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NBHAA GUIDE TO CORRECTING THE CLASSICS
(NBHAA GTCC) !!
CORRECTIONS TO "THE LAST WESTERN FLYER" BOOK FOLLOW...
copyright © Leon Dixon/NBHAA 1999, 2004, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2013. All rights reserved. CAUTION! WE ARE WATCHING, SO WATCH YOUR CREDIT LINE! THESE CORRECTIONS ARE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY. If you use them without getting permission first, you are violating federal copyright laws. If you take this information and publish it elsewhere, you are violating federal copyright laws. Be nice, be decent... ask permission and do it right. No part of these corrections may be republished, excerpted, referred to in print, used in any way unless written permission from the author has been obtained and acknowledgments are made.
Books on special bicycle subjects are always nice. We have enjoyed reading Mr. Jim Marchman's book entitled "The Last Western Flyer" and we bought one of the very first copies- even got it autographed. We have referred many people to this interesting book. We congratulate Mr. Marchman on the fine job he did and all of the hard work that must have gone into making this book.
However, in the interest of purely constructive corrections of items we noticed in this book, we'll attempt a few points here addressing serious errors. These are things Mr. Marchman might seriously want to consider before issuing revised or new editions of this book...as follows.
• Page 70... The Western Flyer Streamline Deluxe bicycle shown on this page was made by Shelby Cycle company–as were all of the Western Flyers that year. Not Murray. The book asserts that only Murray made Western Flyers during this period. Actually for this year, Shelby Bicycle Company was the ONLY bicycle supplier to Western Auto according to the catalogues.
• Page 81... The Western Flyer Super Airflow bicycle shown was made by Shelby Cycle company- as were most of the Western Flyers that year. Not Murray. Curious that this bicycle is not mentioned since this Western Flyer is 1939 and it was one of the ultimate bicycles around then. And... it is still far more sought after today that anything made by Murray for WA. All of which rather negates the statement following on Page 85...
• Page 85... "the most collectible of the bicycles shown in 1939 in today's antique market proved to be the 'Rocket' model... a 'looped' rear fork design shared with the 'Supreme' "... This is certainly not true. Not many- in fact relatively few- of the Western Flyer versions of this design were sold. And today, there probably aren't even a handful of collectors who could identify this bicycle as a "Rocket" since almost everyone who sees it tends to recognize this bicycle for the Mercury bicycle design and model that it is based upon... the Mercury Pacemaker. This Mercury is most commonly known today by collectors as the Mercury "World's Fair" model (another misnomer). There were lots and lots of Mercurys sold and a few Western Flyers were simply "badge engineered" with a different fender ornament and name and tires. Exactly the same thing was done for Hiawatha bicycles. And... several other brands were all based on this same Mercury design. Yes, the Western Flyer little ornament is prized today as stated. But it has been reproduced in numbers that are undoubtedly far beyond the original number of bicycles ever sold (the Mercury and Hiawatha also had fender ornaments too). Finally, nothing on the Rocket frame is shared with the "Supreme" model. Why? Because the Supreme and Rocket were made by two completely different companies and designed by two different designers. And the Cleveland Welding Company Supreme model would certainly be more sought after (and bring more money) today than the Murray-built Rocket.
• Page 85..."The Rocket and Supreme and most other models of Western Flyers were made by Murray of Ohio Manufacturing Company, the major supplier..." Again, not true at all. First, the Supreme was NOT made by Murray but in fact was made by Cleveland Welding Company as we have already stated... a premium bicycle maker. Second, the company name was "Murray Ohio Manufacturing Company"... or in some cases, simply Murray-Ohio. But it was never known as "Murray of Ohio" anything. (People... can we stop with the "MURRAY OF OHIO" stuff?? PLEASE??... It's gotten out of hand now!) This is a popular myth/misnomer perpetrated by today's misinformed collectors and do-it-yourself web sites. Third, while M-O was indeed a major supplier for several years, it certainly was not THE major supplier of Western Flyers prior to W.W.II. Just not true. Shelby Cycle Company had that honor for most of the 1930s. CWC and Huffman also made quite a few Western Flyers prior to WWII. And...see the next point following...
