04 April 2008
Bike Makeover #3: Flamingo Floozie - Fair Lady
I was very happy to receive a perfect story from a modern-day 'Henry Higgins' about a beautiful ladies' bike:
First-off, you'll need to remind yourself about the basic story plot of MY FAIR LADY.
I am a retired guy in Davenport, Iowa with a hobby of refurbishing old Chicago-built Schwinn bikes (only interested in the Chicago-built mass-production models, the ones with the vertical-oval S-C-H-W-I-N-N headbadges). I find them at thrift stores and clean em up/fix em up. I don't do any paint touch up, preferring to allow them to show the usage and character marks. If a bike is too bad I parts it out and scrap the frame.
In December I found a pink 1977 Schwinn ladies SUBURBAN. That bike was grimy-filthy. I mean grimy as in black oily. Like it might have been stored in a factory atmosphere or the like. FILTHY. I let her follow me home and quickly named her FLAMINGO FLOOZY. Flamingo is the name of the Schwinn color and I learned that the color was only used for half a model-year. Must have been a poor seller. Schwinn never used it again. So I had a bike of a rare color.
She brought to mind the neighborhood old-maids of my 1940s childhood in Chicago. Every city block had one, the slightly eccentric middle-aged to older maiden lady. She'd wear gaudy dresses with bright colors and loud patterns. She'd use facial make-up to extreme; heavy on the rouge and very heavy on the lipstick. Lots of heavy jewelry from the Woolworth or Kresge dime stores. Funny like a clown to us kids, but now as a senior adult I feel a tinge of embarrassment and certainly empathy. So that's how I was thinking about this pink ladies Schwinn last December; Flamingo Floozie. Garishly gauche.
As I disassembled her and began the cleanup and mechanical work I began to really like this girl. I always put heart and soul into a refurb but this lady took on a different relationship. I began thinking CLASS. Audrey Hepburn and her MY FAIR LADY character Eliza Doolittle came to mind and once that association was made the bike took on a personality.
I fitted her with an old Schwinn/Shimano 5-spd FrontFreewheel System and POSITRON II derailer, whitewall tires, white cable sheathing, a vintage Schwinn bell taken from another oldie, and a black leather saddlebag. Well, actually the saddlebag is a ladies purse that I modified with attached straps to hang on the back of the saddle. After all, a common saddlebag just wouldn't do! The purse came from a Salvation Army thrift store and seemed like a perfect final touch of class for the new lady Eliza Doolittle.
Eliza Doolittle, the street flower vendor who transformed herself into a lady of class. As you can tell I had fun with this particular project bike!
I then contacted a young lady here in Davenport who'd bought a snazzy almost-mint Cardinal Red Schwinn from me last fall and asked if she'd help me sell this one. Coincidentally, she was in Chicago when I called her (aren't cell phones wonderful?) with a friend who'd just asked her to buy a bike sight-unseen from me. Long story shortened, the lady in Chicago bought Eliza Doolittle on our mutual friend's word and two cell-phone photos. The Chicago buyer is apparently a young woman approaching thirty I'd guess, a professional, and apparently lives well into the inner city because she's very excited about riding Eliza along The Lakefront every evening.
This seems like a made-for-movies perfect bike story!
There is a good chance that both Eliza and this very lucky young lady are the same age - I was born in 1977. Additionally, Eliza has now gone home - made in Chicago, living in Chicago. After her beautiful makeover, could there be a happier ending?