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Old 03-30-10, 02:38 PM   #301
trumptman
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A few pix of my Univega Viva Sport which I have been enjoying very much. For now it is my only road bike but has been very good to me and gotten me into riding. It was a curb find and I have basically replaced all things rubber and the seat. Based off what I have read around here about components and serial numbers on frames, I'm guessing it is a 1980 model. The components are all SunTour with the rear being the Vx. It is a 12 speed.





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Old 04-14-10, 12:19 PM   #302
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T-Mar! I need your help again!
Bought a Super Star mixte for the wife...serial: M5-K2175.
It's equipped with 24" wheels and Suntour quill shifters. Just had to order tires....

and an update on my brown Nuovo sport....I've converted it to a fixie/singlespeed. (Set it to fixed and haven't switched it yet)
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Old 04-14-10, 09:37 PM   #303
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My Univega Competizione.
Picked it up for $200 and have ridden it almost everyday since I bought it.
I'm in love.











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Old 04-25-10, 06:57 AM   #304
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2001 Univega Modo Volare.

Still put over 1000 miles a year on it.
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Old 04-26-10, 10:56 PM   #305
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Can anyone tell me what year(s) the Univega Competizione model was in production?
I've been able to gather that these came with Suntour Superbe components but does anyone have an original component list, a catalog perhaps?

Thanks,

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Old 04-27-10, 09:17 PM   #306
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Originally Posted by bigwoo View Post
I don't even need to say it; POST YOUR PICTURES FOLKS!
We already know that many of the Japanese Univega's and ITALVEGA'S were very nice and are often of very good quality, even to this day.

Please add anything you know about Univega's history, quality, hierarchy, how to date them, or anything else I'm forgetting

This is sadly all that I really know about Ben Lawee, but I'll bet some of you can really expand on it:
http://www.allbusiness.com/retail-tr...4135027-1.html


I'll start: This is my favorite Univega because it's so smooth and it RIPS down the road on a nice day. It's a Viva Sport:
http://

http://
I can expand on Ben Lawee a lot because I worked for him for 3 years. I won't put everything in this post because there are too many stories to tell...
I was working in a bike shop when the Univega rep recommended me for a job with Univega. He told me that I didn't need to type a resume because it wasn't "that formal a company". This is about 1979. I've always put a lot of effort into my printing..I submitted a calligraphic resume which I heard later that Ben showed everyone in the office because he loved the "hand-made detail". When I went to Long Beach for my interview, He took me to his favoite restaurant in a Black Rolls-Royce/red interior with a California license plate "UNIVEGA". One reason for this lunch interview was that he wanted to observe my table manners. Two other Univega employees were with us. After determining my experience, I was hired as an inside sales representative.
Ben was very tough to work for. If you craved praise, you were in the wrong place. Employees were often criticized in front of their peers, a big management no-no that is rarely seen today. Other facts about Ben. He never rode a bike. He had a great eye for design and was a self-made millionaire. I will post more later about working at Univega if you wish...there is lots more.
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Old 04-27-10, 09:39 PM   #307
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigwoo View Post
I don't even need to say it; POST YOUR PICTURES FOLKS!
We already know that many of the Japanese Univega's and ITALVEGA'S were very nice and are often of very good quality, even to this day.

Please add anything you know about Univega's history, quality, hierarchy, how to date them, or anything else I'm forgetting

This is sadly all that I really know about Ben Lawee, but I'll bet some of you can really expand on it:
http://www.allbusiness.com/retail-tr...4135027-1.html


I'll start: This is my favorite Univega because it's so smooth and it RIPS down the road on a nice day. It's a Viva Sport:
http://

