Joe has almost nailed it (particularly about mfg and maintenance), but I'd make an addition to his comments. It's not widely recognized, but in my opinion the Shimano "Lark" and its close cousins showed real mastery of work in sheet metal. Looks pretty much like a metal version of the basic Simplex Prestige, executed in bent metal, and perhaps a bit bigger. Can you say "heavy?" Doubly sprung parallelogram, not built for disassembly (except jockey wheels), and sturdy as the proverbial brick outhouse. Worked well, too, by the standards of the age. It was my first "serious" touring derailleur (on a long-gone Dawes Double Blue converted to 28-48 front and maybe a 14-24 rear). It took a while, but I finally found a couple of pretty beat up Larks in various scrap bins at shops, and one is a nice wall-hanger. Of course, today the marketers would insist that the Lark be renamed something like "Condor" or "Raptor," if it had to be named for a bird instead of something worthy like "Klang-on." :-)
In contrast, the Gran Turismo by Campgranolo is the tank-armor-guage sheet metal analogue to that other Campy design champion, the one-pulley "Sport," with its 16 - 22 tooth range, in the rank of all-time worsts. But, pretty, in chromed brass body.
harvey sachs mcLean VA.
>Harvey said: [The Atala] ... had some odd Campy sheet metal
>derailleurs - a material Campy never mastered as well as Huret.
>I think Huret was the unequaled master of sheet metal. All the Campy sheet metal stuff was junk and Italians hate the compromise of cheap stuff anyway. "If your stupid/cheap enough to buy it, whose fault is that" is the basic attitude. Suntour gave up on sheet metal with the "Skitter" and became the masters of economy castings. Simplex went from elegant metal to elegant plastic and back.
>The Lambert Suntour copy was the bottom of sheet metal. Few survive today. Not many survived a week of use, then the rest got tossed when Suntour enforced its patents. The nadir is the Campy Gran Turismo. Talk about big hat, no cattle.
>I bet the Huret stuff was a nightmare to assemble though and they spent more on that than Suntour spent on casting molds plus assembly by a factor of two if not five. Basically, more parts = more assembly cost, a lesson I learned bitterly as an engineering intern putting together a prototype modular telecom equipment rack for Bell Labs. When a fairly good bike mechanic has to spend eight hours to put something together- you have a problem.
>Great Notch, NJ