She is a beauty!
I’m over the moon with how this build has turned out. My only criticisms are the lack of chrome rims and the lack of decals. The first was a genuine mistake when ordering new rims (and a semi misleading picture) and the second is purely down to nobody produces the exact Viscount decals. I have found some, but when I ask a question and the seller ignores me I don’t find that too promising for a potential sale.
Anyway, the finishing touches. Starting with the wheels I replaced the old rusted spokes and the badly painted rusted rims with a brand new set of alloy rims and stainless spokes. I’ve built the wheels myself and trued them to the best of my ability with my jig. They seem straight and true, and the white wall tyres finish the bike off perfectly. Building the wheels wasn’t actually too hard. I’ve built one wheel before and this time the whole process seemed ten times easier. I feel like I could lace another set from memory any time now.
After using white wall tyres I had to use white cables; clean and crisp. They’re held down with a series of brand new cable clamps which the bike lacked in its original state. The Sturmey Archer hub has taken a bit of tweaking to find that sweet spot for “2nd” gear but I think we’re there now. I took her out for a quick test ride and all seemed well.
I’d love to get £250 back for the bike and maybe make a small profit; we’ll see. A lot of money and time has gone into this build but I’ve tried to focus on quality. It’s lasted 40 years already, I’m sure it will last another 40! (My Carrera Vulcan cost more and barely made 2 years without a complete rebuild!)
What do you make of the finished bike?
Everyone loves yellow right?! I know I do.
The last post was really just an introduction to the Viscount. I wasn’t really in bad shape; the stickers and frame had scuffs and there were spots of rust on the frame but the main issue were the rims. The old rims had been painted to hide the rust and pitting ,a cheap and nasty fix, so I decided to strip the wheels down and buy new rims. I’m yet to build the wheels up so here’s what’s new.
I decided to bite the bullet and get the whole frameset powder coated the gorgeous Signal Yellow. It’s a risky choice, in terms of profit, but when it comes to quality vs a rattle can spray job it’s a million times better. The components were all dropped off on Monday morning and I picked them up on Wednesday, along with another build…
The finish is beautiful. Smooth and solid all over. In fact, the only imperfection is my attempt at knocking out the dent on the rear mudguard.
I’ve cracked on with reassembling the frame this weekend and it’s looking good. The bottom bracket and crankset went on first. I don’t think there’s a spot of rust on them now and after cleaning out the remnants of the sand blasting the bearings are spinning smoothly. The cranks are stamped Nicklin, which brings me to something I found interesting. Nicklin, are the company that bought Williams, which would make sense seeing as this chain ring closely resembles a Williams model. This makes me think Viscount chose some good quality parts for their bikes.
The headset is another good quality item, made by TDC and after clearing out all the old dirt and grease I found it was almost perfect. New bearings and new grease and the bike was ready for it’s bars. After looking over the original bars I decided to swap them out for a spare set I had which had better chrome. I borrowed a set of brake levers from my spares pile too as the original ones were mismatched and with the finish so far, everything needs to be top quality.
I stripped the calipers down and polished up each part before assembling and fitting the mudguards. My Dremel really came in useful here, so much so, I’ve ordered more polishing compounds to use it on my other projects. It seemed a shame to put the old rusted bolts back on the bike so I’ve used some brand new stainless bolts – I hope whoever buys the finished item appreciates these little details!
Refitting the seat post and seat is about as much as I can do at the moment. I’m waiting on a few more parts to arrive before fitting all the cables and building the wheels. How’s it looking so far?
Fully built. Fully working. I love it.
The finishing touches:
Wheels & tyres: The front wheel was already built after coming from one of the bikes I’ve had lying around. The rim, spokes and hub polished up nicely. The rear was a complete build. I took the rim from the same bike as I took the front wheel, the hub from one of the 27″ wheel sets I had, bought new spokes and built the wheel up myself. It was a bit of a learning curve. The spoke length calculator I used suggested two spoke sizes with the longer being on the cassette side but after building the wheel I found I needed shorter spokes on that side as the spokes just wouldn’t tighten. With the shorter spokes in the wheel pulled into shape and tightened up nicely.
I fitted a 3 speed Atom freewheel to the rear hub and a set of Michelin World Tour tyres before fitting the wheel to the bike. They’re a bit fatter than the bike originally came with (in theory) but they do fit in both the drop outs and mudguards so I will be able to use them.