http://
I can expand on Ben Lawee a lot because I worked for him for 3 years. I won't put everything in this post because there are too many stories to tell...
I was working in a bike shop when the Univega rep recommended me for a job with Univega. He told me that I didn't need to type a resume because it wasn't "that formal a company". This is about 1979. I've always put a lot of effort into my printing..I submitted a calligraphic resume which I heard later that Ben showed everyone in the office because he loved the "hand-made detail". When I went to Long Beach for my interview, He took me to his favoite restaurant in a Black Rolls-Royce/red interior with a California license plate "UNIVEGA". One reason for this lunch interview was that he wanted to observe my table manners. Two other Univega employees were with us. After determining my experience, I was hired as an inside sales representative.
Ben was very tough to work for. If you craved praise, you were in the wrong place. Employees were often criticized in front of their peers, a big management no-no that is rarely seen today. Other facts about Ben. He never rode a bike. He had a great eye for design and was a self-made millionaire. I will post more later about working at Univega if you wish...there is lots more.
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Old 04-27-10, 10:29 PM   #308
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Tom, that is VERY interesting. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 04-27-10, 10:53 PM   #309
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Originally Posted by Tom Pedale View Post
I can expand on Ben Lawee a lot because I worked for him for 3 years. I won't put everything in this post because there are too many stories to tell...I will post more later about working at Univega if you wish...there is lots more.
Tom, it'd be great to hear more about the workings of Univega. I'd guess you have a unique outlook on the company and products
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Old 04-28-10, 02:11 AM   #310
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I for one would like to hear more.
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Old 04-28-10, 10:53 PM   #311
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I for one would like to hear more.
Here's more. Even though Ben Lawee never rode a bike (he did however, have a terrific car collection), he was very sharp when it came to reading the bike market.
At a certain point in the 70's, he realized that the Japanese parts makers were coming on strong. At this time, if you imported an Italian bike, it came with Italian parts, French bikes came with french parts. Ben was the importer for Motobecane. After a long and sometimes acrimonious discussion with Motobecane, he convinced them that it would be best to put Suntour derailleurs on their popular priced bikes. This proved to be very successful and was a harbinger to the creation of the Univega brand. At the time, Ben imported a brand named Italvega (Italian Star). While this brand was somewhat successful, sales were mostly concentrated among a few upper end models that were spec'd with Campagnolo. Lower priced models came with baseline Italian parts which did not perform as well as the Japanese components. Also, bicycle delivery from the Italian factories were unreliable with too many missed deadlines which was not well received by Italvega dealers who needed product to sell during the bike season. Delayed shipments showing up late in the season did no one any good. Hence Univega (Universal star) was created by Ben to signify that bikes could be sourced from any number of countries. The partnership with Miyata was very successful. The Miyata product was a consistently higher quality bike. Deliveries were on time and volume soared. Ben had more control over the brand than he did with Motobecane and eventually stopped distributing Motobecane to concentrate on Univega. Motobecane never regained its strong presence in the U.S. Years later, it was re-born as a mail order brand, although the bikes are made in Asia, not France. One big reason Ben was successful with both Motobecane & Univega was his ability to choose attractive color combinations that gave both brands great eye-appeal. I spent a lot of time with Ben in a special showroom where we would both discuss the pros and cons of various paint & decal combinations. I was always applying different colored alcohol transfer decals on the bikes so we could see how they looked. The idea was to make our bikes look more modern, expensive and attractive then the competitors. This worked in the popular price ranges but Ben was never very successful with the more expensive Univegas since they were competing with brands that had a presence in the pro peloton. As well, bikes made in Europe still ruled at the upper end. Eventually, Ben created a short-lived brand called Bertoni which was like Italvega made in Italy. It was not very successful due partially to the fact that Ben didn't believe in sponsoring racers or teams. You need pros and their race victories to create a successful high-end brand.
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Old 04-28-10, 11:07 PM   #312
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Originally Posted by Fasteryoufool View Post
I for one would like to hear more.
Here's more. Even though Ben Lawee never rode a bike (he did however, have a terrific car collection), he was very sharp when it came to reading the bike market.
At a certain point in the 70's, he realized that the Japanese parts makers were coming on strong. At this time, if you imported an Italian bike, it came with Italian parts, French bikes came with french parts. Ben was the importer for Motobecane. After a long and sometimes acrimonious discussion with Motobecane, he convinced them that it would be best to put Suntour derailleurs on their popular priced bikes. This proved to be very successful and was a harbinger to the creation of the Univega brand. At the time, Ben imported a brand named Italvega (Italian Star). While this brand was somewhat successful, sales were mostly concentrated among a few upper end models that were spec'd with Campagnolo. Lower priced models came with baseline Italian parts which did not perform as well as the Japanese components. Also, bicycle delivery from the Italian factories were unreliable with too many missed deadlines which was not well received by Italvega dealers who needed product to sell during the bike season. Delayed shipments showing up late in the season did no one any good. Hence Univega (Universal star) was created by Ben to signify that bikes could be sourced from any number of countries. The partnership with Miyata was very successful. The Miyata product was a consistently higher quality bike. Deliveries were on time and volume soared. Ben had more control over the brand than he did with Motobecane and eventually stopped distributing Motobecane to concentrate on Univega. Motobecane never regained its strong presence in the U.S. Years later, it was re-born as a mail order brand, although the bikes are made in Asia, not France. One big reason Ben was successful with both Motobecane & Univega was his ability to choose attractive color combinations that gave both brands great eye-appeal. I spent a lot of time with Ben in a special showroom where we would both discuss the pros and cons of various paint & decal combinations. I was always applying different colored alcohol transfer decals on the bikes so we could see how they looked. The idea was to make our bikes look more modern, expensive and attractive then the competitors. This worked in the popular price ranges but Ben was never very successful with the more expensive Univegas since they were competing with brands that had a presence in the pro peloton. As well, bikes made in Europe still ruled at the upper end. Eventually, Ben created a short-lived brand called Bertoni which was like Italvega made in Italy. It was not very successful due partially to the fact that Ben didn't believe in sponsoring racers or teams. You need pros and their race victories to create a successful high-end brand.
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Old 04-28-10, 11:24 PM   #313
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Fantastic post Tom! This is what I love, real industry stories.
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Old 04-28-10, 11:30 PM   #314
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Fantastic post Tom! This is what I love, real industry stories.
+1
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Old 04-29-10, 01:38 AM   #315
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Fantastic post Tom! This is what I love, real industry stories.
+1 Definitely!
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Old 04-29-10, 03:12 PM   #316
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Really fun reading your posts Tom. I was particularly interested in what you mentioned about Ben Lawee's attention to creating color schemes that would be appealing to customers and would enhance perceptions of their quality, particularly given that some of the colors used seemed not at all common, and at least today seem to evoke mixed reactions. Some of the metalic browns, bronzes, orange-golds and pinks in particular are in a palate range I've rarely if ever seen on other bikes - vintage or new. Personally I like them - largely because they are uncommon , strike me as very '70's/80's' and period defined, and are very distictive to the brand (even though I'd be hard pressed in some cases to say I think they are among the most appealing options out there). In any case you have any further insight to how some of those colors got selected, how they were well recieved at the time, etc?
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Old 04-29-10, 04:56 PM   #317
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Making some changes: here's my Super Strada in it's current form:

