[CR]Flash' new Hetchins history Part 2

From: "Thomas Rawson" <twrawson@worldnet.att.net>
To: <Classicrendezvous@bikelist.org>
Date: Fri, 7 Mar 2003 09:36:13 -0800
Subject: [CR]Flash' new Hetchins history Part 2

Ok, heres Part 2

Tom Rawson Oakland, CA

Flash Historic Hetchins Web Site http://www.hetchins.org March 2003

Some thoughts on 'old' and 'new' Hetchins and the idea of hand-made vs. custom-made, Part Two.

Fourth Period (simplification)

The fourth period of Hetchins design development commences in the months immediately after the sale of Hetchins and its de jure unification with Bob Jackson Cycles after April 1986.

Under new ownership and management, Hetchins/Jackson proceeded to do what O'Neill had previously said would have to be done, namely to modernize the operation. First, the dozen or so lug designs from the 1950-1986 period were reduced to three. Second, the method for producing the remaining lug designs was modernized and simplified. And third, a number of frames were produced as prototypes or exhibition frames (example: http://www. hetchins.org/504bjcmo-01.htm) for a newly designed catalog in 1987 (http://www.hetchins.org/303).

1. Reduction of the number of lug designs: the 1964 catalog listed the following models: Italia, Vade Mecum i, ii, and iii, Experto Crede, Experto Crede Plus, Mountain King, Mountain King deluxe, Nulli Secudus, Magnum Bonum, Magnum Opus, and Track Supreme. In addition, Keyholes, Swallows, Spyders, and deluxes were made to order. Of these, four were crystallized out, but in the event only three appeared in the 1987 catalog. The three remaining patterns were: Magnum Opus, Scorpion Bonum, and Novus Ductor. At least one prototype or catalog frame designated 'Magnum Bonum' was produced, but it did not appear in the new catalog. It would appear that it was replaced by the new Scorpion Bonum design.

2. Simplification of the lug-making process: by this time, the firms which had formerly supplied the elaborate Latin Series castings were no longer supplying them (or no longer even in business), and the hand-cutting of sheets of lug material was no longer affordable. Perhaps the craft itself was dying, as new trainees were lacking. Jackson turned to industry-standard blanks and modified them, just as Harry Hetchin had done in the 1930s (Chater Lea), and Alf in the 60s and 70s (Prugnat, Nervex). From 1987, exclusively industry-standard blanks were used; so far as I know, only a very few prototypes, if any, could have been made the old-fashioned way by hacking at sheet metal or long blanks; more likely, a few remaining sets of original castings may have been used up. The industry-standard blanks used were what is called a three-window pointed lug, as used by any number of other frame builders. It looks like a Prugnat lug and often has heart-shaped windows.

The above two simplifications resulted in the following: the three lug designs to be offered in the 1987 catalog were all based on the same industry-standard three-window pointed blanks; the difference between the models was simply a matter of brazing on more or fewer tangs: the familiar Hetchins fleur-de-lis pattern. All three lug designs (Novus Ductor, Scorpion Bonum, Magnum Opus) were the same on the three main lugs (head and seat tube)--the same tang was brazed onto the lug points extending along the seat tube, top tube, down tube, and head tube for all models. The differences between the three models were: a) whether tangs were also added to the bottom bracket (none for Novus Ductor, short tangs for Scorpion Bonum, long tangs for Magnum Opus), whether tangs were also added to the brake bridge (ditto), and the length of the tangs added to the fork crowns (short for ND, medium for SB, long for MO); and b) the MO head lugs had a few extra slashes or scallops on the sides or underneath compared to the SB and ND. Many minor variations are known, but the basic design was: stamped tangs brazed onto industry-standard three-window pressed blanks (see Fig. 3). The deluxe version of the MO is characterized by cauliflowery bits added to the sides of the head lugs (rather than slashes or scallops cut out of them).

Whereas the ornamental tangs were die cut in previous decades, they are now laser cut.

While some may think that brazing tangs onto industry-standard blanks is somehow less original than sawing sheet metal (or trimming castings), it is a logical development of what Hetchins had always done anyway, as early as the 1940s. Tangs had always been added to industry-standard fork crowns, brake bridges, and bottom brackets--now they were added to the three main lugs as well. The result was no less fancy than the legendary Latin Series from the 1950s, and it was economically viable for the 1980s. In particular, the MO Phase 3 deluxe, as we are nowadays calling it, covers more square millimeters of head, down, and top tube than the MO Phase 2 ever did.

This is what I would call the fourth design period, and it continues to this day.

Fig. 3

1987 MO Ph. 3 (left); 1987 Novus Ductor (right). end of Part Two