In the mid-to-late 1970s, an Austrian bicycle manufacturer went upscale in hopes of capturing the enduring loyalty of bicycle enthusiasts.
Steyr-Daimler-Puch made it to the 1990s before disappearing into the parts bins of several other corporations.
The company goes back to a gun maker in 1855. Before the end, employees could reflect on a rich history that included bicycles, motorcycles, airplane engines, mopeds, cars and trucks. (And an infamous history that included such things as Nazis and the Sears Free Spirit bicycle.)
This particular piece of Steyr-Daimler-Puch history, an Austro-Daimler Vent Noir, arrived at the shop with a seized freewheel and a good bit of rust. Here’s what I found about it on one amazingly exhaustive website:
The 1976 specification ‘Austro-Daimler’ and European market ‘Puch’ Vent Noir ten speed bicycles were originally provided with the Shimano Dura-Ace components gruppo with a 42/53 tooth crankset and Shimano Crane rear derailleur. Most distinctively, some of the gruppo components were anodized black. These bicycles incorporated ‘Regina Oro’ cassette and chain in gold finish, the pedals were MKS-URK2 (Mikashima Industrial Co., Ltd. of Japan) with toe clips. The hubs were Dura-Ace, with Fiamme #1 wheel rims and Inox 2mm spokes. The tires were Clement Strada 66. The saddle was a Gilux 3000, the bar and stem were by GB. The set included a bicycle tire pump with Campagnolo ends. This was listed as weighing 22-½ lbs. with a price then of $540.00.
This particular Vent Noir (French for Black Wind) was in rough shape, but most of the pin-striping and head-tube decal were still present. It features a Reynolds 531 frame with Shimano dropouts and, except for the tubular wheels, all its original parts.
When Bushwhacker mechanic Robert Woo first showed me this pedal, I thought the dust cap was gone because of all the rust inside, but no, he had just removed the cap to inspect the bearings.
You can imagine the bike sitting in a pile of dirty snow outside a New York brownstone, though you cannot imagine how it was never stolen.
Note the Presta valve adapter screwed to a toe clip bolt inside the pedal cage in the lower picture.
Here you go: Shimano’s best parts group back in the days before aero levers, clipless pedals and indexed shifting.
Note the pierced or drilled holes in the brake lever and chain rings–and the big remaining advantage of a 1970s sidepull brake caliper: room for wider tires.
Finally, get rid of the rust and the Crane rear derailleur is a beauty, though, as Disraeli Gears points out: “The only fly in the ointment was SunTour’s patent on the slant parallelogram. The Crane never changed gear quite as well as the much more lowly SunTour V series—despite Shimano’s puff about the efficacy of their ‘servo pantagraph’ design with its two sprung pivots.”
Sometime soon, one hopes. Like the wind.