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Centurion Manufacturers

Old 01-28-21, 07:09 AM
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T-Mar
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Centurion Manufacturers

Recently, there was a long and lively discussion (now locked) regarding the identity of the prime manufacturing source for Centurion bicycles during the 1980s. The central point of discussion revolved around my statement that Tano was reportedly the manufacturer. This was based on a statement made by Georgena Terry who was sourcing bicycles from Tano at the same time that Tano was supplying Centurion to WSI.

Correspondence with personnel from Terry has verified that Terry considered Tano to be a manufacturer, rather than an exporter. However, when questioned specifically about frame manufacture, it was indicated that Tano sub-contracted frame manufacture to a Japanese company called Nomura. This was corroborated by a former WSI employee, who emphasized that Tano was much more than an exporter, also doing " prod(uct) development, design, spec sourcing, etc."

While this is does not entirely resolve the question of whether Tano was an exporter or manufacturer, it does provide some pieces to the puzzle and provides a name for the frame manufacturer associated with the 1980s' N-code serial numbers.

Unfortunately, it will probably raise further discussion regarding Tano's involvement in the development of such coveted models as the Ironman variants.

Also, I questioned the former WSI employee about the circa 1984 Turbo, Comp T/A and Pro Tour that have surfaced with a serial number format that is consistent with Matsu****a/National. While they could not remember the model names, they did confirm that WSI did source some models from Matsu****a/National in the early 1980s.
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Old 01-28-21, 07:26 AM
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Complete sentences, reliable information, straightforward delivery. This is useful.

I confess I don’t understand what any of this Tano/mano/expo business is about. But I suppose others do, and care about the implications. Anyway the discussion is interesting.

Last edited by jethin; 01-28-21 at 08:27 AM.
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Old 01-28-21, 07:47 AM
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Thank you, T-Mar. While these particular bikes aren't in my wheelhouse, it's lovely not only to hear resolution to this, but learn something in the process from someone who's taken the time to reach out to the people who were actually there managing these projects.

-Kurt
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Old 01-28-21, 08:23 AM
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Thank you @T-Mar for your expertise and intelligent sleuthing to help so many people find info/details about their bikes.

Japanese manufacturing relationships have no bearing on my collection, but your value to this Forum is beyond words.

Hats off.

Arigatou gozaimasu
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Old 01-29-21, 09:09 AM
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Kinda reminds me of the tootsie pop Comercial catch phrase " The world may never know".

Channeling RobbieTunes, It's like tryin to figure out magic, just enjoy the mystery.


So to add to all this is the fact that the FRAME and FORK of the Centurion Ironman vary slightly from the original '85 until last year run in '89.

Last edited by texaspandj; 01-29-21 at 09:25 AM.
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Old 01-29-21, 09:30 AM
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Interesting in the aesthetic decisions over time.
my hunch was that the style of the bikes was beyond WSI’s internal efforts, obviously there would be design review and refinement on presented prototypes, negotiations on specifications and price but the “look” of the bikes did not appear of domestic ( importer )
origin.
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Old 01-29-21, 11:12 AM
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Sweet, another interesting thread! Let's keep talking about it. I have 5 Centurions. 2 Ironmans, 2 Turbos(1 83 1 84) and an 83 Sport DLX Mixte. All have a serial number starting with N except for the 84 Turbo. The Asian market IM with the lugged fork that was originally purchased in Japan has a N7D something #. The 84 Turbo serial # is 4B06670. The original post makes mention of 84 Turbos. Which company might have manufactured this frame?

Also, who supplied the lugs and BB shells on the various bicycle mfgers frames? I also have Lotus frames as well as an SR. Both Lotus Legends are 84s. One is a Compe with racing geometry. Lotus and SR were brands/companies like Centurion/WSI that had their bikes made by other companies. The Centurions appear to have more frame construction detail differences variations within the brand/models than the other companies.
The 2 Turbos have different ST lugs, BB shells and brake bridges.
The 83 Turbo and 86 IM appear to have the same BB shell.
The 84 Turbo, 87 IM, 2 Lotus Legends and the SR appear tho have the same BB shell.
The 2 Turbos and 87 IM have the same DO connection treatment. The 86 IM, Lotuses and SR have the rounded DO treatment.
The 2 Turbos and Columbus SL Lotuses have oval shaped chainstays with no crimps and wrap around seat stays. The rest have round chainstays with crimps.
The 84 Turbo and 86 IM are the only frames with 2 sets of water bottle bosses.
The 2 Lotuses have small made in Japan stickers and serial #s starting with DH19. I also have a small 83 Lotus Unique that my son rode until his high school years. The serial # was ground off when I bought it. It has a bigger MADE BY TSUNODA JAPAN sticker. The SR serial # starts with a M3.