Chain: The 3 speed freewheel required the “fatter” 1/8″ chain so I bought another Izumi chain, sized it to the largest sprocket (plus a bit of movement) and fitted it to the bike. That was a nice easy part but working out the correct chain tension seemed a bit tougher. I’d fitted the chain tensioner so that it did supply tension but was still easy to move by hand. I thought that would have been sufficient but after fitting all the gear cables and going for a test ride I found out it wasn’t enough and the chain skipped.
It also didn’t help that the chain tensioner, which is fixed to the shifter, actually removes tension from the chain as you shift up (onto the smaller sprockets). This puzzled me. it should be working in the opposite direction so to work around that I set the tension arm in the highest gear, meaning when I ride in the lowest gear the cable is loose. It works. I also moved the tension arm to the next position in its mount and managed to fight it back into place. Those couple of tweaks worked and the bike rode well and changed gears without too much issue.
There is a slight rattle from the chain hitting the derailleur however I can’t seem to remove that without throwing the shifting out.
Brakes: Well I couldn’t go anywhere without the brakes being adjusted. The cables have all been correctly tensioned and the bike stops. I also bought some new cables guides to fit to the frame so I didn’t have cable ties on the finished product.
The badge: It turns out I should have refitted the badge before reassembling the bike. The badge pins that need to be hammered in require you to shave them down from the inside after and with everything being fitted… well I couldn’t do that. Araldite has come to the rescue though. That super strong glue is holding the badge in place with the holes exposed so I can fit the pins if I ever take the bike apart again.
That’s it. The bike is done. I took it out for a ride earlier to grab some photos.
And to think, this is how I got it…
Building my own wheels is not something I really thought about before this France Sport build. Wheels have always been readily available for me to buy and use. This build threw up some problems with that idea though. There are no three speed wheels available, finding a three speed freewheel is rare and the size of rim I need is long gone. It’s forced me to patch together parts from other bikes to make up a wheel set that will work but there’s one thing I need first. Introducing my new wheel building / truing stand:
With the idea of building my own wheels set in my head I had a look around on eBay for some of these stands. The search threw up the usual Park stands along with other brands but they were all well over £100 for a substantial bit of kit. I found this gem hiding in among all the other adverts. It cost me £50 and it’s designed and built by the chap selling them. Every part is laser cut steel and it’s fully adjustable to fit a range of axle sizes and lengths. I think it’s a beautiful bit of kit and it’s coming in handy!
I started by trying out my truing “skills” on a few of the wheel sets I already have. It’s pretty simple to understand and get your head round. A little tighter here, a little looser there… I managed to pull a spare 26″ x 1 3/8″ wheel back to perfectly straight without much effort. The practice did however highlight the rear wheel in my “good” 27″ wheelset was beyond repair. I could true it and make it spin without any side to side wobble but looking from the side I found the rim had multiple flat spots. Nothing much I can do about that but fortunately my 3 speed freewheel fits on the hub so I’ve stripped that wheel down to pinch the hub for the France Sport.
That leaves me with a clean front wheel fitted with a new Continental World tour tyre, a shiny new chain and all the parts (minus the spokes) for a rear wheel build.
The 26″ x 1 3/8″ rims I’m going to be using probably aren’t the original size for the bike. Diameter wise they’re spot on but this size tended to be used on the “town” style bikes. After looking for some advice about sizing on a Facebook group it was suggested the bike probably had a slightly narrower 1 1/4″ rim but the possibility of finding an original replacement for that size is extremely low. The slightly wider rims will do for now!
The next step is to collect all the measurements to work out the ideal spoke length and shorten the OLD spacing slightly so I can build the final piece of the puzzle. Wish me luck.
I’m super stoked to bring you the progress with this bike. I really hope it makes my Granddad proud.
After the fiasco with the “cheap” powder coating company and another bike I decided to spend a bit more and go elsewhere. I’d been speaking to Paul from Central Wheel Components via email and after answering every question I had and checking out their previous work I took the bike over to them. This was Tuesday morning last week, and after initially being informed I’d have a 2-3 day wait I was really impressed when Wednesday morning I had voicemail saying the bike was done. At lunch I collected it and comparing it to the other company… well, there is no comparison. The quality is spot on, you can tell it’s been thoroughly cleaned and the vital parts protected. The colour is even and glossy; it’s beautiful. It cost £70 for the frame and forks, which is pricey but you pay for quality. I’d recommend them!
