The Wright Special

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I'm in with an unknown frame. Fictionally, it may be the frame meant to be the Wright Special.

The actual fictional account of how it came into my possession is as follows. The Wright brothers were just about ready to open their bike building business. They had been repairing bikes for some time, but now wanted to get in on the new bike industry. They worked overtime with their helpers to get a line of bikes ready to show off.
They even had flyers all over town advertising the upcoming new bikes, by name was the Wright Special. When it came time to bring out the bikes to show, there was no Special, only the two models we are familiar with, the Van Cleve and St. Clair.


1664678266338.png


1664678302859.png

St. Clair bike.

So it was believed there never was a Special model. Jimmy Flanigan told a different story. He was just an 8 year old boy who hung around the Wright's bike shop and helped out when given the chance. He watched from a distance as they built the new bikes. They shooed him out of the shop for safety reasons, as they were working around the clock trying to get as many bikes ready as possible. He stayed out of sight to watch the action.
This is a photo of him at age 14 or so riding what he claimed was the Wright Special.


1664678924607.png


He said he was 88 years old in 1972 when I spoke with him. He had a pile of old bike frames and parts. I was looking for old heavy Schwinn frames. I saw this frame and asked him what it was. He told me this story:
" The Wright's kicked me out of the shop, but I watched from behind some shelves. They were building 10 bikes at one time, just a few people working. They were making a smaller bike hoping to corner the market on smaller bikes. Most bikes were tall back then. Orville made up the frame and they brazed it together, it wasn't welded. As they were almost done, their helper threw down a wrench and cussed up a storm. The wheels wouldn't fit the frame! There was a miscalculation that made the frame too small for the usual wheels. I watched as they all stopped and had a discussion about it. Wilber said there wasn't enough time to make new wheels and find tires that were an odd size. The helper guy said the frame couldn't be modified, it wouldn't look right. Orville finally said it would go to the scrap pile and the Van Cleve and St. Clair bikes would have to do. They would do fine with just the two. The others agreed, but mentioned that news of a mistake could hurt the brand name. It was decided to erase all the details of the bike. Orville remembered they already had a patent number issued. Wilber said not to worry, he knows the clerk. It was stamped on the bike already, but no problem, it would be taken out as scrap and that would be the end of it. Then one helper asked how to answer when there was no Special. Wilber said to tell everyone all their bikes were special. I saw them throw the frame into the scrap bin and waited until they finished. It was after 8pm when they finally quit for the day.
1664679757927.png


I went up and grabbed that frame and took it home. I kept it hidden in the attic to be sure no one noticed it. The Wright's never noticed it was gone, they were too busy making new bikes. The scrap man showed up and loaded up his truck with all the scrap. I was off the hook. It took awhile before I got that bike going. The wheels were smaller, I got them from a ladies bike the Wright's had taken in as a trade. They didn't want it, so I asked them for it. I worked two weekends cleaning up the shop to pay for it. They asked why I didn't want a boy's bike. I said my uncle had given me a frame and I'm piecing it together. I tried to keep it away from them, but Orville saw it one day. He stopped and looked puzzled. I thought I was caught but he just walked off, too busy with airplanes by that time."

1664680227711.png


He rode that bike for years, but he outgrew it by the time he was 18. He sold it in the late 60's when someone tried to make a 10 speed out of it. They added cable guides and things and a head badge. He got it back and kept it as a souvenir from then on. He told his story to others but no one believed him. He gave me the frame as long as I promised to keep it and maybe get it rideable.
So that's what I plan to do. Make it look like a 1897 bike.

DSCI0058.JPG
 

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OddJob

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WC , you have broke the story in a big way! Really fun read, and I like your approach to this build.

You had me at 'actual fictional account' .... :113:
 
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I did a lot of research to make a believable story. The Wright's actually did come out with a Special model, but it was a few years later. So maybe there was a Special in the beginning. :39:
The bike will have to have wooden handlebars with cork grips.
1897_Wright_Van_Cleve_Bicycle_Handlebars_&_Grips_242.jpg

Also cottered cranks and rat trap pedals.
1897_Wright_Van_Cleve_Bicycle_Crankset_242.png

I was surprised that's the pedals they used back then. I have a 52 tooth cottered crankset ordered. The pic of Jimmy riding shows a pretty big chain wheel, although he only had a bare frame according to his story. That chain wheel could have come from anywhere. So, a 52/22 setup is what I'm looking at right now. That might be too low at 57 GI or just right. Here's the pedals I'll use.
cranks.jpg


I have a coaster hub, as cheap as they come and a front generic hub. The Wright's had their own coaster hub made by the same guy who built the engine for their first airplane. This hub looks like the one in the pic of the Van Cleve above.
coaster.jpg

I'll need spokes and a couple 24" x 1 3/8ths (540) rims and black standard tires. I found that they have a 24 x 1.38 (520) size here just to make things confusing.
The rims also need to be wooden. So, the handlebars and rims will be an experiment in painting to look like they would have back then. The tires won't be a problem, most are plain black walls in that size.
1897_Wright_Van_Cleve_Bicycle_Front_Right_view_242 (1).png


The seat will be hard to duplicate, but I have an old B72 from a 1960 Raleigh that may do the job. It has a tear in the leather by a rear rivet. Anyone here know how to repair that?
brooks.jpg
 
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I'm in with an unknown frame. Fictionally, it may be the frame meant to be the Wright Special.

