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French Frame, 1966 'Exige Elite' - What have I got? (Pic Heavy)

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French Frame, 1966 'Exige Elite' - What have I got? (Pic Heavy)

Old 11-24-12, 11:48 AM
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Oldpeddaller
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French Frame, 1966 'Exige Elite' - What have I got? (Pic Heavy)

Over the past few month I've been accumulating odd French components, not planned, it just turned out that way - A Stronglight chainset, Huret 2000 derailleurs, Mafac brakes, CLB levers, Maiilard hubs on Mavic Module 4 rims, etc.

I had the idea of assembling the lot on a French frame, maybe a Gitane TDF, Mercier, Bertin or similar. A contact in France had a beautiful Gitane and Mercier, but the Gitane was too big for me and the Mercier too expensive for my small budget for this project.

Then he sent me photos of this frame, which he'd just bought from its original owner, a Doctor who purchased it new in La Rochelle, Western France, back in 1966. Vitus tubing and fittings, lugs unknown (maybe a variation of Prugnat?), original finish, some light rust, Huret drop outs, my size (55cm square), French BB threadings and headset, seat post size currently unknown.

I paid for it this morning and he'll be putting it in the post on Thursday. He's including a Simplex French threaded square taper BB and a headset to fit. I haven't been able to find out anything about Exige, which he thinks is the maker - or Elite, which are the decals on the frame. Can anyone tell me any more? I haven't seen the frame in the flesh yet, but it seems like what I was seeking.



















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Old 11-24-12, 11:53 AM
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More photos..........



















Probably a candidate for an Oxalic acid bath, but the finish doesn't look TOO bad from the photos - and it's only original once. Any ideas, tips, opinions gratefully received.
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Old 11-24-12, 12:41 PM
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I think it will be a real test to come up with much definitive information on the brand.
At least all that I could Google-up was this listing for head badges on French eBay, which only points up that it was likely manufactured in St Etienne (as were zillions of other French bikes).

From the looks of it though, it certainly looks like a very worthy frame and I look forward to seeing dressed with the aforementioned components.
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Old 11-24-12, 12:51 PM
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Originally Posted by auchencrow View Post
From the looks of it though, it certainly looks like a very worthy frame
+1.

I am digging that paint job too. If that is the original paint, it is in damn good condition to be from '66. I would say with your OA bath and a wax, that would be 'like new' shiny. There appears to be a lot of metallic flake in the bottom coats.

Please do a build thread of this! Love me some French bikes
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Old 11-24-12, 01:18 PM
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I'm no expert but I would guess that frame is a bit more recent, more like the middle to late 1970's. It looks stiffer and more upright, with less fork rake, than any mid-60's French frame I have seen. The lack of brazed-one guides and stops usually indicates pre-1980 though. It's a nice-looking frame, I hope you learn more and let us know how the build goes.
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Old 11-24-12, 01:25 PM
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Originally Posted by kroozer View Post
I'm no expert but I would guess that frame is a bit more recent, more like the middle to late 1970's. It looks stiffer and more upright, with less fork rake, than any mid-60's French frame I have seen. The lack of brazed-one guides and stops usually indicates pre-1980 though. It's a nice-looking frame, I hope you learn more and let us know how the build goes.
The lack of braze-ons to me indicates early 70's. The brake clearances will possibly suggest a bit more.
The derailleur hangar looks possibly modified, but that may not be a bad thing.
Probably at least 531 or Vitus for the three main tubes, maybe throughout.
You might just really like it. The "basic" French road geometry of the period was quite good.
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Old 11-24-12, 01:35 PM
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Looks like a good start to something!
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Old 11-24-12, 01:49 PM
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Thanks guys, I'll definitely post pics when built.

Auchen, well done in finding that Elite badge, no surprise really if it did come from St Etienne. I can't make out the words in the border at the top (can anyone with better eyesight discern what it says?), but 'Nord - Loire' at the bottom might tie it down to a district, perhaps? (Prettyshady, can you advise?) I'm not going to bid on the head badges, I've spent all my remaining bike fund and a bit more on the frame!

Kvltbryce, Yes, it has some patina from use, but I like that - the overall appearance is that the finish retains a lot of gloss. According to the seller, the owner has 'babied' it as his pride and joy - I can understand that, I do the same to my newer steel bikes. This is a whole lot better to start with than than the 1966 Claud Butler I restored, that had to have the paint removed to check out the rust under it (thankfully the rust came off with the paint, leaving shiny tubes beneath), and I'm really pleased with the new enamel I laid onto it. But I think it would be a shame to strip this one unless there's a problem when it arrives.

Kroozer, I was thinking along similar lines, however the good Doctor is sure it was 1966, but might have been 1968. In any event, it seems to be pretty much what I was looking for but at a price I can (almost) afford! Thank heaven for an understanding and supportive wife! The size and geometry look to be perfect for my intended use of relaxed day rides in the Kent countryside.