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Old 04-29-10, 05:53 PM   #318
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here's my 1986 gran rally, all original, everything... just recently got it as a donor bike, but i'm having second thoughts about stripping a perfectly good univega

::shameless plug:: in any event, it is for sale in socal ::shameless plug:: http://orangecounty.craigslist.org/bik/1713990006.html





haven't done a thing to it, with the exception of a thorough cleaning... unfortunately if i don't get a buyer, i will use the parts on another frame... please don't beat me

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Old 04-29-10, 11:19 PM   #319
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Really fun reading your posts Tom. I was particularly interested in what you mentioned about Ben Lawee's attention to creating color schemes that would be appealing to customers and would enhance perceptions of their quality, particularly given that some of the colors used seemed not at all common, and at least today seem to evoke mixed reactions. Some of the metalic browns, bronzes, orange-golds and pinks in particular are in a palate range I've rarely if ever seen on other bikes - vintage or new. Personally I like them - largely because they are uncommon , strike me as very '70's/80's' and period defined, and are very distictive to the brand (even though I'd be hard pressed in some cases to say I think they are among the most appealing options out there). In any case you have any further insight to how some of those colors got selected, how they were well recieved at the time, etc?

Great question! Historically, certain bicycle paint schemes have always worked. For instance, black w/red accents. Motobecane and Univega always had several black w/red bikes in the lineup. To this day, you will see that combination in many bike lines. Silver with red is another classic combo. As I mentioned, Ben had a car collection. Car colors have historically influenced bike colors, especially in the popular price points. Black, silver, silver-blue, gunmetal, and white are colors that are the the most popular car colors. These are conservative colors. For the rider buying his first good bike, he might choose silver or gunmetal because he really doesn't want "flash", in fact just the opposite is true, he wants to blend in. He doesn't want to draw attention to himself. The Champagne/bronze palette was also infuenced by certain cars (Porsche for example). You may have noticed that in some of the colors there is a good dose of metallic flake. This is where the bike color would differ from the car color. On a car, you have a great deal of surface area, so you really don't need that much metallic. However, on a traditional steel frame, the tubes and area covered by paint are relatively small, so the extra dose of metallic makes the bike "pop" on the showroom floor. Let's look at white. A vintage Peugeot UO8 is "Refrigerator White" which is a flat and cold color. But when you add a bit of blue or red pearl with corresponding blue or red decals, you get a bike that looks richer and more expensive. Red pearl in particular warms up white. You asked about pink and rose colors. In Europe, especially the south, you see more pastels and brighter colors. It's that Mediterranean thing. Ben liked the concept, even though he was realistic enough to know that most American guys weren't going to get on a pink or rose bike (although the gals would). An Oakland raiders color scheme was more to their liking. So he always had some of these brighter bikes in the lineup, he just ordered smaller numbers. An especially difficult color was green. One year, Ben (who made up the names for the colors) put a color he called "Petrol" (think of the green color in a quart of oil) on his Nuovo Sport model which retailed for about $200.00. Personally, I thought it was a rich, classy color. But it didn't sell so great.

