I sometimes look on the bikes I built as my children, and like any parent it does my heart good to see them doing well, like the one pictured above.
Still owned by the original owner since 1985. He recently sent this picture with the comment, “Apart from two small nicks in the paint, the bike still looks the same as the day I picked it up from the bike store.”
The Fuso was a limited production frame, still very much hand built and brazed by me, but unlike building custom frames one at a time, these were built in batches of five frames all the same size.
This was more efficient because not only were the frames all assembled on the same jig setting, but as I first brazed the Bottom Brackets, by the time I finished number five, number one had cooled and I could move on to the next step which was brazing the head lugs.
Then on reaching number 5 again, number 1 was ready to have the seat lug brazed. By rechecking alignment after each brazing step, there was very little movement in the final step of the brazing process.
The whole frame was assembled in this fashion, 1,2,3,4,5, and move to the next stage and repeat. When the frames were finished, they were stamped with a serial number in sequence.
Today it is interesting to see these batches of five same size frames slowly being added on my Registry. Occasionally, the more popular sizes were built in batches of up to 10 frames, depending on the demand. I tried to keep all sizes in stock ready to be painted to order.
Like siblings these frames went their separate ways, now like a family reunion they are reconnecting on the registry. The red and grey Fuso at the top is #522, and lives in Dallas, Texas. Here is #523 painted two tone blue and lives in Las Angeles. #525 (I don’t have a picture.) lives in Boulder, Colorado. All are 56 centimeter, and interestingly are all three owned by the original owners.
Bikes in some ways are like people, some age well, others don’t. People do well if they eat right and exercise, and look after themselves in general. It also helps to have good genes, to come from good stock. Bikes too, where they came from and what they are made of plays a big role in their ability to stay “Young Looking.”
I have mentioned before the red paint I used was a Candy Apple Red, over a bright orange base coat. The reason this red looks so rich and deep is because what you are seeing is the almost fluorescent orange shining through the translucent red.
In bright sunlight this is even more evident. When I went to trade shows, (Which was how I built a dealer network, in pre-Internet times.) I went with a simple ‘Home-made’ display made of peg-board and painted white, and used florescent ‘Daylight’ lighting. The chrome and componentry sparkled like jewelry, and the paint colors, especially the candy apple colors, and pearlescent finishes just popped.
The best red pigments are made from cadmium, but due to the expense and the toxicity of cadmium, red pigments in paint, printer's ink or any other medium, are now-a-days synthetic and usually have a tendency to fade over time. Especially when exposed to a lot of sunlight.
I remember driving behind a car with a faded bumper sticker that read ‘OBER RIVERS.’ I was thinking, ‘What a great name for a rock band.’ Then knowing what I do about the pigment in the color red, I quickly figured out the this sticker had originally read SOBER DRIVERS, and the “S” and the “D” had been printed in red and had faded to the extent that it had completely disappeared. Leaving behind the rest of the message that was printed in black.
My point is that the Candy-Apple red method I used was not prone to fade over time. This is evident in the top picture of a frame that is over 30 years old and exposed to bright sunlight almost daily. The durability of the paint also speaks volumes for DuPont Imron, but another reason is that I “Cured” my paint by baking in an oven to a temperature of 250 degrees. The paint was ‘Hard’ from day-one, rather than waiting to cure naturally over a long period.
The other thing helping the durability of the paint job is the primer I used. It was an “Etch” primer, that contained phosphoric acid, which is also a rust inhibitor and being a mild acid, it etched itself into the metal of the frame, providing a key for the finish paint coats that would follow.
It gave me great satisfaction to build these frames, and it gives me even more satisfaction today to see them still being ridden, rather than being hung on a wall to be looked at. It is the gift that keeps on giving.
Here is Fuso #525 mentioned in the above article.