Picking up the frame was the kick in the ass I needed. I ordered all the replacement cables etc that evening and spent Thursday and Friday with a box of parts, polish and wire wool cleaning up everything that needed to go back on. The cleaning revealed a few things. For one, the parts are in a lot better condition than I thought and apart from the stem (which has a lot of chrome missing) they didn’t really need any re plating. The cleaning also brought out more information about the components.
The most obvious (and I don’t know how I missed this) was identifying the cranks and chain ring as BSA parts. The big B, S and A built into the chain ring was a big giveaway but I actually saw that second. Underneath all the old dirt I revealed two faint BSA logos and the tooth count (44). BSA stands for “Birmingham Small Arms Company” and as you can guess, they produced guns. They actually produced a lot of items from bikes and motorcycles to guns and buses.
The bottom bracket also cleaned up nicely to reveal Bayliss Wiley (15). There’s not much on Google about this company. They were a British company based in Birmingham founded in 1919 that built, from what I can see, bearings, hubs and bottom brackets.
Today I set about putting the bike together. I started by refitting the Stronglight headset with fresh grease and new bearings. Both this headset and the bottom bracket had two pin holes in them for a tool to tighten them. When I removed them I’d managed to clamp on some mole grips and unwind but I wasn’t sure if the same would work for assembly. It turns out my Granddad had thought ahead and when he’d given me the bike, he’d also sent me a box of spares. It had chains, random fittings and some old tools. One tool in particular had the exact pin layout I needed. Whether it’s something he’s made himself or a genuine tool I don’t know, but it worked!
The bottom bracket was next. I gave it a good clean out first to get rid of any grit but I still had problems with it. First was my own mistake of putting the axle in the wrong way around. It needed the longer side on the left so the pedal could clear the frame, it’s lucky I checked! After that, I’m not sure what happened but when I tried to refit the non drive side, the cup stopped turning half way in. It wouldn’t wind in any further and it wouldn’t undo. I tried cleaning out the pin holes for more grip but it was stuck. The mole grips came to the rescue again and after another clean I managed to get it all fitted properly. The crank arms and pedals went on straight after.
Handlebars and brake levers next. I aligned the levers so the tips sat level with the flat of the bars and then wrapped the bars with some Ritchey “Faux Leather” tape. Brown to match the Brooks saddle. It was fairly expensive tape but it was really nice to wrap with. It feels comfortable and had some stretch to it so I could get a good layer going. I loosened the levers a little to slot the tape underneath just to give a bit of a cleaner finish.
Brake wise; the calipers had a clean and grease, new cables were fitted and new brake pads were adapted. The calipers themselves went straight on, no messing there. The replacement pads were a slightly different design to the original so needed to be adapted slightly. The pads used are 40mm long and can be slipped out of the backing plate. I didn’t want to just swap them out for 35mm blocks so I ordered some replacement Shimano pads. They were more elliptical than oblong so I had to trim a small section from the end to square it up before fitting. Great fit though! In terms of the cables, I’d gone for the best my usual supplier offers, PTFE coated with the pear nipples. I bought some good quality outer cable and alloy end caps too. Cutting the cables to exactly the same size as the old ones, they went on with ease. I haven’t tensioned the cables yet due to not having wheels but they’re almost there. I also need another cable clamp for the top tube. For now I’ve taped the frame where I want the clamps (and to protect the paint) while I look for a pair. They’re super expensive for such a small part though!
What’s left… Saddle and pannier rack! I greased up the seat tube before fitting the seat post but that was still very tight. Not sure why it’s so tight after the thorough cleaning but the grease should stop it seizing again. The Brooks saddle looks amazing! After the saddle came the pannier rack. It’s just a small alloy one but I thought it might be useful to have. Again, I taped up the frame to stop the brackets damaging the paint and clamped it down for an initial alignment.
Gearing! This bike, as I think I’ve said before, has a three speed shifter. An indexed three speed shifter. I’d cleaned the shifter, derailleur and chain tensioner during the week and they came up really well. I absolutely love the copper chain tensioner. It’s beautiful. I still have the old cable on for the derailleur at the moment but don’t worry, there is a new one to go on. As for the wheel side of things I thought I’d got it right with a three speed freewheel. There were only two units on eBay that I could find so I’ve ordered one to try however after researching Bayliss Wiley I’m wondering if the bike used one of the setups I saw in a image of one of their hubs. It did look like it had three sprockets exactly the same size but I’m wondering if that was a technique used… Check it out here.