I'm told that it could take anything from five days from next Thursday (when it will be posted) up to four weeks from then for the frame to arrive, given the vagaries of the French Parcel system and the UK's Royal Mail, but I have the feeling it will be worth waiting for.

I'm getting to love the idea of that honey gold colour. Apart from a lone Sanshin slotted high flange hub, I don't have any other gold anodised parts in my boxes, but I do have some NOS handlebar tape in that colour. I'm hoping that after treating the rust I can find a close match metallic paint or nail varnish just to touch in the worst chips and scratches so they don't show from about 10 feet away, then polish up with some Carnauba wax I use on the car. It just seems a good idea to me to have one French bike in my fleet of English and Italian steeds.

I don't intend to add any more decals (well, maybe the correct Vitus tubing label if I can find out which tubes it is built from), but I like the idea of a subdued, subtle frame that provides a plain background for the parts I have overhauled and polished.
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Old 11-24-12, 02:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Oldpeddaller View Post
T... I can't make out the words in the border at the top (can anyone with better eyesight discern what it says?), but 'Nord - Loire' at the bottom might tie it down to a district, perhaps? ...
I think it says "manufacture".
I was thinking "Nord et Loire" might have been cross-roads, but I cannot locate them on Google maps.
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Old 11-24-12, 08:25 PM
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Originally Posted by auchencrow View Post
I think it says "manufacture".
I was thinking "Nord et Loire" might have been cross-roads, but I cannot locate them on Google maps.
Thanks Auchen, Don't know how you did it, but that image is much clearer! Might be useful information, very much obliged!
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Old 11-25-12, 03:34 AM
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Nice looking frame! Keep us posted.
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Old 11-25-12, 06:53 AM
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Beautiful frame! Hard to tell whether it's more of a gold or mustard from the pics, either way I love the colour, no way would I consider repainting that. You could always have decals fabricated for the seat and down-tubes. It seems redundant to put "Nord et Loire" on the headbadge when it already states the bike comes from St. Etienne. Obviously Nord means North and Loire is a place, but could they also possibly be the names of the owners? OR could it have been associated with this French tobacco company? https://www.bilansgratuits.fr/NORD-ET...4250400026.htm

The parts build sounds like it will look amazing on this frame anyway, can't wait to see it built up!
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Old 11-25-12, 12:48 PM
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The badge is from a "Nord et Loire" bike (name of the brand), with "cycles de elite St. Etienne" as sort of a baseline (ll the French companies made cycles de elite, right!) I don't think it is connected to OP's bike, my (very uneducated) guess would be that these stickers are generic and have no direct link with the manufacturer, the stickers on the top tube look a bit weird even (under the cable clips?). Frame looks great though.
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Old 11-25-12, 02:39 PM
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Something about the actual headbadge seems too generic to me to be an actual brand. Could this have been a frame made by Gitane or one of the others intended to be re-branded as a company bike, with a store's name on the seat and down tube? Just a thought.
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Old 11-27-12, 02:14 PM
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Originally Posted by devinfan View Post
Something about the actual headbadge seems too generic to me to be an actual brand. Could this have been a frame made by Gitane or one of the others intended to be re-branded as a company bike, with a store's name on the seat and down tube? Just a thought.
Sounds very feasible Devinfan. Reynolds953 sent me a link to a bike in Emile, the French collector's collection - also badged Elite (different badge), same colour, 531, different lugs (no windows) but otherwise similar, that one has Campy on it. The text roughly translated, seems to indicate that it was built (in St Etienne?) and badged by the shop that sold it, not unusual in France or the UK at that time. Emile's is a 1975 model and seems newer in style that the one I'm waiting for. Will update you all when it gets here - it's being posted tomorrow, so I'll have to be patient.....................
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Old 11-27-12, 05:22 PM
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Well, I have no doubt that the man who will tell you everything you might want to know about this frame would be Norris Lockley, over on the CR list. Norris lives in Settle, Yorkshire, but is just back from one of his frequent sojourns in France. He's been posting a series of writings in the past few days about obscure French marques, often simply observations about bikes that pop up on French Ebay. He's a lovely fellow, and writes in great detail.

Post photos over there, and I'm sure he'll rise to the challenge.

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Old 12-01-12, 09:13 PM
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Originally Posted by LeicaLad View Post
Well, I have no doubt that the man who will tell you everything you might want to know about this frame would be Norris Lockley, over on the CR list. Norris lives in Settle, Yorkshire, but is just back from one of his frequent sojourns in France. He's been posting a series of writings in the past few days about obscure French marques, often simply observations about bikes that pop up on French Ebay. He's a lovely fellow, and writes in great detail.

Post photos over there, and I'm sure he'll rise to the challenge.

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Thanks LeicaLad, an excellent suggestion - I'm always amazed by Norris's knowledge. I've posted the query over therewith the same photos - hopefully this doesn't breach any of Dale's rules as I wouldn't do so intentionally. Will await developments, and the arrival of the frame, with anticipation - it was posted yesterday!
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