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Friday
Sep042015

The Story of a Thousand Crowns

A Fuso owner emailed me recently and asked, “Why does my frame not have the FUSO name on the top of the fork crown? Did someone switch out the front fork?”

The answer is no one switched the fork, not all Fuso frames have this feature, in fact out of somewhere over 2,400 Fuso frames built, just 1,000 have the name cast into the fork crown. Yes, it was in the mold during the casting process, not engraved, which would have been cost prohibitive.

In the late 1970s early 1980s bicycle frame lugs, bottom bracket shells, and fork crowns became available made by an engineering process called “Investment Casting,” A way of making precision castings that come out of a mold practically ready to use with a minimum of machining or further preparation needed.

Also known as, “Lost Wax Casting.” The method had actually been around for hundreds of years, but it wasn’t until the ‘70s and ‘80s the technology became available to make the process economical and cost effective.

There is a video at the bottom of this piece that explains the process so I won’t go into it further here, but these cast frame lugs and other parts were a vast improvement over anything that had been available before. Although these cast parts were more expensive, there was a huge saving on labor and it enabled the framebuilder to build a far superior frame.

The first Fuso frames were built in 1984, I started the serial numbers at 001 and went on from there in sequence. The early frames had investment cast lugs and bottom bracket shell made by the Japanese Hitachi company. I used an Italian Cinelli fork crown. Later I used lugs and BB shells also made by Cinelli.

Sometime in 1985 a rep from the Cinelli Company told me that if I ordered a minimum of 1,000 fork crowns, I could have my own name or logo cast into the crown at no extra cost. So I went ahead and ordered 1,000 crowns with the FUSO name on either side of the crown top. (See top picture.)

When the crowns arrived and I started using them I was up to frame number five hundred and something, somewhere under #600. After that the next 1,000 frames had the FUSO fork crown, until frame number 1,500 and something.

When the crowns ran out, I can’t remember if the offer was no longer available, or it the price had gone up, but I never re-ordered and went back to the plain crown. So that is the story of the 1,000 Fuso crowns and the reason why all the frames don’t have it.

If you go to the Picture Gallery on my Bike Registry, and scroll down to the Fuso pictures, you will see Fuso #591 has the FUSO crown, and so does #1511, so presumably do the ones in between those numbers.

I would be interested to hear from Fuso owners with frames numbered just outside that numerical range with the FUSO crown. This will establish when the Fuso crown started and ended.

Update: After writing this, seaching through my archives I found this picture (Left.) of Fuso #439 with the named crown. So earlier than I initialy thought.

 

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Reader Comments (8)

Interesting post Dave, and a topic I had been wondering about myself likely. My newly acquired #228 has the plain fork, and the #1011 has the named fork.
Of course, this information doesn't help you narrow down the "named" period!
At approximately what Fuso frame# did you transition from Hitachi to Cinelli lugs and BB shells?

September 4, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMartin

Dave, Ordering 1000 pieces must have been quite a commitment for a frame builder. Business must have been good, so it worked out okay.

September 4, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterjohnb

johnb,
You have to realize this was the 1980s. There were no CF bikes, lugged steel was it, the top of the line. Even the Italian imports that were produced on a production line basis, they were still hand made and brazed by someone using a hand held torch.
An individual builder like me could compete and take a small share of the market. I consider myself fortunate to have been a framebuilder during those times.
Dave

September 5, 2015 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

If #439 and #1511 both have the named crowns, and you only bought 1000 of them, does that mean some frames in the range didn't get named crowns even though you had them available?

September 5, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterEric

Eric,
You are right. The Fuso LUX frame had a different crown. It had the Cinelli aero crown that fitted inside the fork blades rather than outside. The LUX frames were numbered in sequence along with all the Fusos. I never kept records of which ones were the LUX model.
Dave

September 6, 2015 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

great film, a cast of thousands

September 7, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterpeter

The Egyptians used the process to make jewelry, and modern jewelers do also, along with you dental crowns and jet turbine blades.
With modern additive manufacturing printing both cores and shells today you should be able to make fork crowns that have the owners initials in them, or other custom stuff. It could be fun.

September 7, 2015 | Unregistered Commenteredstainless

Fuso has its name crowned on some bikes, this is an interesting fact, keep on entertaining us with such good information.

October 1, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Pritchett

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