Are these differences up to the individual constructor of the particular frame, or what was requested by the companies buying the frames?

So confusing and yet, very interesting at the same time.

Last edited by seypat; 01-29-21 at 02:14 PM.
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Old 01-29-21, 01:45 PM
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I sold Centurions from their inception (75?) until I left that store in 1989 at which point we were the biggest dealer in San Diego County.
We were told at the start that H.Tano and WSI had an unusual relationship as Tano only sold to WS and WS only bought from Tano
this way the two companies could more help each other come up to speed. I remember the second model to be born was the Super Le Mans
in WSI's second year and the left chainstay sported a decal saying designed by Mitchell. I guess this all changed later...
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Old 01-29-21, 02:17 PM
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There does seem to be something odd going on with those '84 models. My '84 Pro Tour also has a Matsu****a/National SN#.
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Old 01-29-21, 03:42 PM
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And I was under the impression that my 85 Ironman was from Katakura?

Last edited by sd5782; 01-29-21 at 03:43 PM. Reason: Content
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Old 01-29-21, 04:00 PM
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I had a '77 Semi-Pro. It was a fine frame, and it was fine riding as well. I probably shouldn't have sold it.
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Old 01-29-21, 04:31 PM
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This is reminiscent of the fans of those 1970s-'80s Vivitar Series 1 lenses, now regarded as cult classics, persistently tracking down details of every manufacturer involved in the process.

Fortunately it was a little easier to confirm because a Vivitar representative was interviewed for a photo magazine article during that era and he confirmed that Vivitar's model was to design the lens for optimal performance without regard to price, then consult with Asian Rim manufacturers to see how much of that optimal design could be met within a price point designed to undersell the major camera/lens makers, while still performing as well or better.

Over time fans of those cult classic lenses have pretty well identified the actual manufacturers (which sometimes required disassembling lenses to check unique characteristics).
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Old 01-29-21, 06:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Phil_gretz View Post
I had a '77 Semi-Pro. It was a fine frame, and it was fine riding as well. I probably shouldn't have sold it.
I feel the same way about my track bike. Burnt orange or blue?
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Old 01-29-21, 09:26 PM
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Originally Posted by clubman View Post
I feel the same way about my track bike. Burnt orange or blue?
Silver grey.
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Old 01-30-21, 11:36 AM
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Seeing the forum auto-censor at work, perhaps we should call one of the Japanese manufacturers Matsupoopa/National?
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Old 01-30-21, 02:22 PM
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Just some random H. Tano info . . .

There are a few threads here regarding H. Tano also being the supplier to the German Centurion bicycle company (which has no other connection to WSI), where they marketed similar bikes, including names and color schemes. Per one of the guys at the German Centurion, they eventually obtained the Centurion trademark, when H. Tano abandoned it.

WSI may have only had Centurion trademarked in the US. Perhaps that is one of the reasons for eventually going completely to Diamond Back.

H.Tano had Centurion trademarked in Canada and Australia at one point (possibly elsewhere).





H. Tano was apparently selling Centurions in Australia, although with name variations (the Ironman Dave Scott name seems to have only been licensed in the US by WSI).

From an Aussie bike mag. named 'Freewheeling' (copies can be found on the Internet Archive website.



There's even an Aussie version of Bike Forums, with a Centurion following.

H. Tano was around since 1905. This ad is from Howie Cohen's old website (now gone).


There's an old H. Tano catalog on fleaBay at the moment.






If you note the headbadge page, the center right badge in the catalog is almost the same as this Centurion badge, which I understand was slapped on the first batch of rebranded Japanese-made Raleighs by Mitch Weiner, which led to the formation of WSI. This badge is from a thread on this board somewhere.


