Tuesday, 12 March 2013

#6 Elswick Mistral (1978)

Project single speed/Paint job
One of the jobs i wanted to do on my "Hand built by me" bike was to paint it myself, hoping to do everything last thing on it myself.
Well i didn't want the first attempt at painting bikes to be on my very special audax machine
so it was destined to go to a professional and I needed an alternative to experiment on.
Various searching techniques deployed on eBay for frames and i found this little beauty
The advert read.......
"Stripped for painting this now has surface rust ( but not severe ) measures 21 inches from the centre of the bottom bracket to the top of the seat tube, sakae bottom brackets and one crank. weighs 8 1/2 lbs. Pump pegs broken off. No numbers"
I had no idea what it was and only a rough idea of size, which seemed approximately the right size for me assuming the seller had measured it correctly, but i couldn't be sure but as i am a farely average 5' 11" ish i could almost cope with any size and as the plan was for it to be a painting exercise it didn't really matter
I had initally decided that it really didn't matter what bike it was as i could then put my own graphics on it and it could be potentially another anonomous single speed town trendy bike that looks way flasher than it actually is.
On arrival of my £10+P&P frame and forks curiousity got the better of me and i quickly became obsessed with pursuit of knowledge, was it exotic?, was it rubbish? the advert quoted a weight which wasn't too shabby so my hopes were high.
It was a real pain to find out, the paint had been stripped but remnants were still apparent in the nooks and crannys, a rather lurid metallic purple, that should narrow it down!
The forks had a very distinctive looking crown to them but it did appear to be of cheap manufacture. Not a casting but a stamping with a couple of slugs to fill the void where the blades were inserted.
Additionally it came with one crank fitted, a "Silstar" on the non drive side. A common brand of the 70's and 80's but distinguishable by the text being prominant on the outside of the arm. It also had some castings markings on the inside of the arm.
It turned out that the casting marks meant January 1978. It was Japanese in origin from SR, this was a good thing as it meant that it wasn't french, not that i have anything against the french but this era was a changeover time for french bikes when threads would transfer from their own sizes to the more globally adopted english threads, meaning i wouldn't have to seek out peculiar old french parts which were no longer made.
A crank of this type was generally fitted from new to reasonable quality bikes of the 1970's and 80's, so it was likely that the crank was original rather than fitted as an "upgrade"
So...info check.....Metallic purple, 1978 ish, maybe 1979, probably english, unlikely to be french, fitted with a Silstar chainset with a distinctive fork crown and the noteable broken off pump mounts would also be a clue as the position of these varied from manufacture to manufacture and model to model.
After extensive what seemed like laborious research, scouring the internet i'd cracked it. I must confess, i love all this research, i know it's sad but it's a mystery challenge and the chance to discover a little bit of history and to perhaps restore a little bit of history, so although it was both painful and stressful, deep down i was loving the frustration.
So what was it
"Elswick Mistral" of unknown vintage
Elswick, who are still tradding today harked from the very beginnings of cycling, founded in 1880, as with many old british bicycle companies they when through many different phases management and production. By 1978 they had become a mass producing middle of the range comglomarit by other cycle firms they had previous involvement in such as Falcon cycles and then like others started badge engineering, whcih is the era of my Elswick Mistral. Not worthy it seems of its own serial number it is no doubt the same as many other generic middle of the road "racers" of the 70's hoping that it's lurid metallic purple paint and majestic head badge would make it stand out from the crowd. As i said it appears to be middle of the road, average, not the type of bike that that people go crazy for these days but more of the first "half decent" bike they had the ones that were built in their masses in the boom time of the British cycling industry, perhaps the "Specialized Allez" of its time.
I have copied the info here in case the link goes dead:
  • Some evidence to suggest that it was at least made from 1978 to 1981
  • Could be Reynolds 531 if 1981, 27.2 seat tube is suggestive of reynolds which mine is but could also be Reynolds 453 High Titanium Manganese Butted tubing.
  • Mafac Brakes (Racers)
  • Shimano derailleurs (400)
  • Shimano shifters
  • Wheels rims are Alloy Weinmann 27 1/4
  • Wheel Hubs are Normandy Alloy high flange
  • Cranks Sakae Silstar square taper
  • Could be the same as a Coventry Eagle Commodore but with different brakes
Silstar Chainset

Mafac "Racer" brakes

Shimano Gears


The most exciting bit about this frameset though is the actual size, it almost matches my bespoke hand built by me frameset, the main difference is a lower head tube height which would make sense as mine is built for audax rides it has a high headtube for extra comfort.
Initially i am very excited by this arrival, several evenings have already been wasted selecting and mulling over potential component selection...should i restore, should i go retro upgrade, what about modern trendy. whatever i end up doing, single speed it needs to be.
Paint job wise, i am currently inspired by some "Paul Smith" combinations i have always liked, from a T-shirt i own and from his signature "Stripe". He is one of my favourite designers and was at one time destined to be a professional cyclist.
But hey, it's early days we'll see.
More info to be added here as it progresses.

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