Thursday, March 20, 2008

Like finding an old Corvette in a barn

The smiling face you see above is Tom Cook of Chandler, Arizona. Tom has good reason to smile; a friend of his, knowing he was an avid cyclist, gave him his old bike that had been sitting in this original owners garage for many years.

When Tom emailed me last week, he said, “I feel like I have discovered an old Corvette in a barn.” The bike, covered in dust and minus wheels, was otherwise complete with the old Campagnolo equipment that was on it when the original owner bought it as a teenager in 1981.

The frame number (N814) recorded the date it was built; November 1981, the last digit showed it was the 4th frame built that month.

At that time I was still working full time for Masi in their San Marcos, California shop, so to build four of my own custom frames in one month, in my spare time, shows I was putting in some long days back then.

The DB57 is the frame size (Center to Top.) The DB was an identification mark I used on 1981 and 1982 frames. DB came from Dave and Brenda. (My ex wife.)

This particular frame and its components seem unaffected by the years of neglect, and actually cleaned up nicely to reveal the original paint.

The oval panels were an idea I had used in England in the late 1970s. See the picture of me on the left, holding my personal bike with similar painted on panels. This picture was taken late in 1978 a few weeks before I moved to the US in January 1979.

When I started building my own frames again in 1981 I used the same decals I brought with me from England, even using the logo with the words “Worcester, England.”

I did this partly for economic reasons; I couldn’t afford to re-design my decals. Also I was proud of my heritage and where I had come from.

I had a small extra decal made that stated, “Frame guaranteed handcrafted by Dave Moulton in California USA.” This was to avoid any confusion as to where the frames were built.

The oval panels were a big hit in England, not so much in America. In the UK customers wanted my name prominently displayed; in the US, I was an unknown and it seemed customers preferred to have the name understated.

Only a few frames were painted in this fashion in the US; I am guessing two or three. By 1982 when I started building my own frames full time I had dropped the oval panel idea.

This particular frame has only one set of water bottle mounts on the down tube. It is a “Criterium” frame designed to be raced in short events.

I remember it drove me nuts when I started working for Masi and the frame had two water bottle mounts and a pump peg behind the head tube.

To me the Masi was a classic frame, one which I was every bit as proud of as my own frames. To carry a pump under the top tube was, in my opinion, downright “Hokey” for want of a better word. It spoiled the look and the lines of the whole bike. Plus it got in the way when shifting gears.

I built frames with water bottle mounts on the seat tube in England, but riders would only use two bottles when racing and they were not carrying a pump. The rest of the time the pump was carried in front of the seat tube.

So on these early frames I refused to add a pump peg. I soon capitulated, realizing I was not selling frames in England any more. I had to adapt to my customer, not the other way around. In addition, I began to see that in the hot California and Arizona climate, people really needed two water bottles.

These strange little quirks of the framebuilder back then, made these frames different.

Now it serves to remind me what an ornery, stubborn bastard I was at that time, and it was a wonder I didn’t drive away more potential customers than I sometimes did.

Apart from that, it does my heart good when one of these old examples show up like this, bringing back so many bitter, sweet, sweet memories.


Anonymous said...

a little bit off topic but still related to cycling.have a look at this from England. c.j.g. of eroticalee

Rick J said...

What a great find. I have been secretly looking at every old classic frame I come across hoping to find one with your name on it. I imagine it feels very rewarding for you to get this news.

Anonymous said...

Why can't I have a neighbor like that? By the way, I notice that there's a Fuso for sale on Craiglist here in Portland, OR for a pretty good price ( Unfortunately, it's not my size...

db said...

Man, same thoughts as rob. But even if I did have that neighbor, the frame would not be my size, I'm sure. Wow.

Marla said...

I like the oval decals.

Anonymous said...

What an ornery, stubborn bastard you were back then? You've changed? :^) Brits. My dad was British raised and was an ornery, stubborn bastard until the day he died. I loved him dearly, but he definitely was ornery and stubborn. Can you guess on what island he was born and raised?

Some guys just have all the luck!! What a rare find.

Anonymous said...

I was going along with the rest of the guys commenting, wondering why I wasn't so fortunate...
and then I remembered that an old friend of mine who I used to play bluegrass guitar with contacted me out of the blue and bestowed his '45 Gibson Southern Jumbo on me. So I can't carp.

Anonymous said...

What I really want to ask Dave is if he learned anything by placing a spouse's initial on anything permanent? :^) Kinda like that tattoo thing, only this gets passed on to someone else. Geez, my body would be a series of names with X's running through them.

TeamSeagal said...

Man, what an amazing find! I love going into thrift stores and garage sales hoping to find something as gem-like as that. If I ever find one with your name on it, you'll be one of the first to know!


@realjanmaaso said...


This is one of the most beautiful bikes I have ever laid eyes on. I love those oval decals, the aesthetics is just perfect.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,
nice bike, the oval decals remind me of Benotto frames as ridden by cool riders from the 70's like Moser, De Vlaeminck and Maertens. You remember Benotto tape? I think I have a roll somewhere, in green.
It was nice to see you mention the Penguin Book of the Bicycle recently. I love that book. It was written by a couple of very bright guys and is an excellent read.
Also interested to read your GB TT bike story (I am working my way thru your blog - all of it is ace).
A frend of mine had a TT frame fold up on him in exactly the way you describe. It was a fag paper clearance short wheelbase Ken Bird (GRHS)in white, built I think with Columbus KL tubing, meant only for ultra light record track bikes but I defer to you on that one.
He hit the front brake and the forks just flexed enough to push the tub onto the down tube. Big crash. Frame folded up like paper.
Thanks for the blogs, if you get a chance have a look at a website I have started with Chris Sidwells, Tom Simpson's nephew and a cycling journo here in the UK. Some good stuff by Graham Webb on there.