A 1940’s/50’s Mercier Meca Dural

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This French Mercier bicycle has captured my attention.  It is made from duralumin – the same stuff blimps were made with – by Meca Dural using a unique procedure to join the tubes with aluminum lugs and wedged steel internal expanders.  The Meca Dural company produced aluminum frames from the 1930’s through the 1950’s on behalf of a number of cycling manufacturers, Mercier being one of them.  A Mercier Meca Dural is included in the Embacher collection (which was sold in its entirety at auction, earlier this year).  The blackbirdsf site also has photos of a variety of duralumin frames of various manufacturers, including Aviac and Barra, as well as Meca Dural.

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This Mercier Meca Dural is a “ladies” bike with a step through frame, although it is not a mixte frame as it lacks the set of extra chain stays typically used to stiffen the frame.  Depending on many factors, this may or may not be a good thing.

The bike features a Stronglight crankset with 46 teeth, CLB 700 brakes with useful and ingenious quick release mechanism, Atom hubs, Samir Saminox 700c rims, Huret plunger/pushrod derailleur, a 4 speed freewheel, and a serial number on the left side rear drop out – 16822.  Here are some photos of the components:

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Huret derailleur with plunger/pull chain mechanism – for 4 speed freewheel.

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Stronglight 49D crankset

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Tank pedals

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Atom hub with Huret wingnuts

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Very nice CLB 700 brakes

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Mercier headbadge, with upper round Meca Dural headbadge missing

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Crankset lettering – Louis Verot chainring with 46 teeth, bottom bracket connector bolt

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Rear drop out with SN 16822

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Beautiful lug design which includes cable routing braze-ons

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Ideale Leather Saddle, Model 80

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Alloy porteur bars, CLB Guidonnet levers, Sufficit grips, Luxor headlamp, Dural Azur stem

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Luxor 65 headlamp

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Samir Saminox 700c steel rims

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Bottom bracket lug, joined below with bolts

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Hammered Le Martele Lefol fenders, hammered rear lamp.

Mercier fork

Steel fork with lugged chrome fork crown, amateur paint job, Stronglight headset

The bike has a number of issues which will affect the restoration process.  The steel fork was horrifically spray painted gray  – so the paint will need to be removed.  Upon closer examination, I have concluded that the wheels are not original to the frame.  There is a 1975 date code on the Atom hub, and not only that, their diameter suggests that this bike was built for 650b wheels and not 700c – the fork crown and rear brake bridge daruma bolts foul the 700c tires.  Clearly the bike was built for 650b wheels, which I confirmed after measuring the CLB 700 brake reach.  And, some features are missing –  the fenders show that the bike originally had a rear and front rack, and the fork mount dynamo is absent, as well as the original chain guard.

Even so, I am looking forward to restoring this machine and to its first test ride, as I want to experience the feel of the aluminum frame and steel lugs, and to judge the frame stiffness for myself.  Stay tuned!

A 1972 Mercian

2972 Mercian

I recently purchased this Mercian on eBay.  The seller described it as a 1960’s model, but with its Shimano dropouts, I suspected it was actually made a bit later.

1972 Mercian

The bottom bracket shell seems to indicate this is a 1972 model.  A name appears to be etched above the serial number, but I can’t quite make it out.  Perhaps this was the owner’s name.  Having looked through the available Mercian catalogs on-line, and after taking frame measurements, I still don’t quite know what model this is.

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However, given that it has decent length chain stays (44mm), and single eyelets front and rear, it is possible that this is the Campionissimo or Olympic model, off the shelf frames designed for light touring and randonneuring, but with no customizing available except choosing the color.

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The lugs are ornate, and unusually shaped, although not a great deal of time was spent filing them.  The frame is equipped with pump pegs and a full set of cable stops.  The pump pegs are mounted slightly off center below the top tube, to prevent interference with the cable stops also mounted slightly off center on the opposite side.

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I measured the frame and took some preliminary angle readings.  It is a 49 cm x 51 cm frame (or, speaking British, a 20 inch frame – which the company measures center to top).  The angles appear fairly steep, at about 74 degrees for both the head tube and seat tube.  Of course, there is a margin of error using this method, and once the bike is built I will re-measure the angles using a level to correct for errors.  I also checked brake reach using 700c wheels (I think the frame was built for 27 inch wheels).  It looks like I will need about 65 mm of brake reach to use 700c wheels with this frame – that is definitely doable.

However, the biggest challenge will be determining whether the paint damage and oxidation to the top tube will mean having to re-paint the frame, something I am loathe to do.  If the paint damage is just at the surface level, and there’s no rust underneath, I’d like to preserve the beautiful patina of this nice Reynolds 531 hand built frame.

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Thankfully, it was a rainy, stormy day today, not suited for riding.  A perfect shop day.  I got out my various cleaning products and began to experiment on the back side of the fork legs, so that if I did something irretrievably bad, it would not be so visible.  As it turned out, the most effective product was an automotive paint cleaning compound.  Applied vigorously, and polished vigorously afterwards, this product was best at removing the years of neglect.  I was worried about taking off too much paint however, and I only gently cleaned the Mercian logos.   I definitely did not want to damage these as they were all in great condition.  The photos above show the frame after several hours of cleaning and polishing – there is a definite improvement!  That gave me the impetus to start working on the top tube.  I figured that no matter how hard I rubbed, I couldn’t make it worse than it already was.  I really wanted to see what the damage looked like underneath the oxidized paint.