• Page 86... Contrary to statements in the book, more clear evidence that Murray was NOT the major supplier of Western Flyer bicycles before WWII. From left to right makers of each bicycle...Cleveland Welding Company; Huffman Manufacturing Company; Murray Ohio Manufacturing Company; Cleveland Welding Company.
• Page 97... "1941 Western Flyers..." Almost all of the bicycles shown here were made by Cleveland Welding Company (NOT Murray) except for the "Road King" and "Road Queen" which were made by Huffman. It is a serious oversight that the book does not even mention these prominent bicycle makers. In fact, of the 19 different Western Flyer bicycle models listed in the official 1940-41 Western Auto Bicycle Manual used by dealers which NBHAA has, only one was made by Murray. There is an interesting tandem made by Colson. And a cycle-truck made by CWC.
• Page 104..."Notably absent were Western Flyer bicycles..." While this may be true as far as the catalogues went, there were a number of 1942 Western Flyer bicycles made and sold early in the year. In fact, there were lightweight Western Flyer "Victory" models specially made to meet materials restrictions and design requirements of the U.S. War Board. NBHAA has owned many of these war-restricted Western Flyer models.
• Page 126..."Top of the Line Western Flyer..." This bicycle model was actually known as the Western Flyer "Super" and should be labeled as such. It was the direct predecessor to the X-53... which actually originally was known as the X-53 Super. You will note the references to this bicycle that the book shows on page 145 address it as "X-53 Super" not merely X-53. Also, in the late 1940s when the "Super" line was introduced, there were 2 CWC models shown that year in the Western Auto Dealerbook and 6 models shown that year that were made by Huffman. NOTHING made by Murray is shown in that Dealerbook–and this is where W-A dealers made their purchasing plans. So where were all of the Murray-built Western Flyers during this time? No where. Because they simply didn't exist. There WERE serial numbers reserved for Murray-Built Western Flyers for this period, but any that were built were sales promotional models and not in the regular lineup.
• Page 127..." The first Motorized Western Flyer..." This is questionable. Possible, but questionable. In the early days of Western Flyer, WA offered a motorizing kit for the bicycles for a short time. And what is shown here is a Western Flyer "Doodlebug" that had a counterpart, virtually identical of Hiawatha "Doodlebug." By the way, there were two versions of the Western Flyer Doodlebug- one was the "Standard" and the other was the "Super." At first, the Western Flyer Doodlebug did not have a "Doodlebug" decal, but later models did. But what about the Western Flyer "Wizard" motorbike that was supplied by Simplex? When did this debut? By the way, this was Western Auto's kinda back-door way of using their "Wizard" brand name to play off of the popularity of the most popular motorbike of the day with a similar-sounding name: Whizzer. And another reason why today it is important when somebody offers you a "Wizard" motorbike, you need to know WHAT they are talking about! Finally, our first reference to the Western Flyer Doodlebug (from W-A dealer information) was in 1947, not 1948 company information.
• Page 136..."The boy's model came in jet black with vermilion red trim and gold striping..." This is only true for the first model year. Colors changed every year and fenders after this model year became chrome plated rather than painted. ALSO, something not mentioned is that buyers of an X-53 could get their initials in chrome mounted on the sides of the tank on the boy's model. This was a tradition with Western Flyer bicycles that harked back to at least the 1930s when you could get your initials in gold (actually decals) on the upper frame or tank of the bicycle!
• Page 136..."A girl's model X-53 in good condition is even more valuable today than the boy's version because fewer were made..." Certainly not true. We have both versions and have watched them since they were new. The girl's version may be more rare.... but it just does not draw the money like a boy's model in good condition. Rare or not. Any seasoned collector will tell you that as a rule (also see our NBHAA FAQs section), it is nothing too unusual to find old bicycles in girl's versions that are in good shape- even rare ones. But finding boy's models–which are in far greater demand–is many times more difficult!
