Every now and then, a real treasure pops up unexpectedly. This one concerns a bike ordered in 1982; it recently surfaced, with original-owner documentation and a photo of the bike as delivered with the original owner in front of the shop. Original-owner documentation from this period is rare and helps to fill in a gap in the records; sales ledgers are missing for the 1970s and 1980s, so original-owner documentation is the one sure way to date serial numbers during this period.
Let's begin with the order form, dated 27.3.1982, in Alf's inimitable scribble.
I spent a lovely afternoon conversing with the original owner, Mrs. Vaughan. She explained that off-the peg bikes did not fit her well, as her torso was shorter than her legs, compared to most people. She happened to live near Southend and someone recommended she go round to Alf's shop and get a bike fitted. She reported that Alf greeted her and was most congenial. He was, however, an insistent salesman, not wanting to transfer any equipment from Mrs. Vaughan's previous bike to a new frame; Alf insisted that she get all new kit to go on her new Hetchins. Jack (Denny), however, did not take any measurements; he just looked at her and sized her up mentally. This tallies with other reports; Jack had an eye for dimensions.
The details of the bike are all noted on the order form, reproduced above: it was to be built of Reynolds 531 double butted tubing (what else?), 20-1/2 inch seat tube, with oval forks, Campag ends, and Keyhole Special lugwork with O-shaped windows cut into the lugs and slotted together. A brazed panier carrier was to be supplied, a Tange headset, mud guards, Weinmann rims and brakes, high pressure tyres (27-inch). The finish was to be Burgundy Flambouyant, with lugs lined in gold, and the owner's initials, JMV, in gold on the left side of the top tube. A deposit of 50 pounds was levied.
On 10 July 1982, the bike was delivered and the balance paid in full.
A commemorative photo was taken outside the shop. It shows the familiar shop front, the new owner and Alf on the right, and another man on the left. The man on the left is a puzzle. "Jack Denny" is written on the back of the photo. But it cannot have been Jack. The man in the photo is too young and he does not look at all like the man in another photo of Jack taken only 3 or 4 years later. David Miller tentatively identified the man on the left as a shop assistant named Ted Croker. The photo is reproduced below:
Below are pictures of the bike in the condition it was in after 35 years of use. The rear mech had been replaced by a more modern one with indexing, and the drop handlebar had been replaced by a more upright touring bar, but rest looked as it did when delivered in 1982, including the numbered panier carrier. Even the original front wheel is intact, as evidenced by the faded and scratched Southend transfer on the rim.
Disassembling the bike, there were still more surprises in store. The steerer tube had a bit of masking tape stuck to it bearing the lettering: ALF BURGUNDY FLAM. This was evidently for the benefit of the sprayer. It proves that the frame still has its original coat of paint, as this would not survive respraying.
Let's have a look at the lugwork. Keyholes are well-known from the 1970s and 1980s, but Keyhole Spades are less so.
The drill holes are connected by slots, noted on the order form above as "Special O."
The varnish over-coat is peeling away, but the Burgundy Flam underneath is still in good condition, considering its age. Note the Tottenham crest transfer on the head tube; on such a short frame, no other transfer would have fit, much less a metal badge. The seat tube, however, has a Southend transfer.
Watch this space for the re-build.