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Schwinn Varsity Question

Old 01-31-15, 09:17 PM
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commodus192
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Schwinn Varsity Question

Instead of a hilarious and attention grabbing title, I thought I'd be honest just to get those who give a crap about Varsitys to maybe take a look. I have a question about serial numbers.

So today at the bike coop, I decided to pull out this dirty and derelict Varsity to breathe some life into. It looked like it was once dipped in crude oil, and then pedaled for 10 years non stop through a sand storm. The grime was nearly bending the wire brush away. But it's better than rust.

My question:

The serial number is LM....which denotes November of 1976. But the head badge digits are 0477, which would be the 47th day of 1977.

So....does this mean the frame was made in November of 76, and then assembled and boxed on the line on February 16th of 1977? Just seems strange that frames would sit around that long before being assembled if that is the case. Plus, I can't imagine anyone replacing a head badge on one of these things.

Anyhow - I know there are some good Schwinn preservationists in here that may know the answer I seek!

It came out quite nice actually - wonderfully bright flamboyant red. I took it home to finish and just went for a very frosty ride around town for it's first time out in who knows how long. It's fantastic.



Mike




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Old 01-31-15, 09:37 PM
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Originally Posted by commodus192 View Post
The serial number is LM....which denotes November of 1976. But the head badge digits are 0477, which would be the 47th day of 1977.

So....does this mean the frame was made in November of 76, and then assembled and boxed on the line on February 16th of 1977?
That's *exactly* what it means. It also means that is a '77 model Varsity.

Just seems strange that frames would sit around that long before being assembled if that is the case.
For Schwinn at that time it was not strange, in fact it was common. Having both the frame and badge numbers really gives you an insight into how Schwinn worked at the time. Many other components on that bike have date codes as well. Schwinn would build frames in batches in advance of production, then store them until the remaining components were acquired for a given run of bikes. Also factoring into this specific bike is that Schwinn would shut down the factory for 2 or 3 weeks over the holidays, so no bikes were produced during that time. While high-volume bikes like the Varsity normally had less time between frame and bike builds, I have documented some of the fillet-brazed models where the frames were stored for up to *6 years* before the bikes were built.

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Old 01-31-15, 09:42 PM
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THANK YOU Metacortex - really appreciate the knowledge. Now, I can put this Schwinn to sleep for the night and *hope* it doesn't sit in the 'for sale' line for 6 years before someone decides to give it a chance and buy it. Wow...six years before being built - that's amazing. I love these things.

Thank you -
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Old 01-31-15, 09:59 PM
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Metacortex is right about the time...

My 76 Superior frame is stamped GJ (July 73)....
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Old 01-31-15, 10:54 PM
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Wow, I had not even the remotest clue about such long time periods occurring before assembly. Really amazing. Thanks!
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Old 02-01-15, 08:03 AM
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+1 Schwinn's inventory management process was dreadful, often years between frame construction and bike build. As I recall, there is a two year gap on my 1974 Sports Tourer.

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Old 02-01-15, 08:11 AM
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Originally Posted by wrk101 View Post
+1 Schwinn's inventory management process was dreadful, often years between frame construction and bike build.
Was Keith Kingbay, father of the derailleur-geared Varsity and Continental, still parts manager at that time?
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Old 02-01-15, 08:28 AM
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The frame spreads were particularly bad in the mid 1970s because Schwinn way over produred frames thinking the bike boom of the early 1970s would never end. The boom ended in about 1974 and Schwinn was left with thousands of frames prebuilt and no one to buy them. I have a Schwinn Sprint (fancy Varsity) with a build date on the frame of 1975 and it is in 1977 colors and decals. The head badge is also 1977. Roger
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Old 02-01-15, 02:24 PM
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Originally Posted by John E View Post
Was Keith Kingbay, father of the derailleur-geared Varsity and Continental, still parts manager at that time?
Keith Kingbay was the manager of the parts department until 1964, upon which time he established and headed Schwinn's first Cycling Activities Department. Kingbay retired on Aug. 1, 1982 after 33 years with Schwinn.
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Old 02-01-15, 07:55 PM
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As a total Varsity nut - among other Schwinns of all years (mostly), I find this all very fascinating.
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Old 02-02-15, 06:57 AM
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Originally Posted by commodus192 View Post
As a total Varsity nut - among other Schwinns of all years (mostly), I find this all very fascinating.
What can be even more fascinating is when you look at the Sports Tourers and Superiors sold from the early to late 1970s, certain ones have serial numbers in 1973. Yet while the general structure of these two fillet brazed frames are the same, the later Superior, had a chain stay bridge instead of the ST kickstand mount, and the Superior lacked the upper down tube cable stops of the ST. Which can only mean that when these Superior frames were re-built, someone in the factory removed the kickstand mount, brazed on the chainstay bridge, and removed the upper cable stops.

Nice work on bringing the Varsity back to life!
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Old 02-02-15, 09:23 PM
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Originally Posted by pastorbobnlnh View Post

Nice work on bringing the Varsity back to life!

Thanks Pastor Bob - I am aware of your prowess for Schwinns - I've read many of your posts and....upon visiting your website, was sad to see you sold your Coppertone colored bike...a personal fav of mine. In fact, I'm picking up a 64 Continental in Coppertone tomorrow. I think a book with your name and a few others on here as authors is in order.
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Old 02-03-15, 05:56 AM
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The coppertone Schwinn Super Sport went to @top506 here on C&V. It actually was a trade, and I was so very pleased to keep it in the "family" so to speak. Mark will do a great job in caring for it into the future.

That's great you have found a '64 Continental! BTW, where are you located @commodus192 ?
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Old 02-03-15, 05:34 PM
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Originally Posted by pastorbobnlnh View Post
The coppertone Schwinn Super Sport went to @top506 here on C&V. It actually was a trade, and I was so very pleased to keep it in the "family" so to speak. Mark will do a great job in caring for it into the future.

That's great you have found a '64 Continental! BTW, where are you located @commodus192 ?

Ohhh - well that's a relief. I've been lucky with my coppertones - I drove all the way to Philadelphia for a 64 Varsity - with original fenders and leather saddle (which I put in a box). I completely went through it with my loving Varsity touch and it came out pretty good. I am located in Vermont, across the river from Walpole, NH, although I spend most weekends in NYC (Washington Heights) where my wife's family lives. I bike around all weekend, while they scream at each other in spanish (she's Dominican) lol.

I'll be riding this Varsity in the NYC Five Boro in May. 40 miles of traffic free NYC roads. It's a great time (except when it rains, then it's a nightmare).


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Old 02-03-15, 07:52 PM
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Beautiful Varsity! Can't wait to see the Continental.

Across the river from Walpole!?! Well, we are only an hour from each other. I'm over next to Lake and Mount Sunapee. We'll need to get together for a ride in the spring. Are you north of Bellows Falls?
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