Last edited by Vintage_Cyclist; 01-30-21 at 02:25 PM.
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Old 01-30-21, 02:25 PM
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Originally Posted by gugie View Post
Seeing the forum auto-censor at work, perhaps we should call one of the Japanese manufacturers Matsupoopa/National?
I'm sure there are some sticklers around here but I would be perfectly content using the more informal "Panasonic"
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Old 01-30-21, 03:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Phil_gretz View Post
Silver grey.
Channeling the Cinelli look.
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Old 01-31-21, 07:13 AM
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Originally Posted by seypat View Post
Sweet, another interesting thread! Let's keep talking about it. I have 5 Centurions. 2 Ironmans, 2 Turbos(1 83 1 84) and an 83 Sport DLX Mixte. All have a serial number starting with N except for the 84 Turbo. The Asian market IM with the lugged fork that was originally purchased in Japan has a N7D something #. The 84 Turbo serial # is 4B06670. The original post makes mention of 84 Turbos. Which company might have manufactured this frame?

Also, who supplied the lugs and BB shells on the various bicycle mfgers frames? I also have Lotus frames as well as an SR. Both Lotus Legends are 84s. One is a Compe with racing geometry. Lotus and SR were brands/companies like Centurion/WSI that had their bikes made by other companies. The Centurions appear to have more frame construction detail differences variations within the brand/models than the other companies.
The 2 Turbos have different ST lugs, BB shells and brake bridges.
The 83 Turbo and 86 IM appear to have the same BB shell.
The 84 Turbo, 87 IM, 2 Lotus Legends and the SR appear tho have the same BB shell.
The 2 Turbos and 87 IM have the same DO connection treatment. The 86 IM, Lotuses and SR have the rounded DO treatment.
The 2 Turbos and Columbus SL Lotuses have oval shaped chainstays with no crimps and wrap around seat stays. The rest have round chainstays with crimps.
The 84 Turbo and 86 IM are the only frames with 2 sets of water bottle bosses.
The 2 Lotuses have small made in Japan stickers and serial #s starting with DH19. I also have a small 83 Lotus Unique that my son rode until his high school years. The serial # was ground off when I bought it. It has a bigger MADE BY TSUNODA JAPAN sticker. The SR serial # starts with a M3.

Are these differences up to the individual constructor of the particular frame, or what was requested by the companies buying the frames?

So confusing and yet, very interesting at the same time.
My leading candidate for the frame source for your 1984 Turbo would would be Matsu****a/National by an extremely large margin. The S/N format is consistent with what they employed and they are a confirmed WSI source for the era.

The dual alpha prefixes are consistent with what was used by Tsunoda, though they were also used by a number of other manufacturers. In the case of Lotus, Tsunoda was their prime Japanese source though the very earlier 1980s. The M3 prefix on the SR most likely indicates 1983 manufacture by Miki, a known source for SR bicycles.

Japanese manufacturers had a large number of frame fitting companies from which to source lugs and BB shells. Sometimes, in the case of very big companies with large resources, it's also possible that these could be proprietary. In a case like Centurion bicycles, these items could have been selected by the end bicycle marketing company, the middle man trading company or the frame manufacturer, depending on the particular situation. Often, the driving factor was cost. At lower levels, it was common to pick a standard frame from the frame builders or trading company's catalogue, or maybe even just rubber stamp the suggestion from the trading company. However, marketing companies like WSI would typically get progressively more involved as prices increased. Generally, Japanese lugs and BB shells will have a small trademark stamped into them which can sometimes be used to identify the company which manufactured them.
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Old 01-31-21, 07:46 AM
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Originally Posted by sd5782 View Post
And I was under the impression that my 85 Ironman was from Katakura?
While Nomura built the majority of Ironman models, I've come across several 1985 models that use a different S/N format. These have a K-prefix and the format is consistent with what Katakura employed. I specifically asked my WSI contact if Katakura was the source for these early Ironman models. Unfortunately, they couldn't provide confirmation one way or the other, as they were not involved in the Ironman project.

However, another possible source was recently discovered. The aluminum frame Centurion Facet appears to have been manufactured by a Japanese company called Yamakuni. So far, I haven't been able to trace their involvement in steel frame manufacture but they also used a K-prefix and like Katakura the 2nd character is also an alpha character. Unfortunately, all the Facet serial numbers I've managed to collect start with YF6, so I can't determine which of the 2nd and 3rd characters is the year indicator. Given that the Facet was a 1986 model (same era) and the similarity of the serial number format, I can't rule out Yamakuni as another possible candidate, along with Katakura. Hopefully, some more Facet owners will submit serial numbers, allowing for more insight to the exact nature of their S/N format.
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Old 01-31-21, 08:43 AM
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Originally Posted by jethin View Post
I confess I don’t understand what any of this Tano/mano/expo business is about. But I suppose others do, and care about the implications. Anyway the discussion is interesting.
Many companies use manufacturing outside their walls to make product. Technically, Apple manufactures nothing (more or less for those who want to point out an exception), yet they are a manufacturer.

