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Re: Packard Bikes
Home away from home
Joined:
2019/1/30 23:11
From Sydney, NSW, Australia
Posts: 266
Hello Leeedy

You're a veritable fountain of information on these things. Something that makes this site so interesting.

As the owner of a 1956 Clipper which has proved surprisingly reliable, I have ample time to contemplate these things. I have to admit I'm not a bicycle person - more of a motorcycle/old race car nut - hence my ignorance on these matters.

I'm not surprised that someone in the bicycle world had a tilt at "Torsion Level". Nor am I surprised that the subject bicycle you described did not see production. I have a pretty good idea what it costs to build things with magnesium.

It seems people today will fork out something like $8-10k for a featherweight bicycle made mostly of carbon fibre. Probably cheaper for them to lose the weight themselves! But it seems tyres (tires) aren't getting better at the same rate. When I'm out cruising in my Packard (yes, I know it's officially a Clipper) I still see an awful lot of bicycle riders huddled beside the road wrestling with damaged tyres.

Now, if I can just find someone in these coronavirus-riddled times to tidy up the paintwork on my Clipper I'll be a happy man.

Best wishes

Brian

PS Is there somewhere in the US you can safely stash your collection of material for posterity? There is something like that happening here now for vintage race car material. A far better option than the alternatives. BW

Posted on: 8/6 19:09:50
_________________
1941 120 Club Coupe (SOLD)
1956 Clipper Deluxe (RHD and auto) - for the wife, or so I told her!
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Re: Packard Bikes
Home away from home
Joined:
2009/1/24 9:59
From Davis, CA
Posts: 721
Quote:

b.wilson wrote:
Hello Leeedy

You're a veritable fountain of information on these things. Something that makes this site so interesting.

As the owner of a 1956 Clipper which has proved surprisingly reliable, I have ample time to contemplate these things. I have to admit I'm not a bicycle person - more of a motorcycle/old race car nut - hence my ignorance on these matters.

I'm not surprised that someone in the bicycle world had a tilt at "Torsion Level". Nor am I surprised that the subject bicycle you described did not see production. I have a pretty good idea what it costs to build things with magnesium.

It seems people today will fork out something like $8-10k for a featherweight bicycle made mostly of carbon fibre. Probably cheaper for them to lose the weight themselves! But it seems tyres (tires) aren't getting better at the same rate. When I'm out cruising in my Packard (yes, I know it's officially a Clipper) I still see an awful lot of bicycle riders huddled beside the road wrestling with damaged tyres.

Now, if I can just find someone in these coronavirus-riddled times to tidy up the paintwork on my Clipper I'll be a happy man.

Best wishes

Brian

PS Is there somewhere in the US you can safely stash your collection of material for posterity? There is something like that happening here now for vintage race car material. A far better option than the alternatives. BW


Hello Brian,

I've delayed a bit in responding until I could find some time to do a more appropriate answer to your comment and inquiry. Thanks for the kind compliments.

I've loved Packards AND bicycles (there are those today who think loving cars means you hate bicycles) since I was a kid. Even as a toddler growing up in Detroit, I could identify any Packard or Studebaker (back to the 1940s) rolling the streets and it says so even in my baby book!

I also knew every bicycle I saw. And since it was easier to collect bicycles and literature about them, this is what I started doing in the 1950s. Got my first bicycle catalogue about 1953 at the same time I got my first prestige Packard catalogue. Famous Grand Prix Formula One champ Phil Hill once told me that he started gathering catalogues the same way I did.

RE: being a "bicycle person"... I'm not sure what that is. Even after owning, restoring, riding and collecting several thousand bicycles in my lifetime, I still encounter folks who think they can turn their nose up because they just spent ten grand on a composite-frame something that is lighter than air and has those same skinny little tires that get caught in everything and go "POP!!!" at the slightest opportunity! Or they just got a mountainbike and can ride the top of a wooden fence for 100 feet! Or they ride more than I do (or think they do). I wish I could tally the miles and miles and miles I put on my bicycle in the 1950s and 1960s just doing my paper route and going back & forth to visit relatives in Canada (yes–on a balloon tire "heavyweight" bicycle).

RE: bicycle tires... You are absolutely correct. But when the lightweight bcycles of today are still riding on what are little more than rubber shims–"rim protectors" with high pressure inflation, what can one expect?

RE: where in the U.S. can I stash my collection for posterity?.... Good question. A very good question. One of the problems of being too far ahead of my time is that almost nobody cared about American-made balloon tire streamline bicycles when I started collecting them. I wrote a book on the subject. No publisher would touch it. I tried to hang out with folks who were collecting antique turn-of-century contraptions, but in those days they detested my streamlined balloon tire classics and didn't want them around (yes... a fact–no matter who denies it today). A lot of people laughed at me for collecting such stuff. Why would anyone want something THAT heavy? "Serious collectors" said my stuff "wasn't historically significant." Yes... they actually said this. I went on national TV and radio (even in Canada)... but nobody paid a lot of attention. I started the world's first newsletter on the subject. But there was hardly enough of an audience to support it. I did displays at trade shows and stores and exhibits at museums. I held the very first national classic bicycle show and swap meet. I started and wrote the first news stand magazine series on the subject for Cyclist magazine in the 1980s. I was written up in Bicycling Magazine... and even in FORBES magazine. But people got amnesia. Nobody remembers these things.