The actual fictional account of how it came into my possession is as follows. The Wright brothers were just about ready to open their bike building business. They had been repairing bikes for some time, but now wanted to get in on the new bike industry. They worked overtime with their helpers to get a line of bikes ready to show off.
They even had flyers all over town advertising the upcoming new bikes, by name was the Wright Special. When it came time to bring out the bikes to show, there was no Special, only the two models we are familiar with, the Van Cleve and St. Clair.


View attachment 211377

View attachment 211378
St. Clair bike.

So it was believed there never was a Special model. Jimmy Flanigan told a different story. He was just an 8 year old boy who hung around the Wright's bike shop and helped out when given the chance. He watched from a distance as they built the new bikes. They shooed him out of the shop for safety reasons, as they were working around the clock trying to get as many bikes ready as possible. He stayed out of sight to watch the action.
This is a photo of him at age 14 or so riding what he claimed was the Wright Special.


View attachment 211380

He said he was 88 years old in 1972 when I spoke with him. He had a pile of old bike frames and parts. I was looking for old heavy Schwinn frames. I saw this frame and asked him what it was. He told me this story:
" The Wright's kicked me out of the shop, but I watched from behind some shelves. They were building 10 bikes at one time, just a few people working. They were making a smaller bike hoping to corner the market on smaller bikes. Most bikes were tall back then. Orville made up the frame and they brazed it together, it wasn't welded. As they were almost done, their helper threw down a wrench and cussed up a storm. The wheels wouldn't fit the frame! There was a miscalculation that made the frame too small for the usual wheels. I watched as they all stopped and had a discussion about it. Wilber said there wasn't enough time to make new wheels and find tires that were an odd size. The helper guy said the frame couldn't be modified, it wouldn't look right. Orville finally said it would go to the scrap pile and the Van Cleve and St. Clair bikes would have to do. They would do fine with just the two. The others agreed, but mentioned that news of a mistake could hurt the brand name. It was decided to erase all the details of the bike. Orville remembered they already had a patent number issued. Wilber said not to worry, he knows the clerk. It was stamped on the bike already, but no problem, it would be taken out as scrap and that would be the end of it. Then one helper asked how to answer when there was no Special. Wilber said to tell everyone all their bikes were special. I saw them throw the frame into the scrap bin and waited until they finished. It was after 8pm when they finally quit for the day.
View attachment 211381

I went up and grabbed that frame and took it home. I kept it hidden in the attic to be sure no one noticed it. The Wright's never noticed it was gone, they were too busy making new bikes. The scrap man showed up and loaded up his truck with all the scrap. I was off the hook. It took awhile before I got that bike going. The wheels were smaller, I got them from a ladies bike the Wright's had taken in as a trade. They didn't want it, so I asked them for it. I worked two weekends cleaning up the shop to pay for it. They asked why I didn't want a boy's bike. I said my uncle had given me a frame and I'm piecing it together. I tried to keep it away from them, but Orville saw it one day. He stopped and looked puzzled. I thought I was caught but he just walked off, too busy with airplanes by that time."

View attachment 211382

He rode that bike for years, but he outgrew it by the time he was 18. He sold it in the late 60's when someone tried to make a 10 speed out of it. They added cable guides and things and a head badge. He got it back and kept it as a souvenir from then on. He told his story to others but no one believed him. He gave me the frame as long as I promised to keep it and maybe get it rideable.
So that's what I plan to do. Make it look like a 1897 bike.

View attachment 211385
Epic story ! Can’t wait to see the build.
 
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While I thought black would be the color, they also used a red paint called carmine on some of their bikes. This frame, according to fiction, wasn't ever painted, it was scrapped before it even got any primer. I suspect they would have used carmine as the color, being made as a display model at the time. The oldest Wright Brothers bike (other than mine) shows that color as aged and how the shade looked new. I think I'll mix up some darker shades to get the same look as the aged carmine.

1897_Wright_Van_Cleve_Bicycle_ Fork_Detail_242 carmine color.png
 

OddJob

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Check in with @us56456712 , his paint technique on his award winning BO 17 build was, well, award winning!

Probably look really good on your vintage frame as well. Keep the goodness coming!
 

Couch tater

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The seat will be hard to duplicate, but I have an old B72 from a 1960 Raleigh that may do the job. It has a tear in the leather by a rear rivet. Anyone here know how to repair that?
View attachment 211402

Bond a thick piece of leather to the underside with a leather glue and then fill the split with glue after the bonded piece is cured.
 

