Since joining the Veteran Cycle Club (well worth doing by the way with excellent magazines for a very reasonable yearly sub), I had been looking for a 1950s curly lugged Holdsworth when this non curly 1963 Holdsworth Mistral turned up in Barn Condition covered in rust and corrosion.
It was for sale by Golden Age cycles located just 15 minutes down the road at Bicester Heritage. A reasonable price was agreed and the bike collected.
My initial impression upon collecting the bike was that this was owned by a Gentlemen who took his cycling seriously a 50/48 chain set (more of that later) and very high gearing on the rear. A mixture of French & Italian components including STRONGLIGHT cranks LYOTARD Pedals CAMPAGNOLO gears and high flange hubs laced to FIAMME tubular rims.
Miraculously I managed to get air into the tubulars and even took the bike for a quick ride around my neighbourhood. Everything worked perfectly. I imagine that this was its first outing for probably 20-30 years.
When I shared the pictures of the bike with my fellow Eroici friend Philip he became very excited about some of the French components that they were quite rare and difficult to find these days especially the light weight STRONGLIGHT Cranks (this was before the dominance of CAMPAGNOLO), TA Competition Rings and LYOTARD pedals. In the 50s and 60s the French dominated lightweight components in the pro peloton.
The Chain Set was coated in an especially nice furry corrosion It took me two weeks just to be able to remove the crank covers with plenty of plus gas and lots of swearing and fiddling around with nose end pliers. and 50p coins (inserted in the slot in the cap). They finally came off. Philip had sent me the crank remover for SunLight cranks as the bolt is 14mm, smaller than the 15mm the standard for CAMPAGNOLO, Suntour etc. I had a real hard job to get a socket in between the narrow space surrounding the crank bolt and the crank but got them both off eventually with a 3/8 car socket.
The cranks however were a different story although I cleaned the threads and applied plenty of grease the drive side was not very happy going into the crank arm. Eventually it went in and after applying some leverage to the tool it came off. The tool was well and truly stuck in the crank and my 3/8 socket had slightly nicked the tool. I apologised to Philip who took it well (considering I damaged his tool) and ordered him a replacement tool. Eventually a ring spanner got the tool out from the crank.
I sanded the cranks with various grades of wet and dry paper and polished them by hand with wire wool and metal polish. The outer TA Chain Ring was toast as some of the teeth were chipped. SJS CYCLES came to the rescue they had a few bits of TA NOS and two new chain rings were purchased a 50 and a 47. The STRONGLIGHT cranks have an adapter plate to enable TA cranks to be fitted.
The frame was stripped of all of the rest of its components and I stripped and serviced the CAMPAGNOLO rear derailleur. I was surprised to find individual ball bearings and cup and cone in the jocky wheels. The ball bearings and races were in mint condition. The front derailleur being the old match box style was also stripped but the sliding arm stuck fast (these often get bent) so that will have to be eased out with a vice and straightened.
The handle bar tape came off pulling with it a cloud of aluminium dust from the corroded bars. These have subsequently been filed to remove the worst of the corrosion and won’t be seen under new bar tap anyhow. However I would like the bike to last another 50 years for someone else to enjoy when I am long gone.
The Racer brakes I cleaned and removed as best I could the corrosion. Probably I will replace them as although they are very light weight I don’t like the feel of them and would prefer to install UNIVERSAL MOD61 brakes which I am a fan of and these will still be in keeping the age of the bike.
The frame was very rusty I was hoping that I could save the patina but after the application of several coats of rust remover all that was left was a white dull paint that I could not tell if it was primer or top coat and the down tube remained heavily pitted. So I have made the decision to repaint the frame.
The seat stays have some very unusual decals that I had not seen before so I was really keen to replicate those. My buddy in Holland Jeroen who is a genius at pretty much everything managed to design some similar ones on water transfers that should do the job nicely.
At the same time Jeroen and I hatched a plan it might to paint the bike in the same colours as the LOTUS driven in 1963 by Jim Clarke to the F1 Championship. Jeroen found the paint codes and I contacted HLLOYD decals to ask them if they could reproduce the down tube decals in LOTUS yellow which they promptly sent to me in the post. Great service as always with those guys.
The next step is to get the frame off to BOBJACKSON CYCLES to be repainted and chromed. The rear triangle will be chromed together with the bottom of the forks. This will take around 12 weeks so I have time to build the wheels laced to replacement FIAMME rims and to source the brakes.
Hopefully by the autumn this bike will be back on the road and who knows I might take it round the track at Silverstone!