Getting back to the brighter colors, as you are no doubt aware, when you get to the enthusiast or what's known as the "frequent user" or enthusiast, the rules change. You will find lots of bright colors. This customer wants to ride what the pros ride. The big problem with flashy bike though is that other riders expect you to go fast all the time!

After Univega, I went to work for Specialized for 8 1/2 years. They have some seriously talented folks who work on colors and graphics. As well, the composite frames give you a bigger canvas to work with. More fun!
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Old 04-29-10, 11:49 PM   #320
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My first "real" bike was a Univega.
It was champagne when I got it, 200$ from this shop in Chicago that rescues old bikes and gets them ridden again.
It was a 54cm, I'm 6' even, I didn't know any better and it felt great.
Second summer I had it, I painted it blue and took that photo down there of it.
3rd summer, the blue was chipping from me not knowing how to properly do a rattlecan job, so I painted it this very beautiful shade of dark red/maroon, made it SS and put that chrome fork on there, that was when I fell in love with cloth bartape too, nothing better.

That September I got doored, forget toe overlap, I had downtube overlap, the fork was toast and the frame is iffy at best.
It's been hanging in my closet for like 2 years now, I don't know if it's safe to build up in this condition, much less worth buying new components for (all its old gear is now on a Peugeot I rescued).

Makes me real sad, especially seeing these pictures, it was a great bike and I'm real proud it was my "first".
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File Type: jpg UNI3..jpg (90.0 KB, 60 views)

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Old 04-30-10, 12:04 AM   #321
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Fantastic post Tom! This is what I love, real industry stories.
+1

Thanks for the posts, Tom. I bought two Univegas back in the day. At some point, I figured out, or was told, that the frames were made by Miyata. I thought long and hard about buying a Miyata touring bike vs. a Univega Specialissima, and finally chose the Univega because of the (very cool) color.

A couple of years ago I bought a Gran Turismo -- in pink! -- and the color looked fantastic. It was a really high quality paint job; still looked new after 25 years.
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Old 04-30-10, 06:21 AM   #322
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Am I crazy to be seriously considering buying this Univega even at this (I think) elevated price.
I love that era 600 and I've always been drawn to the aesthetics of the Univega.
Does anyone know more about this frame? Is it towards the top of the line?

Any extra info would be great.

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...#ht_6957wt_958

I promise I am NOT the seller. Just seriously considering the bike.
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Old 04-30-10, 01:54 PM   #323
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Tom Pedale- Great info on the Univega brand. Have you ever thought of writting a book?
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Old 04-30-10, 02:59 PM   #324
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Thanks again Tom. Interesting about Ben's interest in cars and how he took some paint scheme cues from them. This morning while driving to work I was thinking of your post and it occurred to me that some of the champagne and bronze/copper metalic tones on the Univega's really are similar to some of the tones used on cars I was seeing drive by (with the exception of that rose metalic pictured above in this thread - that one still remains in a category all its own). Your note confirms the connection.

I'd be interested in seeing a Univega in the 'petrol' green you referred to. Metalic greens are among my favorite bike and car colors (I looked a fair bit to find a bronze green 74 Raleigh SuperCourse and later a 68 Superbe). I'll keep my eyes out for it. Anybody in the forum have one they could provide a picture of?
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Old 04-30-10, 03:04 PM   #325
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Tom,

+1 on PolishGuys suggestion about you writing a book. I recently heard that there is a traditional saying in Brazil that in his life evey man should a) plant a tree, b) have a son and c) write a book...
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