Thursday, May 14, 2020

Old Is Good: 1950 Mercian

Regular Retrogrouch readers know that I'm kind of a nut over Mercian bicycles. I have a pretty sizable collection of them myself - some older, some not so old. But whenever I see one, I have to take time to look it over. If it's my size and it's for sale, I can't help but contemplate whether or not I can add it to the collection.

I just recently saw a very special example that I really want to share here. It's not mine - and I don't think it's ever going to be - but it comes from Ken Wallace at the Bisbee Bicycle Brothel in Bisbee, Arizona. This is a very special bike for a number of reasons.

One, it's one of the earliest examples I've ever seen from the brand. It dates to 1950, and the Mercian shop had only opened for business in 1946. According to Ken, it was likely built by Tommy Crowther, who was one of Mercian's founders, along with Lou Barker.

Two, it's absolutely gorgeous and unique. It has beautiful hand-cut lugs in a shape that I've never seen before - not on a Mercian, and not quite like the ornate lugs even on other bikes known for such things. It also has a very rare head badge - the likes of which I've only seen on one other bike in all the years I've been following them.
Here's a shot of the head-tube and a very rare badge.
The color combination is pretty spectacular, too. Sort of a flamboyant fuchsia with white contrasts and gold lining.

. . . even has some chrome on the fork crown and "socks."

The shape of these lugs is really cool. It's possible that the shape of the Vincitore lugs (the brand's "fanciest" model since the late '50s or early '60s - and still made today) was partly inspired by these - but it's still a very different look.

A nice look at the seat lug -- notice that it also has some cool "box pin striping"

Even the bottom bracket carries the theme of the other lugs.

Interesting "arched" seat stay bridge - another detail one doesn't usually see on Mercians.

The serial number tells some of the story - 162nd frame built in 1950.

The paint condition is spectacular -- I thought perhaps too nice to be original. Ken confirmed that it was repainted at some point. Another clue pointing to a repaint was the downtube decal lettering which is of the current style, which I believe was introduced in the early '60s. Mercian bikes I've seen from the 1950s usually have a "script" lettering style like this:

It's clearly a really special bike. And it's just one of many special bikes at Ken's shop - which is as much a bike museum as it is a bike shop. I've never been there (never been to Arizona, for that matter) but I'd love to visit the place in person.

A couple pictures of the shop - all from their website.

There are not only tons of gorgeous vintage bikes, but also vintage parts, many photos, posters, and other bike-related nostalgia.

There's the same Mercian, up on the wall.
About ten years ago, Ken's shop was featured on a TV show called Arizona Highways. Here's a link to the video on YouTube. Enjoy!

Thanks, Ken, for sharing your Mercian with the Retrogrouch Blog.

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