Today? We've got "picker shows" making megabux on TV talking about classic bicycles–the very same stuff I was always collecting but people aren't laughing at them for doing it like they did with me. THESE guys are getting PAID! That pawn shop show? When they want info on a classic bicycle, they go to people I never heard of... and who likely never heard of me. And one of the publishers I tried to get to do my book and who turned it down in 1981 saying they only wanted to do CAR books? Well... they waited a decade or so and then today are the biggest publisher of vintage bicycle books! They never called me and never mentioned me in their books. They simply made up their own "expert."

When the money finally started recognizing classic bicycles, everything changed. There was a wild scramble and people went nuts trying to catch up. Or trying to establish some kind of legitimacy. They invented their own "experts" and then went to work. When they had no idea of what they were talking about? They just made up something that sounded good. After all... who would know?

Today I get to listen to folks telling me "how rare" something is, because they heard it on a TV show–or the internet! Like I wouldn't know.

Problem is, a lot of folks realizing they missed the boat could only get in on the action by posing. This meant they had to make up their "histories" and use somebody else's stuff to look legitimate. OR they schlocked parts from different old bicycles together all on one thing and called it "restored"... and even got this stuff in magazines! If I corrected the magazines, they just got mad.

AND... there were and ARE still those who felt that MY stuff would somehow be better and more legitimate if it was THEIR stuff. So 20 years ago I was robbed of over 750 bicycles, tens of thousands of parts and all of my tools (along with my 1956 Packard Four Hundred and Packard Caribbean convertible). This nightmare put some chortling folks into a position where they felt they could sit back and grin. They showed me–or so they thought. Some would even justify this dirtbag conduct by implying somehow that I didn't deserve to have my collection or these fine things in the first place! There ARE people like this out there.

Only just recently I received an anonymous (with fake email address) poison-pen email stating that if I got robbed, it was because I was "incompetent" and deserved to have my things stolen! Again, there ARE sick rat people like this out there. My 1956 Caribbean convertible with factory air and wire wheels is STILL missing after nearly 20 years. My 1956 Four hundred is also still missing... and my barn full of Packard parts is missing too. And don't tell me that nobody knows anything. SOMEBODY knows.

While I still have the world's largest collection of this bicycle stuff (despite being wayy down from the over 3,000 bicycles I once had) there really is no safe place to keep it. And I would say probably 80% of the history I've saved is unknown to today's collectors, "experts" and historians. Almost none of it is in a book– even after all these years! What I tried to do in the 1970s and 1980s STILL hasn't been done. For example, when's the last time you saw a 1939 Packard bicycle catalogue (see attachments)? Betcha they never showed you one on TV. And you won't find one in anybody's book! But take a look at that electric tail light... Huh?

So what will happen to my collection and all this history when I'm gone? Good question.

Attach file:



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Posted on: 9/4 9:00:03
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Re: Packard Bikes
Home away from home
Joined:
2019/1/30 23:11
From Sydney, NSW, Australia
Posts: 266
Thanks for your reply, Leeedy

Yes, it's a sorry tale and I can feel your frustration. Some of this happened with the "old car" movement but maybe not to the same degree. Being an old racer at heart, I keep running into people with amazing experiences or stories to tell and say "you should write a book". Some of them have, but many left it too late. Most who did write something ended up publishing it themselves, especially if their special expertise was in something a bit off centre (like air-cooled race cars). Despite what publishers seem to think, there is a market for well-presented books on almost any subject written by somebody who really knows what they are talking about.

You still have an amazing collection of classic bicycles and deep knowledge of the subject. Something a publisher is typically incapable of recognising or understanding. So they will likely continue to reject your approaches or offers. At least two of my older friends have resorted to self publishing and came out of it reasonably well financially. More importantly, their knowledge was captured for posterity. You have a ready made repository of classic bicycles and material, and could assemble a "bible" on the subject. Potentially a very time consuming exercise, but the result is that your collection serves a purpose and your knowledge is captured. I'm just thinking aloud, but my great fear is that what you have will go with you when you depart. That's a tragedy.

Even having a searchable repository online of correct examples of classic bicycles and pics thereof would be enormously valuable, but only scratches the surface.

One of the side benefits of such an effort is that the instant experts et al are easily proved wrong when they start talking nonsense.

As a complete aside, when did your 1956 Packard 400 (hardtop) disappear? I am idly looking at one for sale here with a rather hazy past but last sold through a dealer in Chicago called Chicago Car Exchange, Inc. It's Scottish Heather/White paint (code MK) and trim code 86, car number 5687 1773. Which means it was built in late 1955 but a 1956 model. I hope you don't recognise any of that!

This 400 has been sitting in a shed here for more than a few years, so would no doubt require a mechanical birthday. I'm pretty happy with my current RHD 1956 Clipper, and would be hard to prise out of that.

Cheers

Brian

Posted on: 9/4 22:02:22
_________________
1941 120 Club Coupe (SOLD)
1956 Clipper Deluxe (RHD and auto) - for the wife, or so I told her!
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