lately. The Raleigh Dawn and Hercules Model G have left, and I have picked up a 1956 Schwinn middleweight bicycle. The Schwinn will be my next project, the concept being a bicycle with classic, American cruiser style but with some extra "go" to it using vintage upgrades.

The birth of this idea came back in July, when a visit to Chincoteague Island left me wanting a classic, American type bicycle with an extra degree of flexibility it going up small hills or inclines. I decided I wanted a bicycle with the typically "over the top" American colors and detailing, but with a somewhat upgraded, yet still vintage hub.

This 1956 Schwinn fits the bill. This bicycle, I believe, is a base model Spitfire, but received some vintage upgrades at some point in the past. First, the rear hub is a 2-speed "Red Band Automatic" Bendix from the early 1960s. The extra gear gives this bicycle a bit more "go" than the average, single speed coaster brake model.

Second, someone added Schwinn-type truss rods to the frame, giving the look of a more luxurious Schwinn Hornet model. At first, I thought that the bicycle might actually be a "Hornet", but the faint remnants of the chain guard details hint at this being a more basic, Spitfire model.

It really was the addition of a 2-speed Bendix to the painted wheels that got my attention. It was exactly that type of vintage upgrade I had been seeking. That extra gear would prove very helpful on small inclines, which you can find here in northern Virginia and over on Chincoteague Island. Finally, the bicycle is a "middleweight", meaning it has 26 x 1.75 tires and runs a little lighter than a balloon tire bike.

I already have a Columbia balloon tire model, and wanted something to bridge the gap between the ballooner and my lightweight Raleigh and Schwinn New World bicycles. I bought the Spitfire as lighter, faster alternative to my 1949-50 Columbia balloon tire model.  This will be a project for the fall and winter. The pictures shown here are the bicycle as it is today, which is to say without any work put into it by me.

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