1930-ish Speedwell

Posts: 463
Joined: Sun Sep 06, 2009 10:53 am
Location: Sydney, Inner West

1930-ish Speedwell

Postby Johnj » Sun Aug 03, 2014 10:59 pm

Some of you may remember this bike from its numerous listings on evilbay. Reputed to have belonged to Norm Gillroy (sometimes spelt Gilroy) it resided for many years in Jack Walsh's shop in Punchbowl, alongside the alleged Major Taylor bike (which I've now had a close look at). Having taken possession of the Speedwell, I'm now trying to decide what to do with it. It is very original, but extremely tatty with only a tiny amount of paint and decals left. The serial number is D4307, which points to a date of about 1930. It's fitted with 27" Dunlop Special Lightweight rims (introduced in 1936) and the clearances mean that 28" wheels won't fit. I suspect it was originally built for tubulars which were introduced for road racing in Australia in 1929-1930. Gillroy was probably racing with tubulars in 1930 according to this article. "Quite a large proportion of the starters used the new tubular road racing tyres and light wooden rims Introduced by Hubert Opperman after his racing visit to France, two of the scratch men being so equipped." Gillroy was one of scratch men in this race. The bike also has rear dropout fork ends, another of the innovations Oppy brought back from France.

So what to do, repaint and restore, or leave it alone?
Build a set of wood rimmed tubular wheels, or run with 27"?
If I ride it I might have to something about the saddle?


Rear dropouts

Tight clearance at the rear brake bridge. You don't this saddle will be too uncomfortable?

Not much paint left

Compare to this photo of Gillroy on what looks like this bike in 1931, when he recorded the fastest time in the Goulburn Sydney. Gillroy is on the left of the photo.
Last edited by Johnj on Mon Aug 04, 2014 12:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Posts: 480
Joined: Thu Aug 09, 2007 10:56 am
Location: Carapooee, central victoria

Re: 1930-ish Speedwell

Postby scratchman » Mon Aug 04, 2014 9:39 am

it's the eternal question, many say it's only original once, which is obviously true.
However, I like to see a bike as it was originally, costly exercise tho'
In the end, it's your bike, do what you're comfortable with and not what you think
others would do.
That's what I did with my MS Oppy, it was an unrideable wreck when I got it, now it's
all shiny, impresses my friends, and is fully rideable.

Posts: 1404
Joined: Sat Nov 11, 2006 11:40 am
Location: NSW/ACT

Re: 1930-ish Speedwell

Postby Torana68 » Mon Aug 04, 2014 5:54 pm

leave it with all the updates, to restore it is to loose all the history. What brand is the saddle? brooks can be redone. The bike on the left looks to be a Royal Speedwell. (pretty sure I have an email to reply to but Ive been a little busy :( )
Ozpushies! for ALL Australian made bikes.
"It's only original once"

Posts: 1219
Joined: Sat Mar 08, 2008 10:12 pm
Location: Seaforth

Re: 1930-ish Speedwell

Postby rogerrabbit » Mon Aug 04, 2014 9:59 pm

The cost of a decent restoration would be huge, but in my view, if it can't be ridden, it isn't doing what it was made for. If it was mine, and I had the budget, I would restore the frame and restore (re-plating etc) or replace parts with identical ones that are in good original order. My preference would be for replacement parts in good original order rather than re-plating which is never the same as the original. Keep the original bits for prosperity. It is the frame that is the heart of the bike.


User avatar
Typhoon Ken
Posts: 284
Joined: Sun Oct 16, 2011 4:35 pm

Re: 1930-ish Speedwell

Postby Typhoon Ken » Tue Aug 05, 2014 9:17 am

I'll second the fact that it will be expensive, Bennett and Wood would roll over in their graves if they knew how much I spent fully restoring mine. Not for the faint hearted or those that can't hide the cost from SWMBO

Posts: 1646
Joined: Sat Nov 08, 2008 10:46 am
Location: Southeast Tasmania

Re: 1930-ish Speedwell

Postby LG » Tue Aug 05, 2014 9:37 am

and the dilemma - if you restore the saddle to usable, will it look out of place if the rest is unrestored? Personally, I'd also vote for rust protection and service to make it rideable, then maintain the bike as it is (with a replacement saddle cover as that looks a little painful).
LG = Low Gear

Posts: 463
Joined: Sun Sep 06, 2009 10:53 am
Location: Sydney, Inner West

Re: 1930-ish Speedwell

Postby Johnj » Tue Aug 12, 2014 10:04 pm

I spent Sunday afternoon tinkering with the bike. The stem has loosened off nicely, but the seatpost is stuck fast. I measured the bike and confirmed that the seat tube is 57 cm c-c, with top tube a little longer. Just my size, so it seems obvious that I should get it into riding condition. I've decided that I will replace the really rusty/unusable bits and clean and polish the rest.

As pointed out, new paintwork would be horrifically expensive. Given that the appropriate stickers are unavailable it seems a bit pointless as well. So I'll have a go at answering the question "does an oxalic acid bath damage original transfers?" At this point I don't feel I have much to lose. Oxalic should reveal whether the stem and cranks can be used without refinishing. The bars look pretty shiny under the remnants of bartape. They will be fully taped anyway (as original) so no need to refinish.

I have been examiling my junk pile for components. The saddle was a Brooks B17 Sprinter, but a replacement oval label Sprinter is beyond my means. I do have a 1930s B17 Narrow, so that's what I'm going to use. I've got front and rear Philco brakes, which match the extremely rusted front brake on the bike. A rusty 1950s wheelset has revealed a good set of Bayliss Wiley hubs, again similar and I have a NOS 32-hole Special Lightweight stainless steel rim (not a Dunlop, but a pretty close match). A similar 40-hole rim and I'm in business.

28" wheels definitely don't fit, the front tyre jams against the top of the fork and the rear against the chainstay bridge, so I think it must have been built for tubulars. Tubulars with wooden rims were made legal for road racing for professionals in NSW in March 1930 and they were first used in May 1930, on a 50-mile road race, from Strathfield to Campbelltown and back. Gillroy did an equal-fastest time in that race (from scratch) so it's tempting to think he might have used this bike.

The earliest mention I can find of dropout ends in Australia is 1926 in a BSA ad here. Given the BSA botom bracket, I wonder if these are BSA dropouts. Anybody know what 1920s BSA dropouts look like?

Edit: just found a catalogue showing the 1920s Austral BSA fitting at the State Library of Victoria. Not the same at all.

Posts: 218
Joined: Mon Apr 15, 2013 11:21 pm
Location: Albury

Re: 1930-ish Speedwell

Postby Imwit » Wed Sep 03, 2014 8:24 pm

How is this one going John?
tried the oxalic bath yet?

I was thinking about this and the Major Taylor today. Do you know what has happened to it?

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users