• Page 149..."1952 ...Gambles Hiawatha bikes were made by Murray of Ohio..." Not true. In fact the bicycles shown in the Gamble catalogue illustration on this page were actually made by Cleveland Welding Company and Huffman Manufacturing. And again, the name was not "Murray of Ohio." In reality, Murray really never was involved much with the Hiawatha brand until the 1960s. Originally, Shelby was the big provider of Hiawatha and then came a mixture and finally a dominance by CWC for many years.
• Page 161... The Western Flyer "American Lightweight" bicycle shown was indeed made by the Murray Ohio Manufacturing Company. However, the term, "lightweight" is a misnomer. It is actually a middleweight. What makes a middleweight a middleweight is not truly its weight, but the fact that it is equipped with middleweight 1.75 tires rather than balloon 2.125 size tires or any other size. Western Auto began using the name "lightweight" (or sometimes "Lite-Weight") accurately before W.W.II on very thin tire, truly lightweight bicycles usually with diamond frames. However, because middleweights were a new development by 1955, there was clearly some confusion by marketing people as to what to call them. In this case, the bicycle in question was merely a stripped middleweight with a Bendix "Multi-Speed" coaster brake rear hub. Which leads to the confused statements on page 220...!
• Page 220.... " In the early 1960s Western Auto introduced its new line of Western Flyer bikes that replaced the old 'balloon tire' style bike with a slimmed down 'mid-weight' etc...." Not true. The real revolution in Western Flyer bicycles took place during 1959 and was ushered in under the banner of the 50th Anniversary. This was when the top-of-the-line X-53 Super balloon tire model was replaced with the middleweight tire Golden Flyer. For the very first time, there was no more balloon tire flagship and the mantle had fallen to middleweights. Furthermore, as pointed out above, Western Flyer middleweights were already on the market by the mid-1950s. In fact, by 1958 the only balloon tire model left in the catalogues was the X-53. All others were either middleweights or imported skinny-tire lightweights. What happened in the 1960s was merely a continued evolution of what had already begun several years earlier.
(NOTE: contrary to some of what the book implies, the rivalry between Western Auto and the Gamble-owned stores continued well beyond the buy-out of the Western Auto WEST stores formerly owned by Gamble-Skogmo. One of the best examples was after Western Auto's 1959 "50th Anniversary' year-long celebration, Gamble was apparently irritated enough to pull a bizarre one-upmanship stunt by claiming their 100th Anniversary Sale! The only problem was that 1960 was still 65 years too early–and B.C. Gamble even admitted this, but went forward with the sale and rather silly claim anyway!!)
• Page 222... Again, contrary to statements made in the book regarding Murray's dominance as a maker of Western Auto's bicycles, the Western Flyer bicycles shown here were all made by AMF and Huffy–not Murray.
• Page 225... " ...Bikes didn't have chain guards as standard equipment before the late 1930s..." Not true. Girl's bicycles as far back as the 1800s had chainguards as standard equipment. While boy's models usually didn't, it wasn't just because boys put rubber bands around their trouser leg as stated. Actually even Western Auto sold pant clips for boys that were made out of spring steel. Some of these clips were even sold WITH the bicycle or included free. These were in fact sometimes referred to as "chain guards" and were common. But also remember that boys in from the teens through the 1930s often wore knickers or tucked their pants in their socks....thus making a chainguard unnecessary.