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The good news is that underneath the oxidation was nice silver-colored steel, with no rust visible at all.  The bad news is that the top tube looks pretty funky, still.  I will probably clean it up a bit more and then apply some clear paint to protect the exposed areas.  After more cleaning, I will also apply many coats of wax to the entire frame, just to make sure that it remains protected in the elements.  You’ll note from the above photo that I also removed the California bike license tag.  While I usually keep these kinds of artifacts intact, this one really detracted from its appearance.  Underneath was the original frame color – a very vibrant red.  Well, now the bike is a very cool orange color!

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It’s now time to start thinking about the components.  Since the frame has such a vintage look, I think it would be best to build it up with period components.  Fortunately, the old Mercian catalogs will provide a lot of information about how these machines were typically configured.  I have these GB 88 brakes which would be from the period, and which have just the right amount of brake reach.  My crankset collection includes two Stronglight candidates.  The crankset at the left is a Spidel/Stronglight set from the 80’s – meant to be a copy of a Campy Super Record Crankset, and the one at the right is a 1970’s model with the star shaped spider that I love.  I will probably go with the more vintage look.  The frameset came shipped with a TDC headset, probably orginal, and a Sugino bottom bracket, which may or may not be original.  By this time, Shimano and other Japanese components were beginning to be considered on par with the best French, British and Italian component makers of the time.

Dura Ace high flange hub

I have been wanting to find the right home for this beautiful Dura Ace high flange front hub with its smooth as butter cups and cones.  It is laced to a 700c Araya rim.  I might decide to use an unusual rear hub, such as a 2 x 6 Sachs-Fitchel hub, or even a Sturmey Archer, in keeping with its British heritage.  That is part of the fun – envisioning the many interesting ways this frame can be configured.  I look forward to riding it and getting this great old frame back out on the road.

1970’s Austro Daimler Inter 10

1970's Austro Daimler Inter 10

Here is a late 70’s Austro Daimler Inter 10.  It is built with Reynolds 531 butted tubing and has an unusually nice mix of quality components.  I have overhauled and restored it in my usual way, which involves removing all components for cleaning and mechanical overhaul, cleaning and waxing the frame, treating the frame internals for rust, then putting the bike back together with new: cables, housing (if needed), tubes and tires and of course a rebuild of hubs, bottom bracket, and headset.  With its high quality frame and excellent overall condition, this is a bike to keep as original as possible.

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Campagnolo Nuovo Record Long Cage Derailleur

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Campagnolo Front Derailleur

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Top end Red Label Normandy Lux Competition Hubs

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Stronglight crankset with 42/52 rings – showing no wear

Not all Austro Daimler Inter 10’s were made with Reynolds 531 tubing, but they were mostly set up with components for light touring and sport riding.  This Inter 10 also has higher end components normally found on the upper level models such as the Super Light and the Vent Noir.

The drive train is geared for touring, with a 14/34 freewheel mated to a 42/52 crankset.  With this wheel size, the yields a gear inch range of 33-100.  That’s a pretty good range conducive for all types of riding.

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Rare and beautiful GB Maes bars in fantastic shape.

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Atom 600 pedals

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Weinmann 605 Sidepulls with quirky Mathauser finned brake shoes

 

Maillard 14-34 5 speed freewheel

Maillard 14-34 5 speed freewheel

I encountered just about every marquis existing in the bike world in the 70’s on this bike:  Reynolds, Campagnolo, Weinmann, Normandy, Maillard, SR, Atom, Simplex (the seatpost bolt!), GB, Shimano (forged chrome drop-outs), Stronglight, and Huret.  To clean the component mix up, I replaced the Huret downtube shifters with Campagnolo shifters from the same era.  I also replaced the Weinmann levers, which were in bad shape, with these Campagnolo levers also from the same era:

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Campagnolo downtube shifters

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Campagnolo levers – this style first introduced in 1976

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Campagnolo shifter cable guides

I also had a nostalgia moment when I removed these “extras” from the bike – an odometer, tire savers, and flick-stand.  These were de rigueur back in the day.  The flick stand is actually a very useful device that I will probably use for one of my bikes.  The Huret odometer shows less than 1600 miles on the clock – that seems about right given the nice condition the bike was in.

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All of the Austro Daimler’s I have encountered have been surprisingly nice.  The company had a lengthy and complex relationship to bicycle manufacturing.  If you want to know things you never dreamed of wanting to know about the company, here is an amazing manifesto on the subject.

This frame is built with Reynolds tubing. The sticker is missing on the seat tube, but still present on the fork.  This bike’s top tube is 57 cm, even though the seat tube is 53 cm.  Apparently, Austro Daimler just used the same top tube length for most of its bikes, regardless of seat tube length.  Fortunately, when the bike was built up, a short reach and tall SR stem was chosen, so the ergonomics on this bike still fit like a typical 53 cm bike.  The bike has an unusual seat post – a “G.S.” San Marco, which is actually very attractive and has the diameter inscribed in a helpful location.

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The build quality of the frame is extraordinarily nice, with Shimano forged drop outs, lined lugs, a chrome fork crown, and top quality finish work on the seat lug.  There are no braze-ons of any kind, but the clamp-on Campagnolo and Weinmann guides are very attractive.

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This is another great example of a quality touring/sport-touring bike from the late 70’s.  Although a production build, the bike has survived quite well and has many miles left to go.

Update October, 2016:  Sold!  Congratulations to Bob in Pennsylvania.