Walter Skrzypek wrote:
What's the collectibility if any on a older, probably 70s Sears/Roebuck Made in Austria, 27 in wheeled townie type bike. I located one in the attack of my grandfather's garage when my dad and I were getting out some old 50s Chevy parts...we came across this and my dad didn't even know it was up there. It has a 5 speed with simplex shifter. Synchro brake set up. It has dust but no rust...So, is there anything special about these bikes? Any groups that yearn for the Sears ones?
<snip> and John Thompson responded: The Austrian-made Free Spirits were actually pretty nice frames. For many years they were made from Reynolds 531, had forged dropouts, etc. They generally came equipped with fairly mediocre components, though, and the store managers were generally clueless about them. I remember reading a Consumer Reports article back in the day that mentioned looking at the label carefully, because the bikes built on American-made gaspipe frames were priced the same as the ones built on Austrian-made 531 frames.
My memory differs; John's may be better than mine. In the early to mid-60s, Sears offered one "real" 10-speed, with Weinmann brakes and alum rims, and Campy "steel" record derailleurs. I have one, and it is NOT Reynolds 531. Indeed, the pipes have seams. In the mid-1970s, there was another "top-line" Sears, which was apparently only available in a hideous lime, but was otherwise as John describes it: 531 DB frame and forks, with as low assembly quality as I ever saw on a 531 frame, and middling Japanese components. Nice Shimano drop-outs, and Crane rear derailleur; titlist front. I believe mine had SR imitations of Suguino Maxy cranks. Mine buckled in a head-on collision with a park ranger on a bike, and has retired (with the manual) to Larry Black's home for odd framesets.
Now memory is getting weak here, becuase I had no interest in the other Sears models, even if they said "Ted Williams" like my '65. But I think I remember some lugged 3-speeds from Austria with cheapo squashed end forks.
By the way, at one time you could buy Shimano "E" disk brakes from Sears
catalogue, since they had been used on one Sears model. Fine tandem
brake for that vintage.