• Page 254...".... chrome fenders..." Not true. Actually the first version of the so-called 'Western Flyer Classic Cruiser' actually came only with painted fenders. Chrome came later in one of the many incarnations that followed as this bicycle morphed its way along. We were an exhibitor at the very same bicycle trade show when the bicycle first appeared. In fact we used to have a "museum" space each year back in those times at these shows and their predecessors (the BDS-EXPO). The idea of making a revived Western Flyer deluxe balloon tire model actually came from encounters we had with people like Neil Delfs and Tom Ford (both of Western Auto) who saw Leon Dixon riding and displaying his old bicycles (including his Western Flyer X-53) around the industry trade shows. Yes, he was actually allowed to ride around these shows on his old bicycles. The Dixon exhibits were one of the most popular features of these shows. Many Western Auto people (including Mr. Ford and Mr. Delfs who were involved in the Sen-Pro "replica" Western Flyers) would come over to our booth and take photos and talk each year about the old glory days of Western Auto and Western Flyer. But when Western Auto (actually 'Sen-Pro' Company) decided to do this so-called "classic cruiser" (actually the exact title from one of Leon Dixon's old magazine articles that was published in Skateboarder magazine- also handed out at these trade shows) we never heard from them. Suddenly they turned up at the show with their new "classic cruiser." Of course nobody (including most collectors today) seems to know that Westfield Manufacturing Company (makers then of Columbia bicycles) supplied only very few Western Flyers during the 1950s–and none of them looked remotely like the "classic cruiser." They even went wayyyyyyy out on a limb and claimed it was "styled after the famous X-53." WOW. (Please Vik–wherever you are–they really didn't mean it!) That was a pretty extreme claim, but you would need some pretty TALL imagination to see any resemblance.
Today there is hardly a week that goes by that someone doesn't write us about their "1950s Western Flyer" that turns out to be one of these 1990s bicycles that look NOTHING like any original Western Flyer of the period. Look at eBay and you would think the only Western Flyers ever made were these so-called "replicas"...they made a gaggle of 'em! Anyway, this project was apparently successful and made good money for all... so there were more and more and more "replica" Western Flyers. They must have made tons of these since there is usually one listed on eBay for sale every month. By the way, the Western Flyer replicas were originally based on resurrected tooling used to make Columbia's own so-called "re-issue" of their bicycle from 1952 (of which we own serial #0002).)
NOTE: Finally, it would be important to mention that a HUGE number of Western Flyers were NOT American-sourced at all–Murray or otherwise. A good wad of the consumer magazine ads for Western Flyer brand touted the fact that these bicycles were "imported." And certainly these bicycles were neither balloon tire nor middleweight tire models. The 1954-55 Western Auto Dealerbook lists at least 5 skinny-tire imported models (not made in America, not made by Murray-Ohio). Some of these bicycles were made in England and actually said "HERCULES" on the frames and used 3-speed "Herc-U-Matic" rear hubs. While the book tends to imply that Murray, an American company, somehow was making the bulk of all Western Flyers, again, this just is not true. For instance, there was the Royal Flyer and London Flyer lines made in Europe. Western Auto sold a ton of these and other "English racer" type lightweight bicycles.
Happy Correcting and Collecting. Keep checking back for more.
Guide To Correcting The Classics will return in...OOhhhhhh, those "Evolutions of the Bicycle" NOW ONLINE... and auction catalogue MADness- COMING SOON!
AND NOW JUST ONLINE... OHHHHHH THOSE ERRORS IN THE "STANDARD CATALOGUE OF SCHWINN BICYCLES"
GO TO... OHHHHHH THOSE ERRORS IN THE "STANDARD CATALOGUE OF SCHWINN BICYCLES"! Page
We can identify almost any bicycle manufactured in North America between 1920 and 1970. We can also assist with bicycles made prior to this AND after this time. However, our era of specialty is between these dates. Also, since we primarily focus on American-made bicycles our involvement with non-domestic bicycles is limited. In some cases such as Raleigh and certain other imported makes, we do have a good amount of archival material. In other cases, we can advise you where to get information.
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This page, all design and contents, all photos unless otherwise noted are Copyright © 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2004, 2007, 200, 2010, 2013 by Leon Dixon/NBHAA, All rights reserved. The information and photos on this website may not be reproduced in any form without expressed written permission of NBHAA or its curator.
Date of last update to this page: 28 JUNE 2014
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