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1953 Schwinn - Varsity or Traveler?

Old 05-17-17, 10:21 PM
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tomdickharry
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1953 Schwinn - Varsity or Traveler?

I have a March 1953 Schwinn as confirmed by the serial number on the bottom left rear drop out. It belonged to a middle aged lady who got it from her father, so she thinks he had it from new. I'm wondering if it's a Varsity or a Traveler? Can anyone tell me what differences there might be between the two?

From the 1953 catalogue, it looks a lot like the yellow bike shown with the same common features;
  • 'Finned' front fender
  • Same crank pattern (4 circles)
  • 3 speed Sturmey Archer

I also wondered if it was too early for Varsity models? But I find contradicting information about what year this model was introduced.

The giveaway would be the decals, but I suspect the bike has been repainted, and there are no decals.



Once I've identified the model, I'm trying to figure out which parts are original. Here's my thoughts on a few parts:
  • Sturmey Archer hub - date code indicates 1952, so fits in with a March 1953 code on the frame
  • Handlebar grips - Unsure. Don't say Schwinn on them, but I identified a patent number which I was able to look up. It was filed in 1949 by Hungerford Plastics Corp. Were they a supplier to Schwinn?
  • Stewart Warner Cadet Speedometer - date code (G8) indicates a July 1968 build date, so that must have been an add on
  • Brakes & levers - These are both by Weinmann of Switzerland. I believe these could be original, but there is a graze on the corner of the handlebar which is very much under when the lever is mounted, and the lever doesn't look grazed, so could have been replaced. Also, not sure if the design of the lever is consistent with 1953? The pads are red(ish) rubber which seems to be a feature of older bikes, but I appreciate these are consumable parts.
  • Pannier rack - Made by Pletscher, Switzerland. Company was founded in 1919 but no idea what year this one is from! Any insights or help in identifying?
  • Wheels - how can I tell if the wheels/rims are original? Another forum suggested early Schwinn bikes had a different spoke lacing pattern. Is that true? The rims are steel and have a pitted texture

So overall, I'm guessing it's worth less than $50 in it's current state, and probably wont be worth much restored as it's been repainted? Would a Varisty be worth more than a Traveler, as it's an early version?

Appreciate any help on any of the above!
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Old 05-18-17, 01:44 PM
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That rear rack is probably worth more than than the rest if sold separately on ebay.
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Old 05-18-17, 02:19 PM
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tomdickharry
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So with a quick look on sold ebay listings, a similar looking Pletscher pannier rack recently went for $9!

So you're saying the bike is junk, not that I have a valuable pannier rack
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Old 05-18-17, 02:50 PM
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I don't mean junk at all! A dedicated Schwinn collector/restorer could do a ground up restoration as a labor of love but there would be no profit to be had. It would cost too much. But that bike could easily be cleaned, serviced, put back in working order and ridden for the fun of it, but it will still never be worth a mint.
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Old 05-19-17, 10:34 AM
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I noticed that 'PL' is stamped on the bottom of the bottom bracket. Does this have any significance, or help to identify which model it is?
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Old 05-19-17, 01:50 PM
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The Varsity was introduced in 1953 and was basically the same as the Traveler (same frame, fork, wheels) except for having fewer options and features. It's hard to tell what it was originally as it appears to have been repainted and is missing many of the original components (I believe the grips, levers, calipers, saddle and, pedals are incorrect). I'd guess it was a Varsity as one difference was the Varsity had painted fenders while the Traveler fenders were unpainted stainless steel. You can see a '53 Varsity here: 1953 Schwinn Varsity bicycle | Classic Cycle Bainbridge Island Kitsap County

You can see a '54 here: 1953 Schwinn World Tourist 3 speed - to buy | The Classic and Antique Bicycle Exchange

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Old 05-19-17, 03:24 PM
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Originally Posted by tomdickharry View Post
So you're saying the bike is junk, not that I have a valuable pannier rack
Not "junk", but slightly "junk-ish". It's old, has a nice S/A hub, but not much else. Save it as a collectible. Might be good for a period movie....
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Old 05-19-17, 07:08 PM
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I posted pictures of my 2 bikes if you want to see them go to the other post you started. A Traveler is just a fancier Varsity. More glitz. They ride the same. Varsity is the brownish maroon and the Traveler is blue. Roger
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Old 05-20-17, 08:24 PM
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Thanks all for the feedback.

Metacortex, Can I ask why you think the calipers and levers might not be original?

rhenning, What year is your Varsity from? I'd like to take cues from your picture for finding replacement parts in keeping with the year of manufacture, if it's of similar age.
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Old 05-20-17, 10:33 PM
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Originally Posted by tomdickharry View Post
Metacortex, Can I ask why you think the calipers and levers might not be original?
Because they used Schwinn-built levers and calipers back then (not Weinmann).
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Old 05-22-17, 07:06 PM
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Remind me, this is an electro forged frame, right? Not a fillet brazed.
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Old 05-22-17, 08:45 PM
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Originally Posted by sailorbenjamin View Post
Remind me, this is an electro forged frame, right? Not a fillet brazed.
Yes.
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Old 05-23-17, 05:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Metacortex View Post
Because they used Schwinn-built levers and calipers back then (not Weinmann).
I've had a look but can only find calipers labelled "Schwinn approved" - and still built by Weinmann. Have you got any pics/links?

Thanks!
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Old 06-02-17, 11:03 AM
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Originally Posted by tomdickharry View Post
I've had a look but can only find calipers labelled "Schwinn approved" - and still built by Weinmann. Have you got any pics/links?

Thanks!
The original 1950s Schwinn-built calipers are much harder to find, but there is currently a set on eBay: Schwinn Built Steel Side Pull Brakes Calipers Pair for 26 in Bikes Front & Rear | eBay

You can see details about many of the original parts on your bike in the 1950s Schwinn dealer parts catalog posted here: 1950s Schwinn Bicycle Parts Accessories Catalog | The Classic and Antique Bicycle Exchange
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Old 06-02-17, 03:19 PM
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Thanks - that's a great resource, Metacortex. I wish the parts still cost the same as those prices!
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Old 07-10-17, 10:59 PM
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Update!

Originally Posted by rhenning View Post
I posted pictures of my 2 bikes if you want to see them go to the other post you started. A Traveler is just a fancier Varsity. More glitz. They ride the same. Varsity is the brownish maroon and the Traveler is blue. Roger
Having concluded it's a worthless "Frankenbike" I decided to restore and use as my commuter bike. Not a faithful restoration, but sympathetic to the date. E.g. I'm keeping the weinmann bits. This has included building my own wheels (26x1-3/8 - same size it came with, rather than s6) and dismantling cleaning and reassembling the 1952 sturmey archer aw hub.

I just got the frame and fenders back from powder coating. The guy there said when stripping the fenders, he could see they used to be chrome plated. (Subsequently sanded, primed and painted, before I got hold of them!). The frame itself used to be navy blue which had also been sanded and painted red. The chrome fenders lead to me to believe it was more likely a traveler than a varsity. Since it's uneconomic to re-chrome the fenders, I've had them powder coated too and will continue the restoration in the style of a world varsity. Will eventually post pics when it's done...

This also means I have a few bits going spare I'm selling to help finance the restoration. Let me know if you're interested in
cadet speedo with cable,
a front steel 26x1-3/8" wheel
a rear steel 26x1-3/8" rim (40h)
New alloy sun 26x1-3/8" 36h rim (courtesy of Niagara cycles crap customer service!)
The pletscher rack
Schwinn approved dynamo and front light (works!)
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