'77 Sunset Strip - 1977 Schwinn Sting-Ray Refresh

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Mar 26, 2012
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Maplewood, MN
This is a 'barn-find' (literally, I bought it from @barnbikes forum member!) that was made in Chicago, Illinois in March of 1977, and sold at the Tonka Schwinn Cyclery store in Minnetonka, MN; on the west side of our greater Twin Cities area.

It has already been rat-rodded at least once before. The wheels are not Schwinn S-7, but a comparable pair of 20 inchers. They had been fitted with the Comp III tires which were so popular in the '80s for making your 20" bike look and feel more like a BMX bike, which were sweeping the country by storm at the time.

I'm guessing that at one point, the original 'naner saddle had been chucked to put on a more BMX style seat, and then later after that, this girl's banana seat and sissy bar were added to fit the next kid in line.

Luckily, the original paint, Sunset Orange, was left alone and the bike kept the original bars, grips, stem, cranks and pedals, seat post, rear fender, and reflectors.

My goal will be to do a 'vintage clean' restore, leaving the original paint, cleaning it up, lubing all the bearings, building my own custom seat from a Person's Made in USA seat pan, and getting a period correct sissy bar for the bike. I'm sure other things will pop up along the way, and this may take a turn or two during the build process, but I want to finish this in the month of October (it is after all, orange;) ) while the weather is still nice enough to work out in the BACK40. We had our first hard freeze on Saturday, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed (inside my gloves).

Here's what the '77 SSS looks like for starters....

The photo from the craigslist ad:
1977 schwinn stingray project CL.jpg
1977 schwinn stingray project CL.jpg

Shots from the BACK40.


Alright! Let's get this party started!
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Looks like a great start. I didn't realize tonka had tagged Schwinn's. Cool bike!
It's just the name of the Schwinn bicycle shop that sold it, Tonka Schwinn and Cyclery. You know me, just making a play on words. :angelic::bigsmile:
You guys have high and wild expectation of me! :bigsmile:

I'm not sure how much 'Tonka'-ized it will get. I've always wanted a real Schwinn Sting-RAY of my own. We'll see.

And it is orange, and a lot cheaper than this 'stingray'....

Orange corvette stingray.jpg

The white tire lettering is intriguing. Anybody ever done any on their bicycle tires? Process?
I've not done it, but had the thought of using white plasti-dip spray to put on raised white letters. Scuff, clean, mask and spray was the method In my thought.

You might even be able to mask letters that match the old schwinn stingray white letter bike tires.

I once had some 20"raised white letter goodyear bike tires. Not seen those for years either.
You can get special pens... kind of like felt tip marker pens but with white paint in. They are made specially for doing lettering on tyres. I've never used them myself but I remember my brother using them back in the day, so I just did a quick search...



I would think that any waterproof white paint marker would work.

Thanks for all the tips guys; 'felt tips' that is! :21:

Well, as I stated at the onset, the weather will be a high determining factor as to which direction I go on this build. We had our first below freezing temp on Saturday morning. The past couple days have been wet and in the mid-40's to low 50's.

As I am still holding as to what if any paint might happen on the frame, I started in on the wheels and tires today. First I stripped off the heavily rotted Comp III tires, and then put the wheels in the truing stand for a look-see. :eek: :confused: :43:

Not true at all. Not even a white lie true. And the nipples are rusted tight (I hate it when that happens:giggle: ). So.....

I had an idea. I had picked up a BMX bike that was prob from the late '90s early 00's at a garage sale a few years back. The stem went on Mesa Buggie, my klunker entry in WBO '16. The cranks went on Four-gone Conclusion, MBBO #5. The wheels were 36 hole, aluminum hoops with black spokes and silver nipples. Ahhh HA! :thumbsup:

So, I was able to use all the spokes in the rear, and had to use about 10 more from the front wheel to complete both front and rear wheels. A tin snips to cut out the old ones, and my home made truing stand, 2 x 4's drilled for electric conduit and notched , with zip ties for the 'tells' is how we roll in the BACK40.

After about 2 1/2 hrs, I now have two true and pretty snazzy wheels! Took some white vinegar and #000 steel wool to the rims as well. They really shined up! Here we go~!



Spinnin' wheel, got to go round....

Okay, so in doing some history work this morning, and a little more elbow grease with the white vinegar and steel wool; I came to the conclusion that this orange paint is staying put. It cleaned up pretty good. Lot's of vibrant color under that sun-faded first photo image.


And our forecast shows way below average temps for the rest of this month; after today's 70 degree anomaly. And it's going to be wet, which doesn't bode well for painting.

So, with that in mind, I took a nudge from the good Dr T, and found a slick I like on the 'bay. Should be here Sat or Mon. My front tire will be coming via my local shop, where I spent the summer working and still get my 'employee discount'. :nod:

Since the frame looked so good, I kept going with the vinegar / wool combo and shined up the other chromed parts as well. I think that old-refreshed shiny look is going to be just what I'm after.:thumbsup:


In my research, I found out that with the wave of BMX surging over the country in the late '70s, my 1977 Sting-RAY would have come with a 'studded' or knobby tire in the rear, and a more traditional brick tread in the front. I get that was the trend at the time, but when I was a kid (who missed the introduction of the Sting-RAY in 1964 because I had my 24" Schwinn Tornado from 1961 and my next bike would be a 26" Typhoon in '66 ) the Sting-RAYs I always loved had the slick tire in the back. So, I will be diverting a bit from the stock shoes for '77, but getting the look I so desired way back when.

