Earls Court Show Model


How this frame came to be.

In December of 2004 the grapevine was abuzz with the news that David Miller's stock of curly stays was dwindling. There were only eight sets left from the last shipment dating from the early 1990s. Reynolds said they would tool up only for an order of 250 sets (or more). At the rate Hetchins had been selling for the previous 15 years, which was about 12 per year, David said that 250 sets would last another 20 years, way past his planned retirement. David told me that he would not be ordering 250 sets. Fearing that there might soon be no more curly stays, I placed an order and put my money where my mouth was, reserving a set. By January 8th, 2005, David was down to two remaining sets of curly stays and asked me to post a notice to the web site announcing a suspension of further production. (I 'neglected' to do so, not wishing to instigate a run on the bank.)

At that time, I did not know what sort of frame I wanted; I only knew that it might be one of the last curlies. David suggested that we "do something special," not just a run-of-the-mill Mag. Opus Millennium de Luxe.

I recalled having seen a hand-cut lug set at one of the previous year's Hetchins rallies in Gloucester. It was definitely a Hetchins pattern, but highly unusual. The pattern had never appeared in any catalog; we could not identify the model. I got in touch with the owner of the lug set and to my pleasant surprise, he was prepared to sell it. So I now had stays and lugs.

Above: the lug set.

About this time, another fortuitous circumstance put me in touch with Mrs. Marion Curwood, Jack Denny's daughter. During the course of our correspondence, some important information came to light about a frame few people have ever seen in person; I had seen only fotos of it. It was said to have been made for Hyman, and was at that time still in the possession of the Hetchin family. It is black and chrome and has fabulous lug work. I sent Mrs. Curwood the fotos I had and she confirmed that Jack designed it especially for Hyman and that it had been shown at a trade fair in 1948. The serial number of the frame is known.

Len Ingram, the Hetchins Archivist, checked the sales ledgers and found the entry for the frame number. The sales ledgers designated the frame as "E C Show Model." Mick Butler of Paris Cycles kindly researched his 1948 cycling magazines [moral of the story: never throw anything away! You might yet need it.] and confirmed that a cycle and motor show took place in 1948 at Earls Court in the heart of London. So the "E C Show Model" ledger entry made sense. Less than a year later, Jack and Hetch were presenting a whole new series of elaborately lugged frames at the 1949 trade show. The rest is history.

Above: Alf with the family jewel, Southend, 1982.

The lug set I had acquired was the same pattern as the 1948 show bike. David's suggestion that we do something special was shaping up to be a reprise of Jack's 1948 exhibition frame, made to modern specs: an Earls Court Two. If this were to be Hetchin's swan song, I figured, what better tribute than a show bike, the forerunner of the Latin Series?

David's frame builder, Paul Riley, received the lug set, cleaned it up, and pronoucned it usable. He would, however, have to use silver solder for the long extensions. Silver solder goes fluid at a lower temperature than other soldering metals, and the lower temperature would be necessary to prevent the long extensions from curling off the tubes during brazing. I said, why not silver solder the whole thing? And so it was.

Above: The long extensions required silver solder.

The frame was finished and delivered in the summer of 2005. Willochrome did the plating. Mike Arundale of Jackson Cycles, Leeds, did the finish: black metallic with silver double-box lining. The Editor wishes to thank all who contributed to the project. Designing and building it up was half the fun; now comes the other half ! It is a fitting bike.

In the summer of 2006 I took the finished bike to the UK and visited Ken Janes, Hetchin's lug cutter from the 1950s. He said that he had almost certainly cut the lugs. He said that the seat tube embelishment was typical of the sort of designs he cut "in his early days". He was pleased with what we had done with his lug set. David Miller had also seen the frame only in unfinished condition, but was "awestruck" when presented with the finished bike.


PS, Reynolds agreed to supply a smaller shipment of curly stays. Production continues.

Click here for the complete 2005 Earls Court bike.
Click here for Hyman's original 1948 Earls Court.