I think that was about the end of assembly for now. I had hoped one of the 27″ wheel sets I’d picked up would fit but they’re just too big. Fitting the 27″ wheels and looking at where the brake pads were originally aligned to I think it’s safe to say the bike had 26″ wheels originally. One more thing to look for.
So here it is. An almost fully assembled (circa 1940s) France Sport. I realise I still need to fit the head badge too… the rivets are on their way.
All it needs now is a bottom bracket cable guide and then it can be 1005 status.
It wasn’t easy though. Although it looked like the bottom bracket threads had been protected while being stripped and powder coated, I had a massive fight with both cups. It took a while to find the sweet spot and not cross thread and strip the frame. That part was an absolute nightmare.
Ignoring that, the headset cleaned up nicely and got treated to some lovely new grease. The rear derailleur was stripped right down, cleaned, greased and reassembled. A shiny new chain and cotter pins were fitted. I broke out the new cables, fitted them and adjusted the brakes. Basically, it’s all greased and back as one bike.
I actually really like the finished look. If I’d been given some money to change the wheels it would have made the bike near perfect in looks. They’re about the only thing to really let it down. Too badly rusted and pitted for a polish to work, I could only replace a spoke, try an alignment and get them fitted with new tyres.
It’s a nice look though, wouldn’t you agree? I just hope the new owner doesn’t leave it out in the rain…
Here it is, yellow. While this post is an update for the Frankenstein it’s mainly going to be a review of the service I received from “Forge Finishing”.
I initially made contact with “Forge Finishing” via a web submission. Man flu had got me by the throat and stolen my voice. The form was submitted at around 1pm on the 6th Jan. In short, I explained I’d had their company recommended to me and I’d like a rough price for one bicycle frame to be powder coated yellow. The response I got at around 5pm on the 9th said I would need to pop in with the frame to get a quote. I tried on the Saturday but the building was all locked up. It turns out their opening hours are Monday to Friday 8am till 4.30pm. If I was to pop in, it would have to be in my lunch break or at 4pm on the Friday.
I took the frame in for a quote on the 12th during my lunch break. When I explained I’d emailed and been told to come down for a quote I was met with a couple of awkward confused looks. The person responsible for the quotes wasn’t in at that moment but I was told their bottom price is usually £30 plus VAT. I was asked several times if I wanted to just book it in without a real quote but I asked if I could leave the frame with them and have them call me with a genuine price. Being lunch time, they said I might not receive a call today but would be quoted by tomorrow (the 13th).
The rest of the day went by without a phone call as did the 13th so at 4pm, before they closed for the day, I called them. There was a bit of searching around and then I was told it would indeed be £30 plus VAT. I wanted something a bit cheaper but I was willing to give them a try so I told them to go ahead with the job, all the details were taken and that was that.
One thing I hadn’t actually asked for was when I could collect the frame. I went down to “Forge Finishing” on Friday (16th) just before closing to see if the job had been done. It hadn’t. I won’t try and give 100% accurate quotes but I was told they had to concentrate on their “normal” business first and that the person looking after the frame would get it done “some time next week”. Understandable. Main business comes first however I was also told that the frame (and other parts) would have to be done after hours. I really have to question why a business would take on work they can’t actually complete in work hours. Had I been told to start with, I probably wouldn’t have left the frame with them. To me, fitting things after hours means rushing and rushing doesn’t mean quality. The last thing I was told that day was I’d get a phone call when the work was complete.
Guess what? I didn’t receive that phone call. Instead I waited all week and after work today (around 4pm) I went over to “Forge Finishing” to check. There was a bit of shuffling through paperwork but then off they went to collect the frame. I’ve no idea whether it was completed at the start of the week or the end but I really think their communication is lacking.
The frame was given to me all wrapped up in bubble wrap. Before anyone asks, no, I didn’t check it over there and then. I should have. While the quality over the majority of the frame is pretty good, to a level I’m happy with, there are parts I really don’t like. The steerer tube is my main gripe. It looks to me like the frame was hung up by that tube and during the stripping process some paint was missed and coated over. There is a rough finish, almost bubble like and definite ridges to the coating. I’m happy the important bottom bracket threads were protected though! There’s a couple of small things too. Parts of the cable guides haven’t been coated (I’d imagine it’s quite difficult to get into small spaces?) and there is a small scuff on the rear drop out. I’d give the quality a 6.5/10.
For a trial, I don’t think they passed. I’ve been speaking to other companies too who I’ll also try and and review but taking this instance, I wouldn’t want one of my own, or a paying customers bike to go through the process at “Forge Finishing” with those obvious mistakes.
