|Uh oh. This dirty little item popped up at a neighbor's garage sale.|
|A classic 1956 Corvette, not of the Chevrolet, but the Schwinn variety.|
After a little googling of the serial number, I discovered that the bike was manufactured on February 2, 1956. I remember this type of bike as being a standard offering at garage sales of my youth, although they don't show up very frequently any more. They certainly aren't often found in the condition of this one, untouched, complete, and rideable. This one had been encased in a sheath of waxy, dried-up oil, grease and dust for decades.
|A nearly pristine Denver bicycle license plate from 1959. Rocky and Bullwinkle, one of my all time favorite shows, was new to the airwaves at the time.|
|The Arnold Schwinn and Company insignia meant you had made a good investment.|
At the time, Schwinn was the pinnacle of modestly priced, U.S. manufactured bikes. It's no surprise that they were successful in the market for decades, as the Schwinn name was synonymous with quality. Parts that would likely go unnoticed by typical owners, regardless have a feel and precision to them unmatched in any modern inexpensive equivalent of bicycle components. In a time when very little is currently still made in this country, this is a bit of an astonishing realization.
|I enjoy attention to detail such as the stylish and modernist art deco 'New Departure' lettering.|
|A little difficult to see, but 'New Departure' is stamped into the bearing retainer. That sort of pride of manufacturing detail just doesn't happen at this price point any more. The bearings are silky and feel precise.|
|Nearly every part of the bike is identified as having been manufactured by Schwinn.|
|This bottom bracket lock nut exudes precision similar to what I would expect from a modern Chris King part. Whoever made it was a master craftsman.|
I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, when U.S. manufacturing quality was in decline for a number of reasons, but also when an intentional dismantling of production capability occurred as corporations shifted factories overseas. I won't get into the whole greed v. quality or shareholders v. unions debates, and from a societal standpoint I certainly don't pine for the good old days that never actually were. I do lament the collective loss within the population of skill, capability, ingenuity and justifiable pride.
|The head badge was partially rubbed away because of a poorly adjusted basket. Now it's fixed.|
|Ready to roll again. Schwinn Westwind tires, somewhat cracked but in amazingly good condition after 55 years.|
|Shiny, happy steel beaming with renewed vibrancy.|
To end on a positive note, although the days of broad manufacturing prowess in the U.S. are probably not to return, some of the best and most creative products of recent decades have come about through cottage industries, many of which are associated with bicycles. It is with these small scale manufacturers that any hope rests of at least some respectable form of a U.S. manufacturing base for everyday goods.
|A girl and her new-again bike.|