Pondo

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It would be cool to put a real wooden handlebar on there
I don't know how much I would trust the bar to not break. Also attaching an antique stem to a modern frame could be challenging.
 
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My new crankset showed up already. It's big and heavy and will look huge on the frame.

chainwheel.jpg


I found some more literature that lends some Creedence to my fictional account. I was just listening to some CCR, a coincidence.

This shows that they didn't usually make their own frames, that's why the Special probably had the size problem. This is a quote from wright-brothers.org.

" In addition to the "Van Cleve" and "St. Clair" models, some biographers have written that the Wright brothers also made a bicycle called a "Wright Special." The 17 April 1896 issue of Snapshots, a small magazine the Wrights published to advertise their bicycle and printing businesses, announced that they were about to manufacture their own bicycles. "The WRIGHT SPECIAL will contain nothing but high grade material throughout..." Their company ledger records that they made 12 "specials" over the years they were in the bicycle business, but no pictures or examples have ever turned up.
If you're curious as to what the Wright Special might have been, consider how bicycles were manufactured in the 1890s. The Wrights did not make their own frames, saddles, pedals, and so on. They bought them from other sources. Pope Manufacturing, for example, made the bicycle frames the Wrights used. The Wrights looked for parts that represented the look and quality they wanted their bicycles to have, then put them together with their own nameplates. Even the nameplates were made by someone else! They were stamped by Dayton Stencil Works.

On their higher-priced Van Cleve, the Wrights made some parts in their own shop. They were particularly proud of their hubs; their design kept out the dirt and kept in the lubrication much better than other mass-produced hubs. But even the Van Cleve was mostly assembled from parts made elsewhere.

Considering this, it's doubtful that the handful of "specials" listed in the ledgers of the Wright Cycle Company constituted a third model line. The Van Cleve was probably the brand name the Wrights adopted for the "Wright Special" referred to in Snapshots. They introduced the St. Clair as a low-price alternative, but dropped it after 1899. Those "specials" recorded in the ledger were probably bikes made to order with features or equipment the Wrights didn't customarily offer on their regular models – perhaps a saddle or a set of coaster brakes from a company the Wrights didn't ordinarily deal with. "Special" simply meant "special order."


The Wright Special Bicycle"​

 
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kingfish254

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Love the back story premise for this one.
This should be fun
 
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I did some wire wheel work, this is going to take awhile to do the whole frame. There's a few layers of paint. This frame has the badge holes in the same spot as the early Wright bikes.
I knew it! It probably had "SPECIAL" where "VAN CLEVE" is.
189&_Wright_Van_Cleve_Bicycle_Badge_242.png

This is the fork I'll use. I wire wheeled the crown to see how it would look bare metal. I wonder if they planned on painting the lugs or polishing them to show them off. They aren't the usual lugs, they were going to make this bike the headliner, so they must have had some fancy ones made up. That's why they were hesitant to throw it out, so much was already invested in it. I'll paint it leaving the lugs and crown bare to see how it looks, then paint it all if that might look more authentic.

lugs 6 oct 22.jpg
 
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Since Orville was doing the frame building according to Jimmy, there's no telling if he was aware of the different lugs. They might have been from scrap frames, but how many bikes were already scrapped in 1896?
I found a handlebar stem that is a close match for the old ones.

1665669258120.png
As for handlebars, I could have one carved from wood easily here in the Philippines, but I have a set of flat bars that I'll try first. The original (if it would have been completed) made of wood, probably would have been curved like most bikes back then. Remember, I'm dealing with just a fictional frame that was never built up, no cranks or fork, or anything, just a bare frame. So, in fictionality, the Special never was, because they never completed it. so, it wouldn't be a Wright Bike, just a Wright frame. We'll never know exactly how it was supposed to look. I'm going to try to get it close to Jimmy's picture from around 1902.

The fork I'm using looks like it was made well before the frame was, it's crude looking with sloppy welds that need cleaned up. That goes along with the Wright's operation using parts and frames from other makers for their bikes. So that may be even older than the frame. Or it might be just a cheap fork made recently and shipped to the Philippines from China. It's one or the other. :rofl:
lugs 6 oct 22 - Copy (2).jpg
 
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It's a 70's 10 speed frame most probably made in Japan, right about the time Taiwan got into the fray. I've researched serial numbers, the "W" might show it was made for the western market and was made in 76. That's guessing as I haven't found any other Ventura bikes that might help ID it.

DSCI0061 - Copy.JPG



But fictionally, it's a good bet that the "W" is the Wright's stamp followed by the patent number. I dug through the patent office files in Dayton Ohio and found a page missing, right where this number would have been. The office custodian had no explanation but replied that the page looked like it was ripped out of the patent catalog from 1896. About 25 numbers in the sequence are missing. This is how it looked when I got it from Jimmy's pile of frames. I don't know what happened to the cranks or chain wheel.
DSCI0040.JPG
 
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