I’m genuinely amazed at the difference this has made. Since owning the Corolla I’ve been putting off replacing the drivers headlight purely because I filed it under a cosmetic repair and that wasn’t as important to me. Lately though, I’ve been getting more and more annoyed at how quickly the yellowing and fogging reappears after a good polish, especially when the opposite side is “good”. The drivers side (headlight at least) has obviously had a knock at some point too as two of the three mounting points are broken.
I’ve had a look around this week at various lights on eBay. There’s obviously used units but I wasn’t convinced at how good the “excellent condition” ones were and looking at the cheaper replica ones, well, I’m never convinced on the quality. The only other option that eBay threw at me was a Valeo unit, which happens to be the exact brand that Toyota use. Those units cost about £130 each but luckily I came across one seller who had listed brand new, genuine Valeo units at around £70 delivered. Yesterday I bought one on a whim and today, it arrived.
The quickest delivery EVER.
It was pretty simple to swap the unit over. Four bolts / screws remove the radiator cooling panel, another four and the grill and bumper can be pulled out just enough to gain access to the lower headlight bolt. This was actually the only one holding my light in… the upper two mounts had snapped, and one was missing completely. The headlight then just slides out, you disconnect two plugs and it’s free. Swap over the bulbs and a couple of covers and the new unit slips back into place. Perfect.
It looks SO much better. Almost too much. The “good” passenger side now looks dirty compared to this side but I can’t do anything about that without taking the light apart and cleaning the chrome inside. Anyway, it looks awesome now. Crystal clear headlights. Perfect.
Now if only I had the money to respray the entire car so the paintwork matched…
Today, the rain has held back and I’ve had some free time so the Corolla has had some TLC. I’m not a religious car washer; I don’t go out there every weekend and clean it inside and out so it needed a good bath! A few buckets of water later and she was clean but not clean enough. The panels had become slightly dull and the headlights had started to cloud over. The panels were an easy fix, a bit of wax and a lot of elbow grease and the colour and shine had returned. Unfortunately, working so close to the bodywork I’ve realised how scratched and dinged it is. The front bumper is the worst; it looks like it has been resprayed at some point but it’s now peppered with stone chips and cracks are appearing at various points. There’s not much I can do about that though.
The headlights on the other hand, I could do something about them. The driver’s side headlight is the worst with a rough, cloudy and yellowing lens. It’s something that a lot of plastic headlights suffer from but there is a solution. Meguiars do a polish called Plast-Rx. It acts as a light cutting compound and polishing agent so with a bit of elbow grease so can remove a fair but of the damaged top layers. It didn’t work completely for the worst light on mine though. The damage has gone deeper into the plastic and it needs something more aggressive to tackle it. The polish removed a lot of the discolouration but I’m going to have to go a little further and use a wet sanding method. I’ve used the same technique on my Civics old headlights and it works a treat; using fine grades of soaked sandpaper to gradually remove the damage. I didn’t have time to do that today so expect a write up in another post.
In the last post about the Corolla I’d spread the news that some kind individual had decided to leave their mark on my car in the form of a rather large dent in the rear quarter. I had a solution. The dent hadn’t creased any metal or split any paintwork so I was hoping it would just pop back out. I thought that meant I would have to strip back the interior to get access to the back of the panel. After a bit of thought I came up with another idea; to use my GoPro suction mount to pull the dent back out. It actually worked! The panel popped right back into shape, Happy Days!
That’s it for now. A gleaming car ready for some more maintenance.
Four days off in a row; bliss. Unfortunately I didn’t get to do everything I wanted to do. I had planned to get the steering rack changed on the Corolla but the weather has been against me. It seems the British summer has returned, bringing in the clouds and the rain and making sunshine a rare occurrence.
Fortunately, for a brief time every evening at sunset, I have noticed the sun make an appearance. It’s given me a chance to take a few photos and try a few longer exposures. I’ve set my tripod up looking over the Hopwas hills, dialled down the ISO, closed off as much aperture as possible and let the shutter speed slow right down. On those darker, windier days I’ve managed to capture some slight movement in the clouds with a 60+ second exposure, where as on the lighter days I’ve tried to capture the colours the sun throws onto the clouds.
I originally wanted to capture the lighting from a thunder storm but unfortunately that storm blew quickly past. It would have been interesting to see if I could have caught the whole lightning trail… maybe next time! These may not be the best photos ever but I’m quietly content with how they’ve turned out.