One of the all-time best, off-the-shelf touring bikes was the Schwinn Superior (an early fillet brazed chrome-moly production bike). It was in an out of production in the 70's and possibly earlier. I had a '78. Its only weak point was the brakes. It handled great fully packed and only needed a rack and packs to get it in touring condition. It came geared for hills and/or packs.
It got me through the Alps, in all kinds of road and off-road conditions, rain or shine.
Most importantly, at the time, it was cheap (probably because it was plug-ugly and a Schwinn). That is one bike that I am very, very sorry I let go (sold it to my boss).
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Joe Bender-Zanoni" <email@example.com>
> To: "Sheldon Brown" <CaptBike@sheldonbrown.com>; "Steve Maas"
> <firstname.lastname@example.org>; <Classicrendezvous@bikelist.org>
> Sent: Wednesday, August 18, 2004 5:19 AM
> Subject: Re: [CR]Touring on vintage lightweights
> > >
> > > Very little was available as far as mass-produced, purpose built
> > > tourers until the early '80s.
> > >
> > > High-end bespoke tourers were available to those who could afford
> > > them, but most touring cyclists used modified "sport touring" bikes,
> > > a.k.a. "tenspeeds."
> > Sheldon is basically right. The Schwinn Sports Tourer was sort of
> > half-baked. Poor derailleurs, fairly flimsy rims. By the time the
> > derailleurs were right, the cranks were not.
> > The first decent off the shelf tourer might be the Fuji America. 1976.
> > examples?
> > Joe Bender-Zanoni
> > Great Notch, NJ