The way the manufacturing world looks at it is who owns the design history file (DHF). Owning the DHF means you are ultimately responsible for the design inputs, what the design should be, and the design outputs, what the design actually is. It is in their control. So when you see Bayer aspirin, Bayer owns the DHF. When you see Walgreens aspirin, Walgreens does not own the DHF.

imo, reading T-Mars account, Tano is the owner of the Centurion DHF, which would make them the manufacturer.

There are many books on the DHF process if you really want to get into minutia. Very boring. I would never recommend one, even to enemies.
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Old 01-31-21, 09:00 AM
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Originally Posted by T-Mar View Post
My leading candidate for the frame source for your 1984 Turbo would would be Matsu****a/National by an extremely large margin. The S/N format is consistent with what they employed and they are a confirmed WSI source for the era.

The dual alpha prefixes are consistent with what was used by Tsunoda, though they were also used by a number of other manufacturers. In the case of Lotus, Tsunoda was their prime Japanese source though the very earlier 1980s. The M3 prefix on the SR most likely indicates 1983 manufacture by Miki, a known source for SR bicycles.

Japanese manufacturers had a large number of frame fitting companies from which to source lugs and BB shells. Sometimes, in the case of very big companies with large resources, it's also possible that these could be proprietary. In a case like Centurion bicycles, these items could have been selected by the end bicycle marketing company, the middle man trading company or the frame manufacturer, depending on the particular situation. Often, the driving factor was cost. At lower levels, it was common to pick a standard frame from the frame builders or trading company's catalogue, or maybe even just rubber stamp the suggestion from the trading company. However, marketing companies like WSI would typically get progressively more involved as prices increased. Generally, Japanese lugs and BB shells will have a small trademark stamped into them which can sometimes be used to identify the company which manufactured them.
Thanks for the response. Very informative and interesting!
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Old 01-31-21, 09:27 AM
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85 Ironman serial number

Originally Posted by T-Mar View Post
While Nomura built the majority of Ironman models, I've come across several 1985 models that use a different S/N format. These have a K-prefix and the format is consistent with what Katakura employed. I specifically asked my WSI contact if Katakura was the source for these early Ironman models. Unfortunately, they couldn't provide confirmation one way or the other, as they were not involved in the Ironman project.

However, another possible source was recently discovered. The aluminum frame Centurion Facet appears to have been manufactured by a Japanese company called Yamakuni. So far, I haven't been able to trace their involvement in steel frame manufacture but they also used a K-prefix and like Katakura the 2nd character is also an alpha character. Unfortunately, all the Facet serial numbers I've managed to collect start with YF6, so I can't determine which of the 2nd and 3rd characters is the year indicator. Given that the Facet was a 1986 model (same era) and the similarity of the serial number format, I can't rule out Yamakuni as another possible candidate, along with Katakura. Hopefully, some more Facet owners will submit serial numbers, allowing for more insight to the exact nature of their S/N format.
Serial number on my 85 Ironman: KF511628 if that adds anything to the discussion.
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Old 01-31-21, 10:19 AM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by sd5782 View Post
Serial number on my 85 Ironman: KF511628 if that adds anything to the discussion.
Not sure if that adds to the discussion either, however it does remind me I need to submit my '85 Ironman serial number to T-Mars Centurion serial number thread.

Last edited by texaspandj; 01-31-21 at 10:22 AM.
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Old 01-31-21, 10:21 AM
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Thanks for the explanation iab . I think I'd term what you describe simply as "manufacturing."

I get that the manufacturer of a product matters. As does the "brand/distributor", which I suppose could play a larger or smaller roll in the final product (design, manufacturing, quality control, etc.)

My guess is that if Tano can be pinned down as the/a manufacturer of Centurions this would have significance to some folks. I'm lazy and know nothing about Tano though, so I don't know what exactly that significance might be.

The sum of my knowledge of Centurion bikes is this: they are generally regarded as well made and to ride nicely. That's good enough for me, but I do enjoy these C&V "inside baseball" discussions.
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