Here are some examples I found of my model / year. You'll notice there is a stubby front fender on the originals. Mine didn't come with one, but I have 3 chrome fenders to work with that I will be chopping and shaping for the front end.

1977schwinnstingray orange.jpg

This last one is from the 1977 catalog. This is the 5 speed version, but other than the drive train and shifters and hand brakes, the other parts are the same in the single speed coaster.

The old joke in our part of the country is, "If you don't like the weather in Minnesota, wait 5 minutes."

Yesterday we hit our high for the month of Oct likely with a 73 degree temp. Last night we had winds in the high 50 mph range, driving cold rain from the NW, and the power went out for an hour or so. Today we woke up to beautiful sunshine, and a chilly 33 degrees F.

So with the sun shining, at least for today, I hit the BACK40 between my bus routes and pounded out a front fender for the Tonka Toy.

I had three small chrome fenders in the stash. One was the right width, same as the stock rear, and was a rear fender from some other bike of nearly the same period of time as it appeared. Armed with my trusty dremel tool, tin snips, and a file, I went to work on the conversion.


Tires are on their way! Can't wait to get them mounted on the wheels and the frame with the stuff all shined up!

Tomorrow and the weekend project is the Person's seat pan upholstery. Squeezed in between a couple music gigs, grand-girl's college homecoming, bike swap, and hopefully a couple of mtb rides if the weather holds.

RaT oN~!
Busy weekend, but I was able to pull some time to start in on the Persons 'naner. This is the seat I used on One-liner for BO #11. When I sold that bike, the customer wanted a cruiser style saddle, so this was put back on the shelf for the future. The future is now.

In that configuration I only had a pad on the top covered in purse leather, and then painted and 'ratted' for effect.


So I peeled off the pad, cleaned up the pan, and started the process of recovering the seat.


I use a closed cell foam sleeping pad to cover the sitting area on the saddle. It's dense, but gives a nice ride quality. And maintains it's integrity over time. This pad is probably nearly 30 yrs old.

3M Super Adhesive spray to tack it on to the pan. Then I carved away the abrupt edge to taper it to the angle of the seat pan.


I took a cue from @Chad T , and wrapped the pad / pan in batting from the fabric store for a smoother look and transition from the pad to the sides of the seat. I started with two layers, but it was too thick, so I removed one layer of batting before I applied the cover.


This was also secured with the spray adhesive. Then after a shopping trip to Joann Fabrics (@metalchewy , I thought of you as I was roaming the aisles ) I brought home a nice soft textured faux leather, that was on sale for $4 a yd. I bought half a yard. It's not the right color, but that can be changed.


Now to wait for a semi-dry day for some painting of the saddle and a clear coat for protection. Looks like later this week....
So, first off, yes I changed the name. For many of us from the '50s and '60s, the Tonka brand often denoted a dump truck or a road grader or some other kind of construction vehicle.

THIS IS NOT going that direction at all! So, with homage to a TV show that was popular when I was a kid growing up, the new name of this ever emerging two-wheeled hot rod is '77 Sunset Strip. The original color, which I left and cleaned up and have now waxed to a shine, is Schwinn's Sunset Orange. A gorgeous color. And this baby is going to be racy and spicy and ready for the strip, the main drag in Anytown, USA!

That said; my tires came in! Here it is, frame all cleaned and waxed, wheels respoked, chrome shined up, with the tires mounted.


The rear tire is a Duro 20 x 2.125 slick with just a little siping for extra traction on a wet strip. :grin:


The front tire is a CST Decade 20 x 1.75. Again some siping for a little bit of a 'flamed' look. They match up well together.

I ordered a set of Schwinn approved water decals for the frame along with a Schwinn sissy bar from the '70s off the 'bay. Should be here in a week or so. Still waiting for the weather to dry out a bit before I paint the 'naner. Trying to keep myself on pace for an October 31 finish! :113:
I like the new name :thumbsup:

That Duro (HF-841) rear tyre is exactly the one I wanted for Silver Angel (except white wall... so not exactly exactly :blush:) but the cost would end up a bit much and I've already spent a lot. It's a nice tyre I reckon and I thought the Duro HF-160A would be a good match for the front...


I would've gone whitewall for both on my build. :nerd:

The colour and frame reminds me of the 'father and son' team I built up many years ago...


Love orange :nod:

The walls won't be white, Glen, but the writing on the walls will be. :nerd:
Rolling along... name change is good, wheel work was great as is the seat so far. Whatya' gonna do with the next 3 months?

Rolling along... name change is good, wheel work was great as is the seat so far. Whatya' gonna do with the next 3 months?

Haha! Watch you work your magic, Carl. Thanks for the kudos.

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